Alf Crossley: Spirit of the Land

Well known Kootenay artist Alf Crossley’s work is firmly rooted in our local landscape. With a visual style often leaning towards abstraction, his practice has long been based on working outdoors (or “en plein air”), drawing both imagery and inspiration directly from the natural environment. Crossley says, “I suppose the basic inspiration comes from my…

2011 Apr 02 – 2011 Jun 12

Curated by Rod Taylor

Alf Crossley has for many years been concerned with the landscape as the primary means of his artistic expression. Even the hard edge abstractions he painted while a student at the Vancouver College of Art can be read as landscapes, albeit geometric ones infused with abstract sensibilities that may have come with having someone like Roy Kiyooka as an instructor.

After finishing art school, his work became increasingly focused on the landscape. Paintings from that time show a restless exploration of style and approach as he searched for his voice as an artist early in his creative career. Following a relatively brief stopover in the Okanagan, Alf made his way back to the Kootenays where he bought an old Doukhobor house in Krestova that he still lives in today. Although his visual style today is considerably different from those early hard edge abstractions, his work still often hovers between abstraction and representation, between something that looks like a landscape, and something that could look like a landscape if you choose to see it that way.

Central to his work is his practice of painting (and drawing) outdoors, furthering an interest in capturing not only light, but movement, and the fleeting and visceral nature of what he sees and experiences there. In this, he is following in a tradition that gained widespread recognition with the Impressionists, and would continue to resonate decades later with the Group of Seven.

Over the years, Alf has managed to not only to sustain his practice, but to derive a livelihood from it, a rare and unusual thing in any location, much less a rural one. This exhibition is not only a retrospective of past work, but a clear indication that the practice that it documents is active and ongoing.

Artist Statement

I was born and raised in Rossland, BC and have painted Kootenay landscapes for 35 years. I continually search for places that are rich in visual stimulus and, as much as possible, filled only with the sounds and sights of nature. Inspiration comes from my delight in seeing how the forces of nature; wind, water, sunlight, orchestrate this earth and how the resulting rhythm, repetition, and growth force etc. bring meaning and form onto the tapestry surrounding us.

I don’t attempt to document the landscape as such. My work is more of a spontaneous expression of joy at being there…on top of a mountain, beside placid water, in the middle of the prairie squall, or tucked away in some fold of land in the Southern Okanagan desert.

I like to locate myself in different environments and experience the conscious and unconscious response to the stimulation. The work is an attempt to blend the worlds of conscious and intuitive providing the viewer with only enough clues to enable a process of continued exploration.

Alf Crossley graduated in graphics and painting from the Vancouver School of Art in 1965. During this four-year period, he studied with Bob Steele, Reg Holmes, Takao Tanabe, Roy Kiyooka, Don Jarvis, and Jack Shadbolt. Between 1966-67 studied graphics and drawing in England. Crossley has had solo exhibitions in Vancouver, Burnaby, Penticton, Vernon, Grand Forks, Castlegar, Nelson, Kaslo, and Victoria and is represented in private, public, and corporate collections in Canada, U.S.A. and Europe. He eventually resettled in the Kootenays in the early 70’s, buying a house outside of Castlegar that he continues to live in today.

Hours & Locations

The Nelson Museum is located in beautiful downtown Nelson, British Columbia.


Exhibitions, programs, and events to help plan your visit.