CULTURAL LANDSCAPES

Clapboard saltbox houses, wooden dories and skiffs, crooked wharves and docks, rickety fishing stages and sheds, stunted trees and rocks—these are the visuals many landscape artists associate with the coastal communities of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The 1992 cod moratorium granted many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians a frontrow seat as wharves and docks were left to rot, clapboard siding on saltbox houses exposed joints, and schooners and dories sank into their surrounding harbours. Attempts to capture these landscapes on canvas are part of an important cultural and historical record.

“A landscape painting is essentially emotional in origin. It exists as a record of an effect in nature whose splendour has moved a human heart, and according as it is well or ill done it moves the hearts of others.”

Walter J. Phillips

“An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian. His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are.”

James Baldwin

Aquaforte, NL (oil on canvas and photo by Jenn Thornhill Verma)
My paternal grandparents’ home second from left (“The Thornhill family home”) in Little Bay East, NL (oil on canvas). The first house on the left, since levelled, was family-owned as well. In fact, both houses were Thornhill men (brothers) married to (nee) Clark women (who were sisters).
Burin, NL (oil on canvas) based on the photo by Russell Lynch photography.
Twillingate, NL (oil on canvas and photo by Jenn Thornhill Verma)
Twillingate, NL (oil on canvas and photo by Jenn Thornhill Verma); This image was also featured on Atlantic Books Today 2019 fall cover, which received Best Cover at the Atlantic Journalism Awards.
Trinity, NL (oil on canvas by Jenn Thornhill Verma) based on a photo by Melissa Royle Critch.

ARTIST INSIGHTS

HERE COMES THE SUN: ARTIST JEAN CLAUDE ROY’S BRIGHT OUTLOOK FOR NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

Mar 2019 (the below is an excerpt)

He looks for and loves the bent and broken lines of a wharf that’s been cobbled together, as it was originally, the result of townsfolk hammering whatever wood they had together into a rickety, misshapen landing. New is not necessarily better, he says, uninterested in the straight lines of government wharfs, expensive residential builds, or plastic fishing gear. His eye is trained to find roads dipping and bobbing with the flow of the coastline that nook and cranny into tiny coves and beaches.

“I try to find some old paths,” Roy says. “Even an old shed, with all of the colours – that’s what I’m looking for – the mess. I’m painting mess, okay?”

Jean Claude Roy paints at Quidi Vidi in summer 2018 (photo by JTV)

In the PResence of Absence

(Clifford George)

Sep 2017 (the below is an excerpt)

“For much of his life, Clifford George has felt the lure of distant images, whispering echoes calling to him over the expanse of time…

So he packed up his tools and travelled the Burin and Avalon peninsulas.

“I went to a place called Red Cliff down around Bonavista — and I was overwhelmed by the presence of absence.

“There were old saltbox houses clinging onto the cliff and they were giving out a message. And I could feel the presence of the people who lived in them long ago, the times in the old schools, dances in the halls, people telling yarns to each other. Peacefulness and quiet serenity.

“Curtains blowing through broken glass out into the morning air. Woodstoves rusted, soup ladles hanging by the old chimney back of the stove from suppers long ago. I painted and sketched that town a lot.”

EnergyPhIle (IRENE DUMA)

Jan 2021

When landscape painter, Irene Duma, landed in Newfoundland, she was actually destined for New York. But two visits (with films in the St. John’s Women’s International film festivals in 2005 and again in 2007), she moved to the island portion of the province (from Toronto) in 2008. She reports she’s “been happy as a clam ever since.” When I asked Duma what draws her to paint Newfoundland landscapes, here’s what she said:

“What I love most is the energy. I am an energyphile … is that a thing? I absolutely love the raw energy of the windswept coast line. I am drawn to it like a moth to light. Which is weird because I thought I was all about the sun, sand and warmth. And sometimes when standing on Signal Hill, getting a beating from the wind, I really wish I was.

But I guess I’m not. It’s seeing the first light in North America which is thrilling to me. The expanse of the ocean, the jaw dropping cliffs, the breathtaking vistas. This is what never ceases to amaze me. I love being outdoors. I paint in oils and gouache from photos I have taken while hiking, wandering, or travelling. I use vibrant colour, exuberant gestures, big bold brushstrokes and shapes. I want my work to delight the viewer’s eyes – the composition to draw you in, and then like good theatre, take you away on a journey, transform you, and leave you feeling just a little bit better. And always, maintaining a sense of playfulness, optimism and innocence. I also love the energy of the people – a kitchen party with singing, laughter and live music can’t be beat.”

NL landscape painting by Irene Duma

An Artist’s View (Gordon Harrison)

Oct 2016

Canadian landscape painter, Gordon Harrison, has painted every corner of Canada, coast to coast to coast, but what draws him to Newfoundland and Labrador seascapes? Here’s what he said: (Jan 2021)

Canadian landscape painter, Gordon Harrison, has painted every corner of Canada, coast to coast to coast, but what draws him to Newfoundland and Labrador seascapes? Here’s what he said: (Jan 2021)

“As you know I love and paint mostly trees. But oddly it is not the trees that draw me to NL. It is rather the raw barren and open coastal landscape, the rocky shoreline and small quaint fishing communities. The latter includes the architectural vernacular, fishing sheds and dories. Although a lot of the authentic vernacular is now surrounded by new built structures that have altered the look. I And also the people are most hospitable.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s