Saturday, April 10, 2010

Gary Kennedy: The Skaters, and Alex Colville's "Realism is More Real than Real."

My wife tells me that she likes realism in painting. I tease her and ask her if she likes photography or painting? But Alex Colville said it so well, when he said that Realism of more real than realism. (March 23rd Blog. CBC radio interview).

When I look at this work above, by Newfoundland artist, Gary Kennedy, I get a sense of what Colville means.

Gary Kennedy paints a scene which evokes a warm response from most Canadians.

We see 4 girls skating. Their similarities in facial appearances suggest that they are sisters. They are also bonded with their hands held. The picture also has the kind of individual dynamics we find among siblings. An attentive and helpful sister (on the left) - balanced on the right by a bolder sister who takes life on her terms. She goes it alone, and is the only one not holding hands.

But look carefully at her.

The three who are bonded with hands held, have moving feet. The girl who strikes out alone and ahead of her sisters - is standing still. Is this a life metaphor? Are those who isolate themselves from bonding connections, psychologically frozen? Are we seeing a repeat of the old Canadian theme of Canadians strength coming from unity and not from individuality?

The three who hold hands are smiling. They are bonded. The two older ones are united by the little one in the centre. She needs their help and they are her skating caregivers. The girl on the right is intense and focused and her arms stick out like balancing wings.

Note too, that even though 3 of the girls hold hands, the girl on the right is linked by a lack of paint separation. And, do see how the chain of girls is given symmetry by the girls on the left and right, having their arms extended.

Then there are the subtleties. The colour of the girls' clothing comes from their jackets up. The seriousness of their endeavour is captured by the black and white contrast in their leggings and skates.

And while I am on the topic of colour, surely it is no accident that Gary paints the little girl wearing a red coat. Red is the dominant, attention getting colour. And the little girl is the smallest skater, in the middle between the two taller girls. And, the three girls whose hands are joined each wear an item of clothing which is either red or has a red hue.

I guess Alex Colville had it right. Realism is more real than real. This work and others by Gary can be seen by clicking here to be taken to his website.

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