Thursday, 22 September 2022

Oh Fiona


He used to think about her during a hurricane. Going to a hardware store with no name and purchasing supplies and preparing to ensure the storm doesn't take them up in it's wake. Strange though, the thrill of her just continuing to paint as the ocean rose, breaching the beach and flooding their property and their only car - a Doge Colt of all things... not caring for the aftermath. Too much Turner perhaps; too many turbulent paintings in the carousel of western man. But she was right.



Now Fiona is destined (he likes her name).  Yet he wonders: "why do hurricanes consolidate circumstances?" He checks for batteries and flashlights.


Steven Rhude, Wolfville

Thursday, 8 September 2022

Boat Shed, Can't See Cove


Boat Shed, Can't See Cove, oil on canvas, 36" x 52", Steven Rhude

“He wasn’t a religious man but a vision of what Paradise might be came to him, a windowed room afloat on an endless sea, walls packed floor to ceiling with all the books ever written or dreamed of. It was nearly enough to make giving up the world bearable.”
Michael Crummey - Galore


In a strange way, a summer fishing camp was for a fishermen, nearly enough to make giving up the world bearable. Remarkable in their undisclosed number, some were squatter camps on crown land, some were built and furnished better than their houses on the mainland. Attempts to rid the islands of these places have come and gone - some government orders left to linger on the slush piles of more than one bureaucratic conflict of interest. This may be the essence of what a "Can't see Cove" really is. A windowed room or shack afloat on an endless sea. 

 Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS


Sunday, 14 August 2022

seen and unseen


 Click link to see work in the show



I always get a sense when driving throughout Newfoundland that there is a secret on the edge of disclosure. It may be hidden inside a coastal house, or lingering like a spirit around a wharf at dusk. It's like that feeling you get as you approach a group of strangers and they become reticent. You sense they're protecting something. That's what I love about the place, you just know the story goes deeper than clapboard. This mindset invariably leads me to a visual event. It usually starts with something familiar; a house, a boat, or a road etc, and then I reinscribe it for something else... as one would reinscribe an object for further contemplation.

The road is the most tangible metaphor I can think of for exploration. As we drive the rules of the road influence what we see around us. However, between the rules there are no directions for us, other than our will to keep moving. We may only see an unromantic image of road and barrens viewed through a car window. When an object like a house or a boat suddenly appears in our way, we feel impeded for no sensible reason. It's a way of staging a disorientating encounter and to ask ourselves why is it there? Or why does it exist, or why is it still important – even culturally important?

I've learned over the years not to be spoon fed. Strip away the superficial associations that cling to certain objects like a weathered fishing shack or a boat, and new worlds appear. They exist and have etched their way into our east coast culture. And they will go on existing in our lexicon of symbols. To put it simply, the road is a stage, the objects are actors, and the composition conveys performance. I didn't write the play. I'm just a witness to it. I keep going back to that which is seen and unseen, not just looking for subject matter, but what embodies the subject.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

Water Taxi

 "This is not the 1960s, Mr. Sweetland. This move isn't being forced on the town. We will pay to resettle the residents, as we've been asked to do. But we will not be responsible for some lunatic alone in the middle of the Atlantic once everyone else is gone."

"Me being the lunatic."

"There won't be any ferry service after the move. Which means no supplies coming in. There will be no phone service. No online banking, no poker. No electricity. By definition, I'd think anyone out here on their own would have to be certifiable." The government man glanced at his watch. "You've been made aware of the September deadline." "I been made aware."

"There are people hoping to make the move across as early as this fall, which means everyone would have to sign by the first."

Michael Crummy, Sweetland

Water Taxi, oil on masonite, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Definition of Water Taxi: "a small boat on a river or other area of water, operated by a person who you pay to take you where you want to go."  Cambridge dictionary

Imagery comes from god only knows where. You start here and end up there, you think you're heading in one direction and you do a 180 the other way - and so it goes. How many times I've made a painting and then had to retrace my steps to the source which invariably is somewhere rooted in the subconscious. It's a recap most of us have experienced in our dreams as we unravel our state of place and its meaning to us in the here and now.

 Resettlement is a global issue today as it always has been. I recall as as kid seeing John Ford's film Grapes of Wrath and not sleeping the good sleep of a child for a while as the black and white imagery seeped into my fears of transience and insecurity. That opening scene of a man at the crossroads is a cinematic masterpiece that still leaves me speechless. 

Newfoundland is no stranger to resettlement. Out port houses being towed by boats to another location, coastal houses without occupants, abandoned boats in a state of rames (old English for nothing left but the bones), men stranded on ice flows, and books and more books on the issue of government versus the people of place. St. John's bustling with energy and newcomers - a urban/rural discourse.

Then there is the bigger connections to our collective mythology to ad to the mix. The Ferryman, the Styx, the journey to the other side, a vessel not only moving through water but also through time. You get the point. Don't pay or fix a price with the ferryman until you arrive.

This boat full of people is not a ship of fools, rather a collective of present and past. A cross section of a state of mind. Women at the bow, men in the middle, receding into the stern or the past. I can't say where they're traveling from, or where they may be traveling to, or whom they are being towed by. It's just another addition to the historical genre of crossings in painting.


Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS  

Wednesday, 1 June 2022

Drawing on the Rock and Other Art Related Things - Interview by Simone Labuschagne

 Eight Men with Dory (Upper Island Cove), oil on canvas, 24" x 34", Steven Rhude

“He always thought of the sea as 'la mar' which is what people call her in Spanish when they love her. Sometimes those who love her say bad things of her but they are always said as though she were a woman. Some of the younger fishermen, those who used buoys as floats for their lines and had motorboats, bought when the shark livers had brought much money, spoke of her as 'el mar' which is masculine.They spoke of her as a contestant or a place or even an enemy. But the old man always thought of her as feminine and as something that gave or withheld great favours, and if she did wild or wicked things it was because she could not help them. The moon affects her as it does a woman, he thought.”
Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea 


 Simone La: So Rhude time for another Q&A session.The nature of two artists living and working together is not unique but also not that common, and we tend to discuss art related issues a lot around the house. I want to discuss your thing for Newfoundland, the use of the figure in your paintings, your routine, and even a bit about portraiture. 

When did you fall in love with the Province of Newfoundland?  What makes her different from your home province of Nova Scotia?

Steven : About fifteen years ago I joined Emma Butler Gallery. I'd never been to Newfoundland and during a telephone conversation with Emma Butler she stressed the point that I visit and derive my subject matter there in much the same way as I do in Nova Scotia. She saw my paintings that were done while I lived in Fox Island and Lunenburg, and believed Newfoundland would be a good fit. I really missed the connections I had with the coastal communities in Canso and the surrounding area. It was an incredibly fertile period for me and my picture making. I think I sensed Newfoundland would offer up something as well. Emma was right, everything about the place is larger than life so to speak. It suited my routine and observations regarding the beauty and logic of coastal communities, the symbolic aspects of boats, roads, wharves and so on. 

The difference from Nova Scotia is experiential. So everyone talks about the language of landscape in Newfoundland, even those who don't live and work there. There is this linear logic that curators and art critics consider about place... that is about the way artists explore place as though there was some kind of template. I'm not that kind of artist. What I love about Newfoundland is the place explores you, nudges you into what I consider to be a "visual event". These moments, when they happen, can raise the hair on your neck and eventually work itself out into a painting. Now I tend to do the same thing in Nova Scotia, but we have to devote more of our time to Wolfville and the Valley. It's a stark contrast to the Avalon peninsula. Back here Acadia University is situated in the middle of Wolfville. Our world here is more orderly and routine. kids and work. When I'm in Newfoundland I just drift, in Nova Scotia I'm in the studio pursuing practical matters.        

 Simone La:  Even today, there is some suggestion within the institutional establishment that painting as an art form is out of time.  Why do you feel that painting is relevant and important in the modern world and particularly in the modern art world?

Steven: Out  of time is an interesting term in the way it's used. One way is the idea that painting has now run "out of time", and yet in the larger scheme of things the term can also be used in the sense of painting not being vulnerable to the more time related and transient aspects of contemporary modes of expression like video, performance, and installation art. So it's a term that can't serve two masters. Were it irrelevant today it wouldn't be a subject of attention and constant revision by the establishment. Many paintings which were once seen as metaphorical to the human condition like Winslow Homer's "The Gulf Stream" are now being scrutinized more so through the lens of race and colonization rather than the subject of the sea as an eternal merciless presence. But my instinct tells me no painting was painted with just one brush.

  However, painting on a stark white piece of textile is essentially our spiritual and psychological frame of reference. I doubt story telling has run out of time. These qualities do not have a clock attached to them in the linear sense. Ever since I was a kid I loved the concept that something could be frozen in time. You know everyone has a dream at some time or another about this. Then you realize that someone painted on a cave wall in a prehistoric time and you have corroboration of your dream. I know you once asked Colville what kind of painting he liked and he replied Egyptian art because of its linear qualities but also because the artist was by and large anonymous. In the modern world art hides behind reputation. Its psychological frame of reference is by and large influenced by institutional identity politics. This is where a lot of reputations are currently being made and yet also are reflective of  Bruegel's tower of babble - a discourse largely between curators, the institutional establishment, media, and acadamia with very little in terms of reckoning.

 A painting and its meaning is relevant because it is a very fragile object that needs constant attention and nurturing to crack the code. Painting has long been a metaphor for the story of man, it's that simple. Kind of like that hand painted on the cave wall - "this am I, I was here." As long as we want to see what, if anything, is inside ourselves we will continue to make paintings.

Simone La: When choosing subject matter does this out of time theme of ancient landscape or timeless characters assist you in the planning of a work of art?   

Steven: Ya, probably the above painting could meet that consideration. I work in a familiar tradition and it has not been displaced (phew !). Artists are always asked how they see themselves. Some say I'm a painter, I'm a sculptor and so on. I see myself as a picture maker.  What I do coexists with other art forms. But nuance is still necessary. People may think the dory is an object of the past, yet why does one see them all over Newfoundland? When we owned one in Fox Island it was common knowledge that it came from a National Sea Products vessel. They are still used as life boats today and have all sorts of utilitarian purposes for inshore fishermen. I recall how we had to cork the seams and soak the boat up for a few days - it was amazing how heavy the boat was and yet in the water how well engineered it was to row. Talk about a work of art. In the painting it could just be an anonymous group of men hauling a dory into storage - that was their assistance to me. But we don't know where they've been or what they've been up to. Who these men are I don't really know. But back in the studio I modeled for every one of them and developed an individual variation one by one. So sure I see them as out of time.  

Woman with Weather Balloon, Bell Island, oil on canvas, Steven Rhude

Simone La: Folks that know the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will know that the weather is fickle and can be cruel or beautiful.  The harsh climate is always a topic of conversation.  Is this why you painted a weather balloon? 

Steven : Ya, like I said earlier Newfoundland tends to nudge you, it explores you. Maybe it's something like a cat that just appears out of nowhere and befriends you, I'm really not sure, but one has to consider and listen to it. But while growing up weather to me was long Scarborough summers with sun and heat and great snow filled winters. As kids we only took note if there was a brute of a storm. Living in the Maritimes has been different because of the oceanic logic that affects the resource industries and of course the coastal communities - weather simply put can be life or death. In Fox Island I used to love to go out onto the sun porch in the morning, stare at the ocean and make deductions regarding wind direction, velocity, humidity, temperature and so on. It was a game I played. Then I'd turn on the CBC to get a more accurate report. Now Newfoundland's weather can be notorious for raging storms, wind, and hurricanes. So it always lurked in the back of my mind to make a painting that related directly to our relationship and dependence on weather and data collection.  Weather balloons are intriguing objects. Some call them sounding balloons. Attached to the balloon is a parachute and a radiomonde that collects the data. It gives us the dope on atmospheric pressure, temperature, humidity and of course wind speed. Radar and GPS systems can track them but the radiomonde is expendable. 

What's intriguing is the balloon is filled with helium and expands as it drifts upward through the atmosphere for an average of ninety minutes, eventually bursting around eighty to a hundred thousand feet. Some of the radiomondes are found and recycled. Most are lost to the Atlantic ocean. In this picture the woman looks outward to the ocean, she's on an island and seems to know or convey something about 'la mar' and our vulnerability to and reliance on the sea. On a side note when I studied in Florence I used to wear a lot of red plaid shirts. A redneck Ontarian trait at the time. Now they're all the rage, so as my model I had to have you wear one. Modernism a la plaid.

Hauling Floatsam, oil on masonite, Steven Rhude

   Simone La: This is another rather unusual painting.  The composition is stunning in landscape and subject matter.  It is a modern image but has the feeling of a time honored tradition.  Where did the inspiration come from?

 Steven: Sometimes I see something and know right away to open a file on an experience or memory, then paint it. Other times it comes through the back door and needs to be pieced together and formulated. This painting is the result of the latter and it evolved slowly. I still day dream of our long coastal hikes after storms that usually came from the north east - beach combing and scavenging floatsam. Many of the items eventually becoming useful in the workshop or studio. I talked with lobster fishermen who sometimes would lose one hundred traps if the storm was wicked enough. A lot of labor and materials washed away. Wooden buoys, traps, fish boxes can be recycled, and horses are still used a lot around rural Newfoundland for various tasks, both in summer and winter. I love Salmon Cove and believed this would be the perfect context for the image. 

But what was/is really on my mind here is once again an unforgiving sea and the calm after it has done its damage. We acknowledge the sea as a presence; maybe I should say an indifferent presence to Newfoundlanders, but really you me and all of humanity if we look at it on a larger scale. That thought changes the tone of the painting from a scavenging task to something more baleful. It can be approached both ways. So the horse and rider become a kind of portrait of my thoughts on this issue.

Roxanne Searching for Submarines During WWll, oil on masonite, 18" x 13", Steven Rhude

Simone La: You have done many portraits in your paintings career.  Some of well known people and some of children or youth - and some almost imaginary portraits of local characters.  What is the most interesting or challenging of your portraits and why? 

Steven: Recently I got the nod to paint Acadia University's fifteenth president, Ray Ivany. It was a great experience and a true collaboration with Ray. We had fruitful discussions before a concept was even formed and I believe they helped me immensely in the long run. It was probably the most planned portrait I've ever done - lots of prep drawings and a few oil studies. It will be unveiled in September at Acadia University. 

On the other hand painting a portrait like the above Roxanne based on a local myth provides me with latitude quite different from the more formal experience. I'm free to pick and choose my model and stage her accordingly.

 However the most ... well challenging and truly odd portrait outcome was the paintings I did of Margaret Atwood. I was approached to collaborate with a designer and to submit some paintings for a Canada Post stamp proposal of  the esteemed author. It was acknowledged ahead of time that I would sign a contract and be paid for the paintings which would become the property of Canada Post. I read a lot of her poetry and came up with some works to provide the designer with. The final design I thought was pretty cool but unfortunately another design was superior to ours and so it goes. I was paid and shipped the paintings off to the archives of Canada Post which will never see the light of day. Nor will they be exhibited or even an electronic image be allowed to circulate. This was the agreement. So there Margaret will stay ad infinitum,  portraits that exists, but more or less exists in concept only.    

  Simone La: Thanks so much Rhude, now it's your turn to weed the garden!

Simone Labuschagne is a mother, painter, interviewer, and partner in crime with Steven Rhude



Sunday, 27 March 2022

House of Lace

                    House of Lace, (Ochre Pit), Emma Butler Gallery, oil on canvas, 36" x 48", Steven Rhude

For centuries in art, certainly since the renaissance, there has always been depicted for contemplation a house configured in mind and spirit. It may take numerous shapes and forms, but invariably it is not just "a house", but  "the house." However, whose house it is may often be up for debate, and to whom the house belongs is still collectively an issue in the twenty first century. Some consider it a house prepared - a spiritual house, others think of it as a psychological house - one in which we associate our multitude of experiences within a structure of faith and mental latitude, rooms of growth, sex, and change... rooms of sadness and grief... rooms of death and  revelation, rooms of  social exchange and the expression of ideas that attach or eventually dissolve within the walls of our individual or personal memory.

 Houses are at the forefront of our dreams and nightmares. No matter how elaborate they may be - or simple they may appear, we are inseperable from the materiality that constitutes the presence of their psychological make up. They are the grain of a street, a neighborhood, province, and country - even our house of parliament. They are also the stuff of philosophy and film. Why else would the horror film industry predicate and pour much of its time and energy into the genre of the haunted house?

 And yet, the house is also a commodity in its own right, a way to profit as one moves up the detached ladder of status and investment; just a structure of bricks and mortar to be analyzed by the investment industry and the bank of Canada. The "home buyer" - a moniker for what? Perhaps a human reduced to a statistic. A way to ensure that one of the most basic of human needs remains as fragmented as the mind of a house without inhabitants.

However, be that as it may I am an incurable romantic. I see the house bathed in the light of the sun, not the darkness of night that may or may not preoccupy it. Folklore in Newfoundland will bring many to the threshold of this realization as it must if one is to maintain the reality of a house's relevance no matter what could have happened inside it or what it has come to represent in art. The depicted house here is located in Ochre Pit Cove, a place I continue to return to as I ponder the significance of the house in my mind and art.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS        


Monday, 7 March 2022

A Moment ...

                        A Moment at Youghall Beach, O/C, 40" x 60", private collection, Steven Rhude

"To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul."  Simone Weil

In this age of the digital revolution, the beach, wherever it may be, may become the most sensible and tangible place to reflect on for our well being - body and soul. When we are on a beach it cleanses our collective predisposition to ponder the intransigent qualities of our existence. A beach washes those concerns away.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS