The Secord Gallery is on the second floor of a storefront on Quinpool Road. When you climb the stairs, you enter directly into the gallery space, which is broken up into several connected rooms where the works of their numerous artists are on view. Where Did the Time Go? features forty-seven of the gallery’s artists, almost all of the artists they represent, with the few omissions unavoidable for various reasons. Secord told me that he thought that the show was a good exemplar of what the gallery is about, and I have to agree with him. The show presents a snapshot of art from across Nova Scotia, including artists who have exhibited with the Secord Gallery for years, such as John Neville, Brian Porter and Leya Evelyn, and newer additions to the group, such as Steve Farmer, who had his first exhibition at Secord just last month.
Phil Secord was in a good mood when I talked with him in the gallery he runs with Wendy Salsman. They had just opened a new group exhibition that marked a significant milestone in the gallery’s history: 25 years in business, all at their Quinpool Road location. “Being in business these days,” he explained, “five years is an accomplishment. Twenty-five years is special.” The gallery, which has become a familiar staple of the gallery scene in Halifax, actually has a longer history – it was originally opened in 1979 as a custom framing shop. Secord started the gallery portion in 1993.
Along with such familiar names as Rose Adams, Alan Bateman, Wayne Boucher and Renée Forrestall, there are works of photography, sculpture, ceramics and drawings and prints. There are far too many artists to list them all here, but the gallery is well worth a visit to see the diverse range of works on display.
Another one of the “senior” commercial galleries in Halifax, Studio 21, has recently moved into new premises on Doyle Street. It’s a smaller space, but its street level gallery is a good space for mounting projects. Their storage is also more accessible in this new space, making it easier to look at works by others of the 50-plus artists that they represent. Doyle Street, of course, is also home to another venerable Halifax art gallery, Zwickers Gallery, which has been in continuous operation since 1886, making it, to my knowledge anyway, the oldest commercial art gallery in the country. The second show in the new space is by Toronto painter David Urban, a well-known artist whose work is represented in public and private collections across the country.
Urban, who is also a poet and musician, often uses music as an inspiration and even a source for his abstract paintings. The ten works at Studio 21 are all recent, and according to the artist, who was at his opening last Friday night, they are best thought of as a suite, interrelated works that playfully explore colour and the physical presence of sound. Not fully abstract, these works suggest figures, landscapes, foliage and more, sparking a free play of the imagination. Urbans familiar sinuous lines are here broken into short lengths, staccato marks that coalesce into figures, and as quickly break apart as our eyes become engaged in Urban’s complex mark making. Each of the works is the same format, 2 x 4 feet with a horizontal orientation. The central figures seem to occupy rooms or other spaces – swimming is the subject of The Pool of Taye, for instance – and each reclines in thought or dreams. Abstract elements become windows, doors, pages and other objects that float in these compositions, which have a fluidity and a vigour that makes them a pleasure to look at.
In Urban’s last exhibition at Studio 21 (three years ago), figurative elements were starting to make an appearance in his works, though they still seemed to be mostly abstractions. With The Precious Book, however, we are seeing a new departure in the work of a major figure in Canadian painting.
Where Did the Time Go? continues at the Secord Gallery until October 26, while The Precious Book is on view at Studio 21 until November 14.