Beyond Representation

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colour field painting, memory, impression of past experience, minimalism, brush work, colour, essence, perceptions, depth of space, painting surface, ideas of place, landscape, representational images, layers of colour, depth, space, translating place, colour field painting, memory, brush work, atmosphere, space, painting surface, oil on canvas, perspective, place,
start quoteI'd stop and notice things like the colours on a gasoline slick on the top of a water puddle. And so all these things would be in my head...end quote-- Holly Fay

In Holly Fay’s colour field paintings, memory, or the retained impression of a past experience, is key to appreciating her work. Using minimal references, her painterly brush work and multiple layers of colour suggest an essence of a particular event, place or time.

Fay encourages her audience to think of other ways they may know and perceive the world besides the obvious use of  representationalTo stand for; symbolize. To depict or portray subjects a viewer may recognize as having a likeness; the opposite of abstraction. A representation is such a depiction. (  images. She does not use traditional perspective, but layers her colour to create a sense of depth of space or atmosphere on the painting surface.

The painting, Cycles was part of an exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery titled Translating Place. In this work, she uses an ochre-tinted yellow on one  canvasCommonly used as a support for oil or acrylic painting, canvas is a heavy woven fabric made of flax or cotton. Its surface is typically prepared for painting by priming with a ground. Linen — made of flax — is the standard canvas, very strong, sold by the roll and by smaller pieces. A less expensive alternative to linen is heavy cotton duck, though it is less acceptable (some find it unacceptable), cotton being less durable, because it's more prone to absorb dampness, and it's less receptive to grounds and size. For use in painting, a piece of canvas is stretched tightly by stapling or tacking it to a stretcher frame. A painting done on canvas and then cemented to a wall or panel is called marouflage. Canvas board is an inexpensive, commercially prepared cotton canvas which has been primed and glued to cardboard, suitable for students and amateurs who enjoy its portability. Also, a stretched canvas ready for painting, or a painting made on such fabric. Canvas is abbreviated c., and "oil on canvas" is abbreviated o/c.  (  and a somewhat muddied green on another. The two separate canvases are hung horizontally, one above the other, to create one complete work, suggesting a sense of the flat prairie landscape. While Fay’s paintings are minimal in nature, she reminds her viewers of their experiences of the heat of a summer day and the dry and windy wheat fields of a fall day.

additional resources Artist Influences
Duration: 1:46 min
Size: 6331kb
Childhood Art Making
Duration: 1:00 min
Size: 4273kb
Suggestion of Landscape in Cycles
Duration: 2:34 min
Size: 10338kb
The Use of Colour in Cycles
Duration: 1:19 min
Size: 5163kb
Why is the Brush Stroke so Evident?
Duration: 0:59 min
Size: 4184kb
Why She Called it Cycles
Duration: 1:43 min
Size: 6789kb
Things to Think About


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Research the English artist Joseph Turner – use the following links. Then look at the images of Turner’s paintings (links to specific paintings provided below on the “J.M.W. Turner, Painter of Light” site) and decide what aspects of his work may have influenced Fay’s painting.

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To find out more about Fay’s process and her response to Saskatchewan landscape, see 291 Film Company’s Landscape as Muse film series: season one, episode six: Nistowiak Falls with Holly Fay.

Go to the 291 Film Company Inc at: to find out more about this episode, and how to purchase this DVD.

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Key visuals for the memory map

  • Choose a place, area or building as the central area for the map – this will be placed in the centre of the map (You may choose the school yard, a house or your neighbourhood for example.)
  • Branch off from the central image(s) using symbols, drawings/photos, words or letters  to mark other places of interest.
  • Use colours to represent certain kinds of places/buildings or to represent different neighbourhoods  and/or houses.
  • If you are creating the map on the computer you may give various photos, letters, drawings etc. certain tags. Tags will help to search within the map to find photos which have something in common.


Online Activity
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Abstracting imagery

Studio Activity
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A classroom enquiry project

Although Fay is not a topographical artist, her work evokes place/environment/atmosphere and mood. The  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (  presented in this theme, Cycles, also includes ideas involving memory.

A recent form of research about “place” is an art form described as "memory mapping."  Go to the Victoria and Albert museum website to read about a large project being conducted about areas in England, in conjunction with the University of Essex.  To find out more,

  • search for memory maps on the site by typing in “memory maps” in the search box (located on the top, right side of the homepage)

Now, create a class memory map of a specific area near your school, or create an individual memory map. The “map” may include your written impressions and descriptions, drawings and pictures, as well as the work of artists, poets or writers in the area. Search out old school pictures,  archivalAn image meant to have lasting utility. An archival digital image is generally an image kept off-line in a safe place, and it's often of higher quality than the digital image delivered to the user. ( You can see examples of archival images at Library and Archives Canada:  images and news cuttings. Assemble as a mixed  mediaAny material and technique used to produce a work of art (paint, glass, clay, fibre, video, sound, etc.). It may also refer to the liquid with which powdered pigments are mixed to make paint. Note that the plural form of “medium” is “media.”  project or launch as a website project.

Key concepts of a memory map

  • Memory maps are about the relationships people have with a particular place.  Examples of places that may be represented on a memory map include cities, neighbourhoods, towns, and ecological or geograhical areas.
  • Memory maps can include photos, drawings, prints, and paintings about geography, objects, architecture, people, history as well as writing, thoughts and memories that are associated with particular areas.













Anderson, Jack.  Holly Fay: Plain.  Exhibition catalogue.  Rosemont Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 2003.

Anderson, Jack.  ‘‘Plain’ is as Plain as Plain.’  Regina Leader Post,  November 13, 2003.

Anderson, Jack.  ‘Fay Goes Spinny for the Sake of Her Art.’  Regina Leader Post, March 21, 2007.

Fay, Holly.  Biography.  Unpublished manuscript, 2005.

Long, Tim.  Translating Place.  Exhibition catalogue.  MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan, 1997.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning