The community of Almonte has a habit of creating and fostering artists, a trend that’s perpetuated in the work and life of Almonte artist, Rosemary Leach.
Rosemary and her husband, Jake, originally hail from Toronto and Peterborough, respectively, and intentionally went looking for a community with an unhurried pace in which to settle down when starting a family. They settled on Almonte, a town which at the time offered a simpler way of life in an old fashioned and community-centric environment.
“I wanted to live somewhere we could paddle and with a combination of a lively arts community but that really worked in terms of hiking and paddling and skiing,” Rosemary explained. “I know that this is where we belong. It takes a village to raise a child and Almonte was a great place to raise my kids, for my work it gave me the space to feel my kids were safe and they really benefitted from that a lot.”
A scroll through Rosemary’s online gallery likely won’t reveal representations of unusual architecture, true-to-life portraits or abstract work. Instead of concentrating on out of the ordinary subjects, Rosemary’s work focuses on exploring the things we see every day and then relaying that experience from an entirely new perspective.
This examination of day-to-day objects that takes centre stage in Rosemary’s art is oddly freeing, inviting the viewer to look at an object that may at first seem meaningless with fresh eyes and new appreciation.
“We have this memory bank of things that make us feel at home in the world or things that we associate with safety or familiarity,” Rosemary explained. “Really, my work is about seeing familiar surroundings with fresh eyes, and with an unhurried quality of curiosity.”
Viewers are likely to find their own shadows of memories or experiences in Rosemary’s work: a window, a door, a glass of water, a chair. For Rosemary it’s about finding those pieces and immersing herself in examining what it is about them that makes them so evocative, and also so beautiful.
“Just looking at how light comes through a window and hits a glass of water, when I pay attention to that, that’s when I know I’m really inhabiting my whole self,” Rosemary said.
Through the use of muted tones and a distinctive combination of brushwork and colouring, it’s easy to see the hints of Rosemary’s background peeking through the corners of her canvas. Rosemary attributes her style not only to the artistic growth she’s experienced living in Almonte, an area long known as an artist’s incubator and hub, but also to a formative year spent living in Guanajuato, Mexico.
Rosemary and her family moved to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Guanajuato, to live for six months and immerse themselves in the country and culture. Rosemary likens that year as “enlightening” and as an impetus for creativity after living in a region “really steeped in history and with a vibrant arts community.”
“It was interesting, and it certainly influenced my work in terms of really intimate spaces, asymmetrical spaces, the quality of materials,” Rosemary explained. “That view from a window that’s central to a lot of my paintings was something that was really enriched by that experienced.”
In Almonte, Rosemary is heavily involved in the arts scene, and is a member of the Ten Collective, a group of 10 local artists who host an annual art show at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum. The group of well-known artists present a professional show of diverse and interesting art to their audience. While the show has moved virtually due to COVID-19, when events are able to resume it will undoubtedly continue its success.
Today, Rosemary’s work has been sold and shipped around the world, from Denmark to Paris, Germany, Britain, and beyond. In addition to continuing to expand her artistic range, Rosemary is also moving into the realm of online talks and public speaking to contribute her experience as an artist and help those trying to find their own style and muse.
Rosemary herself has kept what she calls “banker’s hours” in her studio for decades, committing to turning up inspired, each morning at 8 a.m.
“Like most people I believe I will get a cookie from putting in hard work, but over the years I have shifted on this front,” said Rosemary. “While turning up daily is essential, being truly awake to our surroundings, to the gift of being alive, is equally important work.”