Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Storm Brewing in a Teacup on Downton Abbey

12 x 16'', acrylic on gessoed hardboard
painting #241, 2016

Last month I received an invitation from the Fog Forest Gallery to submit a painting for a group exhibition that would give the viewer some respite in the wake of the current political uncertainty looming with the upcoming presidential elections in the US and the series of violence / terrorist attacks in the past year alone that seems to be on the uprise and constantly in the news. The exhibition is entitled ''Art for a World Gone Mad'' and runs from September 22 to October 15, 2016.

In my still life painting, entitled “ Storm Brewing in a Tea Cup on Downton Abbey”, I chose to document aspects of the critically acclaimed British television series and draw a parallel by allowing us to appreciate  how much the world has indeed changed in the past century for the betterment of humanity in most instances.  

Downton Abbey chronicles the life of the aristocratic Crawley family and exposes the lavish lifestyle of a disappearing elite class and the relationships they entertain with their many servants. But all is not so rosy at the Yorkshire castle. The main story line centers around the heir and descendants of the Earl of Grantham with their on-going struggles to financially sustain the domain as they meet the challenges of the modern world. Although the series is fictional, it does become quite credible as it follows the timeline in the UK during a very turbulent period in their history between 1912 and 1925.  Some of the events that filters through the script written by the show's creator Julian Fellowes include the sinking of the Titanic (1912), the ravages of World War I, 1914-1918 (17 million casualties, 20 million wounded), the 1918 flu pandemic, aka- Spanish flu (in excess of 50 million deaths), women's suffrage in 1918 (right to vote) and the Irish War of Independence (1919-1921).

The themes and drama that are explored in the six seasons are still pertinent today as they were back then and these include: social classes, snobbery, secrecy, sibling rivalries, woman rights/equality, political revolts, conflicts, infidelity, betrayals, feuds, murder, conspiracies, loyalty, blackmail, sabotage, bullying, scandals, racism, refugees, war and love.

The world in which we currently live in is fast paced and in a state of constant evolution. Much can be said about violence in its many forms, but many historians suggest that we are actually living in the most peaceful period of the past 500 years.  Advancements in human rights, technology and medicine alone makes the world a much better place than a century ago. 

The world economy, religious beliefs, the oil industry, control and power does rule the planet at this point and time. Terrorism, drugs, gun control, poverty, corruption, unemployment, politics of fear and division, global warming are some of the current issues we are faced with in 2016.  It's easy to get overwhelmed with the state of the world when we are constantly being bombarded by the media to a point where we become desensitized in order to cope.  While it is easy to reflect on the past when life appeared simpler, except it is not always true.  But one shouldn't lose hope because there is still a whole lot of goodness in the world today. 

As a painter, a great deal of my artwork does document aspect of popular and mass culture.  I do try to put a positive spin in the imagery. I've occasionally done paintings reflecting the economy or political climate by using a Monopoly Game board as a prop, which in turn becomes a form of symbolism.  I am not turning a blind-eye on all that is happening in the world today. We live in a world where we have to adapt in order to strive and move forward. We also need to take time for ourselves by taking care of our body, mind and spirit. I believe in the laws of Karma / the Golden Rule and try to do good, show gratitude, compassion and respect towards others.

With “Storm Brewing in a Tea  Cup on Downton Abbey”,  I've place a tea cup on top of a book that holds imagery detailing the work achieved behind the scenes with set decoration, costume and hair design, in recreating authenticity while filming the series at Highclere Castle.  The book was written by Emma Rowley and published by St. Martin's Press (2013).  The tea cup and saucer done in a Moroccan pattern is by Grace's Teaware. The setting is my own backyard. King Cole Tea is steeped locally by Barbour's in Sussex, NB. It has been widely renown as the favourite tea of Maritimers for the past century. 

I've actually watched the whole series of Downton Abbey twice. The first time, I binge watched the first four seasons on Netflix then tuned in on PBS for the remaining last two seasons. Then, I replayed the five seasons again on Netflix while I started this painting. I was hooked after watching just one episode. A combination of brilliant writing, a stellar cast and stunning cinematography helped create one of the most beloved and widely watched television dramas in the world. It's a serial where happiness is fleeting for most characters. The daily ritual of drinking tea is often the only constant they can rely on. Even while in the trenches of WWI, Thomas Barrow is serving tea to Matthew Crawley steeped from a cooking pot over a campfire. I leave you with words of wisdom from the matriarch of the Crawley family, Lady Grantham, brilliantly played by Maggie Smith.
''Just the ticket.  Nanny always said, Sweet tea is the thing for frayed nerves''
from Season 1, episode 3.


To acquire about this painting, please contact: 
Fog Forest Gallery
14 Bridge Street, Sackville, NB
(506) 536-9000 
e-mail- gallery@nbnet.nb.ca

Saturday, August 6, 2016

12 once Pepsi-Cola Bottles



14 x 11'', acrylic on gessoed hardboard mounted (4 cm deep)
painting #240, 2016


Pepsi-Cola was introduced in 1893 as ''Brad's Drink'' named after it's inventor Caleb Bradham, in New Bern, North Carolina.  Very much like Coca-Cola which preceded Pepsi by 7 years, it was conceived by a pharmacist as a energy drink and a digestive aid. From it's ingredients pepsin and the kola nut, it was later rename Pepsi-Cola in 1898.

The rivalry between Pepsi-Cola and Coca-Cola has probably existed from the time they started to mass produce the carbonated sodas. In 1936, Pepsi-Cola introduced the 12 once bottle and sold the soft drink for a nickel, the same price as the 6.5 once bottle of Coca-Cola. During this period, it would double its sales. The Pepsi Challenge was introduced in 1975. A blind taste test where people off the street were invited to drink samples of Pepsi and Coke in unmarked cups. This marketing coup targeted people who had never tried Pepsi before. Pepsi also went all out with commercial adds targeting the ''New Generation'' teaming up with mega star singers like Michael Jackson, Madonna, Britney Spears, Pink, Beyoncé and many more. 

Putting taste aside, the two colas have taken different routes in marketing their soft drinks from a visual aspect. Coca-Cola has stood by their iconic contour bottle and font for the past century, while Pepsi keeps re-inventing itself with the changing time.


The same can't be said about tie-in products produced by the two rivals during this same period. Demand for Coca-Cola collectables is in a different league and are still very sought after. 

Based on a Best Global brand rankings in 2014 by Interbrand, Coca-Cola was the world's 3rd most valuable brand, behind Apple and Google. Pepsi is ranked a respectable 24th. Coca-Cola outsells Pepsi in most markets for the exception of countries like India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Eastern Canada (minus New Brunswick) and in Appalachia, North Dakota, Utah and the city of Buffalo in the USA. 

During the fall of 2012, I found these two bottles on a Kijiji listing from a vendor living in Fredericton, NB. The carton which was not in the best condition, was acquired from a US vendor on eBay during the following months. I was able to make it look better in the painting. While they are not dated, according to the above graphic, they carton is probably dated from the 1950's. During my youth, I can clearly remember these bottles being in use during the 1960's. The graphics used here was conceive during the same period when Pop Art was emerging, using primary colours in a most brilliant way. 

Personally, I do not favour one cola over the other. They each have their own unique taste and I enjoy both in moderation. Imagery like this become a unique vehicle for documenting popular culture by bridging the gap of past and present. 

The above photo was taken during the 1950's in Cap-Lumière, NB. 
My late father Raymond stands in front of a small convenience store.  



To acquire about this painting which will become 
available on August 12, 2016, please contact: 
Fog Forest Gallery
14 Bridge Street, Sackville, NB
(506) 536-9000 
e-mail- gallery@nbnet.nb.ca


-SOLD


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Fredericton Collects

My painting, ''Car Jam'' is currently on exhibition in The Story Behind It at Government House in Fredericton, NB.

The Fredericton Art Club presents The Story Behind It, an exhibit of selected works from the collections of members, at Government House (Gallery inside the New Brunswick Lieutenant Governor General's House) located at 51 Woodstock Road. The exhibit features paintings, photographs, pottery and other treasures. The exhibit will run, and be open to the public, weekdays and by appointment when possible from June 16 until July 31, 2016.

The Fredericton Art Club is in its 80th year. The club brings art and the community together by advocating visual literacy, promoting art education, and the appreciation of art.

Very thankful to the owner of the painting for submitting it into the show. The Government House Gallery was certainly on my wish list of places to exhibit at least once during my lifetime. 



Car Jam, 16 x 12'', acrylic on hardboard
painting #211,  2012 
Private collection 












Thursday, June 16, 2016

Good things comes in threes


 East Coast Living Magazine - Summer 2016

In less than one month my artwork has made the front page and/ or has been featured on the cover of three publications. As the French would say, ''Jamais deux sans trois''. This latest probably pulls at my heart strings more than anything that has ever been published on my artwork even if the focus is not on myself as the artist. 

Whenever I complete a painting and send it off to a gallery, one can only hope that it will be adopted in a household where it will be appreciated and loved. This story features gallery patrons whom have been collecting my artwork since 2004. To my knowledge, they own at least nine of my paintings that includes two commission pieces. I've never met them in person or had any contacts since the commissions were done through the gallery as the liaison. However, I do feel a connection with them since they've embraced my art in the best possible way and own some of my favourite pieces.  

The Toronto based couple and their children have been spending parts of their summers on Prince Edward Island for more than 20 years and are currently the focus with a feature article in the 2016 Summer edition of East Coast Living Magazine which invites the reader to peak inside their newly renovated summer cottage. The two paintings featured below are among those that appear on the cover and on page 41. I read the article with a flutter in my heart and a lump in my throat. 

The magazine is available through their website at http://eastcoastliving.ca/ and at many newsstands throughout the Atlantic provinces. 

  

Monday, June 13, 2016

Commission piece



Title- Edward R. McDonald's Crossword Game
11,25 x 24'', acrylic on gessoed hardboard
painting # 239, 2016

Board games are versatile props which I have used many time in my still life paintings, especially Monopoly. Scrabble on the other hand had eluded me up until now. Opportunity recently came knocking at my door to produce a narrative painting based on the possible new found origin of the game that even pre-dates the first version of Scrabble. The game was invented in 1938 by architect Alfred Mosher Butts. It was initially called Criss-Crosswords based on a previous variation of a game he also invented named Lexiko. The definitive version of the game and current name was modified by James Brunot in 1948. In 1952, the Selchow and Righter company bought the rights and started mass producing the game. It has been translated in 29 languages and approximately 150,000,000 units as been sold worldwide. 

In January, I received an invitation by the Chamber of Commerce of the sea side town of Shediac, NB to produced a painting based on an earlier version of the crossword game that was invented by one of it's town's former mayor, Edward R. McDonald. What was once part of New Brunswick trivia took a more serious turn once the US patent was recently uncovered dating back to July 6, 1926 and predates the Criss-Croswords by 12 years. A Canadian patent was also issued for the same game on December 7, 1926. While the rules differ somewhat, what they share is the grid checker board, and the lettered tiles with number values (for the exception of vowels) using the same fonts as today's Scrabble board game. The initial project is the brainchild of Pierre Cormier, a member of the Chamber of Commerce and is responsible for taking steps in uncovering the patent that was found by an Ottawa patent lawyer in the recesses of the Smithsonian , the world's largest museum and research centre. 

The painting was initially conceived for a box cover illustration with the intent of manufacturing Mr. McDonald's Crossword Game in light of the 90th anniversary of his invention. It remains unknown if the game was ever marketed and sold beyond a prototype made which his daughter Elizabeth Carvell, 89 recalls her father playing with a neighbour when she was a child. My involvement with the project was only to produce the painting. Since my initial meeting with the Chamber of Commerce the scope of the project has taken a different approach in honouring one of it's most outstanding citizen. As of now, the propose re-edition of the game has been put on hold for the time being and the image will be used for promotional purposes.  

I took part of a press conference held in the historical Webster House in Shediac this past June 8. My speech was to elaborate on the narrative behind my conceived imagery. John Chew, co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association announced that Hasbro, the current owner of the Scrabble Game will be supplying a large number of games to the town to demonstrate their support for their initiative. Many Scrabble related activities were revealed for the up-coming summer season. The town will form the first certified Scrabble Club in the Atlantic provinces, and will be hosting an International Scrabble Tournament from September 30 to October 2 with Mr Chew presiding over the event. On September 17, Shediac will also host a roaring 1920's Gatsby themed night in conjunction with Scrabble related activities, highlighting the flapper fashion period recently popularised during the later seasons of Downton Abbey.

click on image to view the Global News broadcast


 Biographical notes-

Edward Richard McDonald (born- Shediac, NB 1870, died- Shediac, NB, 1952) defines the word renaissance man as an adventurer, lawyer, politician, writer, inventor and family man. In his youth, as the son of a captain, he travelled extensively by sea for three years, serving before the mast on large sailing ships and during which he visited many ports around the world. An experience which he considered gave him training and a greater conception of life. Upon his return, he studied law and was admitted to the Bar of New Brunswick, but his career was not confined solely to that field in earlier years. He travelled to Florida where he engaged in the real estate market for one year. He then made his way to Leadville, Colorado where he was employed in the gold mines for a couple of years before heading north of the border to Alberta where he was involve in ranching. He then became a gold mining prospector for a year in Porcupine, Ontario. After all of these endeavours, he resumes his law practise in New Brunswick and acquired a province wide reputation as a lawyer, being regarded as among the ablest appearing in the criminal courts and other branches of the law, embracing all the courts from the lowest to the highest. 

He was also a very active politician on the local and provincial scene. He served as mayor for four years as well as an alderman on the Shediac Town council for two decades. In addition, he also served as town clerk for many year and councillor for the Shediac Parish at Westmorland Municipality Council for sixteen years.  In 1935, he was elected as one of the members of the Legislative Assembly for Westmorland County serving a four year term during which he played a prominent role in the debates of the House and serves in several committees. 

He was one of the first person in the province to own and operate an automobile and the first in Shediac. He purchased his first vehicle in 1903, sporting license plate # 111. His love of the sea also made him an avid sailor and yachtsman. 

In 1908, he co-wrote a science fiction novel, The Mad Scientist: A Tale of the Future with Raymond Alfred Léger under the pen name Raymond McDonald. 

Upon his passing in 1950, he left to mourn his wife, the former Annie Gertrude Ryan, a son E. Ronald McDonald and three daughters, Gertrude Capreol, Mildred McLellan and Elizabeth Carvell.  He is the great grandfather of Todd McLellan, the current NHL coach of the Edmonton Oilers and Chris Williams, an animator, screenwriter and director working at Walt Disney Animation Studios. In 2015, he won an Academy Award for co-directing the best animated feature Big Hero 6. 

                                                   ___________________


For the composition I was given a copy of the US patent, a re-printed photo of Mr. McDonald when he was elected mayor, another picture appearing in his vintage automobile, a book on the history of Shediac and some printed documents. After meeting with members of the Chamber of Commerce and visiting city hall which has several paintings documenting the history of Shediac, I did some research and decided to incorporate a few more items in order to create a more cohesive composition. 

The patent itself was drawn by Fetherstonhaugh & Co. It serves at the most important artefact and the base of the composition upon which objects are layered on top. The patent agency was founded by lawyer and agent Frederick Barnard Fetherstonhaugh in 1890. The other commonality that Edward McDonald shared with Frederick Fetherstonhaugh apart from them both practising of form of law, was that he was also an automobile enthusiasts.  He was well known for having the first electrical car in Canada,which he help design and also bore his name. The 1893 automobile could reach a top speed of 15 mph and the 270 lbs batteries lasted for 5 hours. 


On eBay I was able to acquire a pair of early 20th century 12 K gold filled spectacles, which I was told he wore. Also a collectible postmarked first official flight letter pertaining to the Air Mail service when Shediac was designated part of the Pan American Northern Route which flew over the Atlantic Ocean during the summer months using a Boeing B314 Yankee Clipper plane, which could land on water. This service route included Port Washington (Long Island, New York),  Shediac (Canada), Botwood (Newfoundland), Foynes (Ireland) and Southhampton (England). The inaugural trip occurred on June 24, 1939. This specific letter was postmarked July 1, 1939 to Quillin's Stamp Shop in Washington, DC. and was flown from Shediac to New York with final destination in Washington, DC. The Air Mail service has historical significance and did contribute greatly to the town of Shediac, it's economy and it’s status as one of the Atlantic link to the US and Europe until the service ceased it's operations by the end of World War II. 

The US Patent Office is currently located in Alexandria, Virginia (near Arlington). In 1926, when the Crossword Game patent was issued, the office would have been located at 8th and F Streets, NW in Washington, DC which now houses the National Portrait Gallery which I was very fortunate to visit back at Easter 2012. 


At first, I didn’t know how I would incorporate the First Official Flight letter (1939) since it precedes McDonald’s game (1926) by more than a decade.  When the Criss-Crosswords was patented in 1938, one can imagine that word of this game might have reached Mr. McDonald's ears by the following year. Being a lawyer, he might have sent a letter to the US Patent office in Washington in order to discuss possible infringement on his patent and concept. It helps to create a link even if it's only an assumption from my part pertaining to this period in time.

The score pad in yellow is also known as a legal pad, which bodes well since Edward McDonald was in the legal business. I wrote both his and wife's name has the honorary players for this match. I was able to acquire two sets of lettered tiles which are sold at Michael's and painted them all by hand in black and white for use for my study and the prototype. I also incorporated a monogram using a drawing of a tile letter R found on top of the patent itself which I re-positioned and a painted black lettered M tile which rest on the edge of his picture. I borrowed a wooded letter stand from a Scrabble game in order to display the tiles which spells ''crossword'' but also to make a reference to beloved game which also bear's its name in their title, Scrabble, the Crossword Game. We've had a French and English edition in our home for at least 25 years, which at the time was manufactured by Irwin.   


My painting and prototype of 
Edward McDonald's Crossword Game


In the wake of the press conference held of June 8, an initial article was published on May 28, 2016 in the Moncton's Times & Transcript and affiliate newspapers (Saint John's Telegraph's Journal and The Fredericton's Daily Gleaner). My painting of the crossword game was featured on the front page of the Moncton edition. Journalist James Foster who covered the story later contacted me to conduct an interview for a related story which also surveys my own artistic career thus far. 


Media coverage in print 



I wish to thank the Shediac Chamber of Commerce for bestowing upon me this unique opportunity and visibility. Also for giving me carte blanche in order to create a narrative painting which focuses on paying homage to one of it's most honourable citizen. Mr. McDonald had left a legacy to the town of Shediac which remained dormant for almost a whole century. The town can finally boost the title of being the Scrabble Capitol of Canada in addition of already holding the title of The Lobster Capitol of the World.  



Ron Cormier, president of the Shediac Chamber of Commerce
playing the role of Edward R. McDonald and Sophie Doiron-Belliveau 
in 1920's period costume after the press conference at Webster House,
 June 8, 2016. 


Left to right:
Pierre Cormier, Shediac Chamber of Commerce member and project initiator
John Chew, co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association
Ron Cormier, president of the Shediac Chamber of Commerce
Louis Babineau, Shediac Co-op




The 15 ft long Shediac sign in fiberglass coated
Crossword letters will be on display this summer
alongside the World Largest Lobster in Shediac, NB

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Acrylic Artist Magazine - feature article and cover


Last fall I was contacted by the American based art magazine ''Acrylic Artist'' for a feature article and was interviewed by Amy Leibrock. The summer 2016 edition will be available at bookstores and newsstands on June 7. Very fortunate to have been given my first ever cover and my article is a full 10-pages. Many thanks to managing editor Jennifer Smith. Available at Chapters/Indigo and Read's Newsstand locally, Barnes & Nobles and where art magazines are sold. To acquire a print or digital download, you can go on this link- http://www.northlightshop.com/acrylic-artist-magazine-summer-2016 .  

Back copies currently available at this link - HERE 


Friday, March 25, 2016

Commission piece


''Loon over Cross Stitch'' (Huard sur point de croix)
Acrylic on gessoed hardboard, 10 x 12''
painting # 238, 2016

This painting combines tools used by the lovely clients whom have been retired for some time now and have kept very busy with arts and crafts among their many pastimes and passions. I've added the proverbial mason jar as a symbol of preservation.


-SOLD

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Hello Kitty rides The Great Wave

12 x 12'', acrylic on gessoed birch panel
painting # 237, 2016

This painting combines both past and present elements of oriental art and popular culture pertaining to Japan. Last year I did a painting of the same Hello Kitty oriental take-out food inspired candy container, except this time I've opted to include the lid and present it as a vessel.

The background art is perhaps the best known artwork by a Japanese artist to the rest of the world. The Great Wave off Kanagawa (a.k.a. The Great Wave) by Katsushika Hokusai is a woodblock print part of a series entitled the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. It was created during the end of the Edo period circa 1829-1832. Here it is shown sideways off the pages of the art book, ''999 Art Works you must know, you should know and you really impress if you know'' published by Scala Group, Florence Italy (pages 520-521).



The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

I can't recall when I first saw The Great Wave, except it created a lasting impression after visiting Claude Monet's house in Giverny back in 2006.  Monet started collecting Japanese woodblock prints around 1864, which in turn would inspire him to build and incorporate a waterlily pond and a Japanese footbridge on his land beyond his flower gardens. These two elements would contribute to inspire a series of paintings which would become some of his best known work. Monet's collection of woodblock prints are exhibited throughout his house. His own artwork shown in his home however are only in form of reproductions. The Great Wave off Kanagawa can also be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the British Museum and the Art Institute of Chicago among several others. 

During our visit to Washington DC, back in 2012, we spotted a mural of The Great Wave on the side of a building near the campus of Georgetown University that was brilliantly done.




Hello Kitty continues her phenomenal wave of popularity with owner Sanrio serving as the marketing empire using the white bobtail cat on more than 50,000 products worldwide. Her actual name is Kitty White. In 2014, Sanrio celebrated Hello Kitty's 40th anniversary with a first Hello Kitty convention. The sold-out event, a global gathering of fans and friends was held in Los Angeles from Oct. 30 to Nov. 2.  A museum exhibition at the Japanese American National Museum and unique collaborations and limited edition commemorative products were also made for her milestone birthday.  

While waiting in line for Broadway Show tickets at Times Square in NYC during the Christmas Holidays, I spotted a Sanrio Store. Unfortunately, I did not have time to visit the holdings of Hello Kitty treasures it had on display. 


Sanrio Store, Times Square, NYC
December, 2015


While Hello Kitty was initially conceive for a target audience of young girls, it has definitely crossed over to the adult market as well and gone mainstream. Last week-end I saw a screening of the new Marvel movie, ''Deadpool'' starring Ryan Reynolds as the protagonist. This film is rated R. During the opening credits, there is a Hello Kitty product placement floating in space, then later on in the movie, a Hello Kitty dufflebag can be seen in the front seat of a taxi cab. 

On July 3, 2015, Sanrio announced a full-length Hello Kitty theatrical film to be released in 2019 which will certainly attract a very wide audience around the globe and increase her popularity even more.  

-SOLD


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Mondrian on Monopoly

Acrylic on gessoed birch panel, 10 x 12''
painting #236, 2015

I've mentioned before that the Piet Mondrian's grid like paintings reminds me of the Monopoly board game. While visiting Philadelphia with my family this past October and doing some sightseeing, we unexpectedly came across the Municipal Service Building Plaza right next to the JFK Plaza (Love Park) which features gigantic game pieces from Sorry, Monopoly, Chess, Dominoes and Bingo. This 1996 art installation is appropriately named ''Your Move'' and is the brainchild of artists Daniel Martinez, Renée Petropoulis and Roger White. Upon seeing it, the whole narrative for this painting came to me. Little did I know that two days later, I would see a Piet Mondrian at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. 



We just returned from a four day Christmas Getaway Vacation in New York City and during our visit to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), we got to see a whole wall of Mondrian's grid paintings. The painting shown below (lower left) entitled ''Broadway Boogie Woogie'', oil on canvas, 1942-43 was painted after Piet Mondrian moved to New York City to escape WWII. It was influenced by boogie-woogie music. For a great sample click HERE.



This painting was SOLD upon posting it on social media to a collector living in the Netherlands, the native land of Mondrian, how appropriate.

This is my last post for 2015. Thanking you all for checking out my art blog throughout the year and to the patrons who acquired some of my artwork. May 2016 bring you much contentment, happiness and peace.  

-SOLD

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Observing Alex Colville

Acrylic polymer emulsion on gessobord, 11 x 14''
Painting #235, 2015

- Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University in Sackville, NB - April 28, 2002, 3pm.

I'm here with my wife Suzanne at the opening reception of Alex Colville: The History of Mount Allison. The artist is present and I am quite nervous to meet him for the first time ever, but in a good way. It's a full-house, elbow to elbow. We walk around the first floor galleries when someone asks Suzanne if she was part of Colville family? Maybe it's the Rhoda Colville or his daughter Ann Kitz  hairstyle she wears that prompted such an comment.

Robert Benn (Class of 1952) makes an illuminating speech before introducing Alex Colville. Then Mr. Colville talks about the making of his 1948 commissioned mural, The History of Mount Allison located on campus at Tweedy Hall. He mentions that his gift of the 65 preparatory drawings done for the mural were stashed away in his house and that he had not looked at them for the longest of times. ''Seeing them all here displayed on the walls, some of them are actually quite good!'' he says.  

After his speech Suzanne tells me, ''Get in line to meet him''. I'm glad she came with me.


with Alex Colville at Owens Gallery Gallery, 2002

I had sent him four letters during previous years and he had always generously replied each time. When I introduce myself, he response was, ''Are you the runner?'' At the time I was running marathons and travelling to cities which also had great art collections to visit. I knew so much about the happenings in his artistic life, that conversation was easy. When we ended our chat he said, ''This is the first time that we actually meet each other in person'', which I replied ''Yes, it is''. He then signed a book, The Observer Observed, his biography written by Mark A. Cheetham and a Canada Post First-Day cover, whom had honoured him a month earlier by choosing ''Church and Horse'' for a stamp, part of the on-going ART Canada Masterpiece Series


This painting is kind of a personal piece for me. The artist who initially inspired me to start painting. The composition for this painting has elements that are connected to him. The book was written by David Burnett and published by the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) for a retrospective of his work in 1983. (click here for an interview with Barbara Frum).  I acquired it in a bookshop in Wolfville, NS during the late summer of 1989 after viewing an exhibition of his work at the University of Acadia Art Gallery that was entitled The Dow Gift. As luck would have it, it was an autographed copy.

The image on the book cover is a detail from his painting ''Target Pistol and Man'' done in 1980 when Colville turned 60.  Although he has included himself as a figure for several of his paintings, according to Burnett, this painting was the only true self-portrait until then. The setting for this painting was in his studio on the third floor of the house where he and his wife Rhoda lived from 1973 to 1998 in Wolfville, NS, the same space that is featured on the First-Day cover. In the image, he is not looking at the viewer, but rather at his self reflection in a mirror. His wedding ring and watch appears on his right hand/wrist, while in reality they would have been on the left. Burnett also explains the symbolism of the gun, which is not about violence as one might think.


Target Pistol and Man, 1980
Acrylic, 60 x 60 cm
Private collection, Calgary
at AGO (Oct. 2014)

The first day cover of his stamp was issued by Canada Post in Edmonton, AB on March 3, 2002. During our conversation, I asked him if he had attended the reception in Edmonton during the launch of the stamp, which he replied “No, it would had been a bit much to travel there”. It would be interesting to know why Canada Post chose Edmonton and not Sackville, NB or Wolfville, NS for the launch of the stamp. For my painting, I decided to change the date and place on the First Day cover to April 28, 2002 and Sackville, NB to document the day I got to meet him in person. He grew up in the border town of Amherst, NS. Sackville carried a lot of weight in his artistic career and family life. He attended Mt Allison University and earned a BFA in 1942. He married Rhoda Wright that same year and later raised four children here. He was dispatched as a war artist from 1943-46. From 1946 to 1963 he was part of the Mt Allison Fine Arts faculty as a professor. In 1963, he resigned from the university position in order to paint full-time while continuing to live in Sackville for another decade. Sackville and the nearby Tantramar Marsh would become the setting for several of his paintings. In this interview he recalls the importance of living in a more rural setting, away from the agitation of the big cities, click HERE.


Milk Truck, 1959
oil and synthetic resin
collection C.I.L
setting: Downtown Sackville, NB
exhibited at the AGO.


Since his passing at the age of 92 less a month, on July 16, 2012, Alex Colville continues to receive adulation as one of Canada's painter laureate. During that same spring, with failing health and in the memory of the passing of his wife Rhoda (December, 2011), he made a very generous gift of the 35 serigraph prints done during his artistic career to the Owens Art Gallery. I attended the opening reception on November 2, 2012 held in Tweedy Hall. His daughter Ann was invited to talk about the lives of her parents and the gift. She herself had served as a model for so many of his paintings from a very young age. It was a very moving moment for all. Mt Allison alumni and former student of Colville, Christopher Pratt also delivered a touching address about his formative years while a student under his tutelage. The huge gathering then proceeded for the unveiling of the exhibition at the Owens Art Gallery. While I am only one of his many admirers, my picture was taken at the exact some spot where I shook his hand a decade earlier and would appeared in the NB Telegraph Journal a few days later.


at the Alex Colville Gift, Owens Art Gallery, Nov. 2, 2012
Telegraph Journal, photographer Viktor Pivovarov



Since then, both the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto (AGO) (August 23, 2014 - January 4, 2015) and the National Gallery in Ottawa ( April 25 - September 7, 2015) have acted as the stage for a major lifetime retrospective which I had the immense pleasure on seeing with Suzanne in Toronto on October 28, 2014. We had also visited the National Gallery during the Easter break last year and got to see several of his paintings in their permanent collection. 


Alex Colville retrospective, AGO, 2014

On November 26, 2015, a 1975 Colville original painting entitled ''Harbour'' was sold during the Heffel Fall Auction for a record price of 1,880,000 CND (including premiums), breaking his previous record for Man on Verandah which was also sold at auction for 1,287,000 CND in 2010. 

This painting will be exhibited at the Fog Forest Gallery in a group show entitled ''The Finest Gifts'' in the lovely town of Sackville, NB.

To acquire this painting, please contact the
Fog Forest Gallery
14 Bridge Street, Sackville, NB
(506) 536-9000 
e-mail- gallery@nbnet.nb.ca
-SOLD


Previous posts on Alex Colvillle 

- Reflecting on being Acadian 
- The Colville House



Wednesday, November 4, 2015

2015 Small Works Invitational




New group show opening this coming Friday, November 6, 2015 at the Ober Anderson Gallery in Kirkwood, MO, a suburb of the Greater St Louis, MO. Many thanks to Lisa Ober for this unique invitation and the opportunity to show my artwork in the Mid-West for the first time.  The exhibition includes some very talented artists, several I have been acquainted with through this Blog or Facebook. These would include Lisa Ober, Joyce K. Jenson, John Salozzo and Carrie Waller.