painting #265, 2018
This painting is a commission piece for a lovely couple who have a summer home in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. My wife and I met them over a wonderful lunch she had prepared for us of seafood chowder, salad and trifle for dessert. I started to brainstorm ideas for a composition as we got acquainted, then did a photo shoot in their backyard overlooking the Minas Basin / Bay of Fundy.
In the past, I have used mason jars in several of my paintings. These utilitarian bottles designed for preserving food become an allegorical form of symbolism when used in preserving personal objects, places, memories. I did the photo studies for the painting during low tide, when most of the basin had emptied out, revealing a muddy clay bottom floor. I was later sent photos taken at high tide and painted from several pictures.
Without going into specific details, from our first meeting to delivering the finish painting I found the whole process informed me in creating a very biographical piece just by using props. Every objects and the space in the composition had personal meaning to her, all anchored on a table build by her grand father.
On a personal note, this area is also dear to me since my French ancestor came to Acadia in 1652 and settled in nearby Port Royal. Along this basin's shore lies Evangeline Beach where the late artist, Alex Colville owned a summer cottage and used the setting as a back drop for several of his paintings. He lived in nearby Wolfville.
When I started to concentrate on still life painting at the turn of the millennium, the artwork of Mary Pratt would become my main source of inspiration. What distinguished Mrs. Pratt from most still life painters apart from her signature approach to painting glass, light and colour palette was that she used the natural setting in and around her home instead of setting up a composition in a very neutral and unassuming space. On a very sad note, she passed away on August 14 after a lengthy illness at the age of 83. I completed this painting at the end of August and would dedicate the remaining hours in her memory. It is a great loss for her family, all those who loved her and the Canadian artistic community.
Mary Pratt photographed in January, 2000
Globe and Mail