November 19, 2021

Artist Spotlight: Beth Letain’s Oversized Paintings Pack A Colorful Punch

In our column, Artist File, art advisor Diana Hamm of WK ART shares the artists that have caught her eye.

The Artist: Beth Letain’s arresting, oversized canvases focus on color and form in a minimal style. The Edmonton-born, Berlin-based artist is influenced by other minimalists such as Agnes Martin and Mary Heilmann. Though these references can be seen in Beth’s work, her canvases feel distinctly her own through her brushwork and color. Her starting point is always drawing and working on a very small scale (think three by five inches). These little pieces are then translated into a larger form — typically six to 11 feet high — using oil paint.

The lines in the works are simple, pared-down forms in saturated colors that create a pleasing tension with the use of oil paint and the sheer size of the pieces. A push-pull sensation between the simplicity of the subject and the physical demands of painting the actual canvas is ever present.

The Works:  One of the most important starting points for Beth is the physical canvas. She doesn’t buy pre-primed canvas but does this herself — a process that involves applying layers of homemade gesso — which can take two to three days. This allows her to create a texture and the desired white she wants. Many of her works leave a section unpainted and her gesso base allows the contrast between the primed white and the saturated oil paint to be striking and a focal point in itself.