Saturday, April 2, 2011

Clive Powsey: Painting with Punch

My love of Clive Powsey's art has never waivered since the time I first saw one of his works in Christensen's Gallery, in Peterborough, Ontario. Circumstances led us to cross paths via a mutual friend in art and I have studied Clive's works rather closely since that first day.

I have enjoyed examining everything from his languid studies of the shorlines of Ontario's Kawartha lakes, to his craggy Rocky Mountain images. It has been for me lately to see Clive take a subtle shift in the way he interprets art, in his more recent works.

Let me put it this way. In most of his paintings Clive has focused on interpreting what he sees. More recently, he seems to have shifted to examining his own inner artistic vision. The scene itself is secondary to the artist's inner landscape. Interestingly, Clive confesses to not not naming many of his most recent works. How do you hang a name on an artistic vision?

Now, let's look at this recent work that Clive has chosen to be critiqued.

First of all, I have to confess that words fail me when I find myself critiquing another artist's inner journey? What comes foremost to mind, is the old saying that values trump colour. But how? Well, they trump colour because they present us with absolutes and the shades of subtleties in between.

Notice too how Clive uses a minimalistic palette and how he contrasts bold darks and soft lights so dramatically that it steals our breath away.

Notice how half this picture is painted in dark values and how this masks any significant shapes which may be found within. Is Clive saying to us that less is more?

Now look at the brilliance of light in the upper centre of this work and how it has lightning streaks of unpainted paper to heighten the illumination. The contrast couldn't be much more extreme.

Now, as we follow this illumination downwards, we enter a valley which has the softest of blues and this takes us along a trail which comes to an abrupt end with darkness above and below.

I find myself wondering if I am not looking at an extremely metaphorical study of the way Clive sees life. If such is the case I won't even attempt a hypothetical interpretation. For Clive's inner vision is his alone. What we are seeing is an artist giving pre-eiminence to his own inner interpretation. The artistic process triumphs over the scene itself.

It goes without saying that we are looking at the works of a master watercolourist. Likely the best there is in Canada.


  1. What an incredibly powerful piece! He's a master at handling light, isn't he?

  2. Its fun being "the mutual friend"...lookin good, Clive!


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