Mathias Horne marked an impressive start to his art career last year.
The 23-year-old Squamish painter was part of his first-ever exhibit in October 2020 when the Bateman Foundation Gallery of Nature—best known for housing the work of renowned artist and naturalist Robert Bateman—in Victoria reached out to him about including some of his grizzly bear paintings in a show called Grizzly Bears: Teachers of the Land.
“One of the curators there reached out to me from my website,” Horne says. “I wasn’t sure of the credibility of it at first because it felt surreal. Everything fell into place.”
Peruse Horne’s paintings—coupled with his passion for conservation—and you can see why he might have received a surprise email invitation. His grizzly bear pieces are startlingly lifelike, but also manage to convey emotion from their four-legged subjects.
“Lighting is important to me,” Horne says. “A lot of my subjects, I like to capture them in a non-threatening way—specifically animals that are feared—to drive that human connection to these different species.”
While Horne hasn’t had any up-close grizzly bear encounters, having grown up in Squamish, he’s had a chance to observe them from afar.
“But I’ve had some up-close encounters with other wildlife that’s really inspired that path of conservation through artwork,” he says.
His most memorable experience was on a trip to Antarctica during his undergraduate degree at Quest University.
“We were out on a zodiac with a couple scientists monitoring the humpback whale population when a humpback whale started bumping the boat, spraying us, and playing with the boat,” he recalls. “You’re not allowed to touch wildlife in Antarctica, but they’re allowed to touch you. It was an incredible and memorable experience. The more you talk to people who work in conservation, they have a unique story that prompted their activism. For me, it was that humpback whale.”
While Horne plans to expand his collection to include more marine life going forward, Whistlerites can see his bear paintings during his first solo show at The Gallery at the Maury Young Arts Centre from June 30 to July 11.
Wildlife Conservation Through Portraiture will feature four of his large-scale bear paintings, including three grizzlies and one spirit bear.
The life-size spirit bear painting was part of a collaboration between Horne and photographer Jack Plant, who encountered the bear near the Spirit Bear Lodge in the Great Bear Rainforest.
Horne had been following Plant’s work for some time when mutual friends encouraged them to connect.
“We developed this painting from a cool experience he had,” Horne says. “It’s a unique composition. You have this life-size spirit bear who’s standing on the coastal rocks with water behind her. You don’t usually see that.”
The project was such a success that he’s now working from another Plant photo of grizzly bear cubs.
A collection of Horne’s grizzly bear paintings are part of his Grizzly Bear Project, which donates 10 per cent of proceeds from originals and 15 per cent of proceeds from prints to support the conservation of grizzly bears in North America. (Including The Grizzly Bear Foundation, which was founded by Michael Audain.)
“I work really closely with the Grizzly Bear Foundation. A lot of my work is directly funding their conservation work. That’s why I paint a lot of grizzly bears as my subjects,” Horne adds.
Going forward, he plans to explore new wildlife subjects and get involved with diverse conservation organizations.
“I’m wanting to expand more of my collection to include more marine life and other vulnerable wildlife populations and hopefully connect with more conservation organizations that really give back,” he says.
For more on his work visit mathiashorne.com.