Newfoundland and Labrador is a province of storytellers; the oral tradtion runs deep but recently the narrative has featured strongly also in the work of many younger visual artists. 'Narrative NL' is an exhibition explores the phenomenon in paint. The exhibition includes work by Grenfell alumni, John McDonald, Jennifer Barrett, Darren Whelan, Greg Bennett, Grant Boland, Dave Sheppard, Terrence Howell, Michael Gough, Rodney Mercer and Michael Pittman; as well as Micheal Young. The artwork in the exhibition is roughly divided into two approaches: the images of McDonald, Mercer, Whelan, Bennett, Boland and Sheppard rely on literal representation and often the juxtaposition of discordant images while Howell, Barrett, Gough, Pittman and Young's approach is more nuanced and layered and tend towards a psychological narrative. All of the works capitalize on the skill in using the figure and/or draughtsmanship to form the basis of paintings that stage a narrative.
Mike Gough. The Lookout. 2014. Oil and photo collage on canvas.
Many of the artists reference as sources of inspiration contemporary visual culture (comics, graphic novels, film, the plethora of images through the internet and social media), politics, and personal and provincial history. John McDonald's three paintings, for example, are based on stills from the NFB documentary, Waiting for Fidel, the strange quest of two unlikely partners and iconic figures from Newfoundland's fairly recent past. Ultimately unsuccessful, former premier, Joey Smallwood and, businessman, Geoff Stirling set off to meet up with Castro. Mike Gough's narratives revolve around his family's history of Alzheimer's and personal memories.
John McDonald. Joey. 2015. Oil on canvas.
One of the contributing factors to the current prevalence of narrative in painting in Newfoundland and Labrador could be the current strength of the literary arts, the intimate size of the arts community and the opportunity for cross-fertilization. Another factor, of course, is the cumulative effect of having and undergraduate visual arts program in the province. Memorial University's Visual Arts program was established at Grenfell Campus in 1988.
Exhibition runs from Jun. 20 to Sept. 12
Closing Reception: Sept. 10, 4:30 to 6p.m.