One of the great pleasures of running an art gallery is the opportunity to visit artists in their studios. This can include looking at older inventory, fresh work or work in progress. It’s where we get to have conversations about where ideas are coming from and how they are being realized. It’s how we can get a sense of the materials: the smell of paint, the “secret” artist’s media of tar, glue, wax, sand; the wet or bisque fired ceramic; the raw wood and metal of sculpture. It’s where we sit on a wooden stool or paint-stained armchair and enjoy a stream of chat about art, kids, travel and the next exhibition.
I recently visited several artists. The first was Romeo Savoie down a country lane in Grand Barachois near Moncton. Savoie is an architect by training and original practice. He built his house, in stages, and it has a sense that as a room became full of art, another was added. A large windowless room at the back is a studio. The lighting is dim. Standing spotlights are aimed on the paintings as we pull them out and look at them. There are paintings here that go back decades, some of which have more recent additions. What is most evident is Savoie’s interest in integrating ordinary objects and materials considered to be non-aesthetic (straw, dried plants, earth, wood). Propped against the wall is one of Savoie’s Fan series, a triptych that includes a working electric fan.
The following week I made a quick trip to Montreal. Michael Smith’s studio is a former retail space on the sidewalk, west of downtown. It shows evidence of his very active approach to paint and canvas. There is paint not only on the canvases, but also lining the edges of wall and floor. Otherwise, it is clean, bright and orderly. Mike has recently stopped teaching and is luxuriating in the idea of boundless time ahead. While sitting on swivel chairs in the studio space, surrounded by paintings packed for shipment, we hatch a plan for a 2018 Halifax exhibition that will require an advance research trip to Nova Scotia in the spring. In the meantime, we will receive a crate of new paintings to offer in Halifax.
I also managed to fit in a quick visit with printmaker Catherine Farish to update projects in the making, over a coffee at the Atwater Market. She is going to send us new works by courier to refresh our inventory. They will include selections of monoprints from her lyrically beautiful Many Moons series. Catherine’s home and studio are an hour out of Montreal. To visit her workspace will require another trip. Stay tuned!