"I'm a perfectionist", says Marilyn Batte, and it shows. She can spend up to 120 hours creating one of her highly detailed paintings, 50 of which are on view at the World of Art Gallery in Maadi this month. At a casual glance, it is nearly impossible to tell that paintings aren't photographs. One must place one's nose two inches from the canvas to see the subtle evidence of insanely minuscule brush strokes.
Initially a student of architecture, Batte didn't paint much until she had been working for a year as a teacher in Cairo. That was seven years ago. She attributes her sudden artistic blossoming and outpouring of work to the quality of light in Egypt , which provides vivid, high-contrast images. The country's desert landscapes also differ greatly from her Southern Ontario homeland with its farms and rolling hills. Once here, she became inspired to recreate Egypt 's striking scenes.
Batte gave up teaching full time fours years ago and now makes her living mainly from the proceeds her paintings bring in. However, she tries not to all commercial interests to interfere with her choice of subject matter. "Sometimes I don't know exactly why I choose to paint a certain scene. Something in it just speaks to me", she says.
Working from her own photographs, some of Batte's subjects include desertscapes, feluccas, the mountains of the Sinai, desert oases and the bright blooms of Cairo 's many flower shops which she describes as "colourful oases for the eyes in a dusty city."
She rarely paints human figures because she wants the viewer of the painting to feel that he or she is the subject. "My intent is that when people look at one of my paintings, they feel that the space is theirs. If there is an open door or a footprint in the sand, I want them to feel that they caused it."
Batte's paintings are quiet scenes recreated in a city full of noise. Her love of surfaces becomes contagious as one marvels at the verisimilitude of her images. A self-described "rigid traditionalist," Batte always uses oils to create colours of startling accuracy and delicacy. She hopes to start manipulating her images more, in a surrealist approach to her subject matter. One of her paintings is this exhibit includes water next to the pyramids, as it may have been many centuries ago. She also wants to paint on six-by-six foot canvases. "I think I must be an incredibly patient person," she says, and it shows.