Dirk Mietzker - Painter

Date Published: Fri, 01 Mar 2013

Dirk Mietzker - Painting the Beauty of Time

In business school they instruct you to "plan your work and work your plan." Smith Falls artist Dirk Mietzker is much more open and flexible. When he stopped in to lend a hand to some neighbouring farmers a few summers ago, he became intrigued with the old barns they were working in during the haying season. What began as an exercise in friendliness and physical fitness segued into an inspired series of paintings.

Painting by Dirk Mietzker

“In the Loft” is a gorgeous example of how Mietzker transforms a commonplace structure that most of us overlook, into a celebration of form, light, and colour. Through his juxtaposition of the symmetry of the original skeleton against the irregular play of light and shadow filtering through the cracks of the weathered structure, he exposes Time’s ineluctable hand on the canvases of our human endeavours. Unlike the relentless consumer marketing campaigns that denigrate any evidence of aging in our Western culture, Mietzker pays tribute to its beauty and dignity.

His background in industrial design informs his fascination with what we design and build. Many of his paintings feature familiar artifacts of our civilization, such as buildings, vehicles and bridges. But Mietzker’s art focuses on the evidence of their history. He zeroes in on the debris clinging to rafters, the designs that time has etched into once-glossy high-tech finishes, the curves and crevices eroded into concrete and wood by weather and human usage. He draws attention to the stage each object occupies in its life cycle. He finds and reflects beauty in each phase.

Each artist searches for his or her voice. Dirk Mietzker finds his on walks through his hometown of Smiths Falls. His first true inspiration occurred when he was taking his daughter for a walk to the train station not far from their home. The result was a series of acrylic paintings of segments of train cars. You can see examples of these visually compelling works at Gallery Perth by clicking on his name under “Artists Represented”.

Walking remains his primary inspiration, particularly when the weather is changing. “Every time I walk, something pops out. Once you start looking, everything appears really different during a snow storm or in the fog or when the evening or morning sun hits a particular spot.” The names of some of his works illustrate his fascination with the interplay of nature and weather with human artifacts: “Clouds Passing By”, “Snow Caressing Steel”, “Evening Blue”.

I Can See Clearly Now

To optimists, every cloud has its silver lining. Mietzker’s personal life-cycle story is even more interesting than those of his artistic subjects — he possesses human resilience and ingenuity that so far we have not been able to replicate in our industrial artifacts. Shortly after he and his wife, Diane Provost, moved from Montreal to Smiths Falls with their infant daughter to pursue Dirk’s career as an industrial designer, his Kanata-based firm downsized. After a fruitless search for work in his field, the couple decided to give Dirk the opportunity to build an artistic career in between his responsibilities as the baby’s primary caregiver, while Diane taught art in the public school system.

It was a tough transition, but Mietzker found that the freedom of creating art as your own “boss” was a liberating change from the endless criticism and questions he faced as a designer. These days, his only authorized critic is his well-qualified wife, and she judges each painting by the same simple but exacting criterion: “Do I feel something when I look at it?”

Artist Dirk Mietzker

His breakthrough as a professional artist occurred in 1996, shortly after his first public exhibition at the Heritage House Museum in Smiths Falls. An American couple noticed his paintings at a gallery in Merrickville and invited him to exhibit his work at their gallery in Vermont where he was represented for ten years until their recent retirement. Dirk is represented locally at Gallery Perth and participates in Westport’s annual Rideau Valley Art Festival. He has had several recent exhibitions in Almonte. Both Dirk and Diane have exhibited works at the annual, juried Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibit at Nathan Phillips Square.

Last July one of his paintings received an honourable mention at the Marianne van Silfhout Gallery at St. Lawrence College in Brockville. It was also chosen as the poster for the exhibition whose theme was Space. Titled “Suspended between Space and Time,” Mietzker’s inspiration for the work was the wing of the plane that brought him back to Canada from a visit to Venice.

It is a surprising but fitting subject choice for an artist who lists names utterly unfamiliar to me as his major inspirations. To better appreciate Mietzker’s work, take a Google glance at: Syd Mead (pioneer and figurehead in automotive, industrial, and film design, famous for film projects like Blade Runner and TRON), Giorgetto Giugiaro (Italian automobile designer named Car Designer of the Century 1999,) and architect Eero Saarinen (known for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and paradigm-shifting furniture like the “Womb Chair” and ottoman he designed in the late ’40s.)

Mietzker tells me, “What they create is stimulating. Exactly how it relates to what I’m doing now isn’t so clear, other than being inspired by people who do great work.” He adds, “For me, painting is my way of trying to understand the world — discovering who we are through art. All of the things I paint were originally ideas created in the human imagination.”

The best way to enjoy Dirk Mietzker’s art is to drop in at Gallery Perth in Code’s Mill. Images are also available at <galleryperth.com>. You can also contact him directly. Contact information for all of these resources is available right here on theHumm Online.

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