Thursday, 18 May 2017

Colville's Dilemma, oil on masonite, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

  “Against a regiment I oppose a brain, and a dark horse against an armoured train.”
- Roy Campbell

I moved to Wolfville NS. from Lunenburg about six years ago to provide reliable and good public education for my two boys. Wolfville seemed like a sensible place to live. It didn't seem to like to eat its young, it didn't shutter its own schools and export children over an hour down the road to some isolated field for indoctrination. It has a university art gallery with strong cultural programming, a vibrant main street, a town  council that listens to it's citizens, and somehow it has developed the sense of an inter generational community that I haven't experienced else where.

Living in Wolfville, the Colville legacy came as a bonus. He gave credibility to the vocation of being an artist. He made rurality a part of his existential equation that had a recognized appeal. For anyone who wanted to think about painting as a serious affair, he was a perfect example to cite, so it seems fitting to save Colville's Horse and Train homage for last.

 I never met Alex Colville, my wife Simone did though, when she interviewed him for a study sponsored by the University of Waterloo regarding why artists settle by choice in rural regions rather than urban centres. Linking the study with groups, Alex was critical and noted he disliked most artist collectives like the group of Seven for instance. However, his interview was insightful and revealed his strong individuality, thought process, and knowledge of small town life. Wolfville was good for Colville, an ideal place to chart his way using his own painting, through a world on a collision course between old ideals and new technology,  - a modern drama destined to play out before his and our very own eyes. It may be he sensed that the later half of the twentieth century train was in desperate need of a brakeman, but that point too seemed to have been passed by. 

A person familiar with the Tantramar Marshes in New Brunswick would probably recognize the stage Colville chose for that powerful, dark horse charging down the tracks. In reality a forgone conclusion, but painting is never reality, and horses can and do stare down a one eyed steel demon where all other agencies may have failed. So existentially, we don't quite know the outcome of this collision of thought. But we can and are currently still experiencing it.

Colville considered the work exceedingly morbid and that it would probably never attract a private collector (although that would likely not be the case today), so the Art Gallery of Hamilton snapped up a national icon, and with it a disturbing and on going narrative.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

de Chrico's Voyage

de Chirico's Voyage, oil on masonite, 24" x 20", Steven Rhude

"In the neighborhood I grew up in, people did not spend time outside their houses. I often played games as a child that centered around life after a neutron bomb. I would imagine I was the only person left alive; solitary, playing with my Hula-hoop in the driveway; the TVs flickering through the windows of houses nearby were simply remnants of a lost civilization. If I walked into one, I’d find a skeleton sitting in a La-Z-Boy bathed in the glow of The Price Is Right."
 - Cara Hoffman

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS


Monet's Moment

Monet's Moment, oil on masonite, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

"For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life - the air and the light which vary continually. For me, it is only the, surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value."
  • Claude Monet (1891); as quoted in: National Gallery of Australia, ‎Michael Lloyd, ‎Michael Desmond (1992), European and American paintings and sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery, p. 75

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Cipher

Matisse's Blue Cipher, oil on masonite, 14" x 12", Steven Rhude

To Shear:
1. To remove (fleece or hair) by cutting or clipping.
2. To remove the hair or fleece from.
3. To cut with or as if with shears: shearing a hedge.
4. To divest or deprive as if by cutting

Even though it makes a good story that the aged Matisse turned to cut outs as illness struck, it is known that he first experimented with the concept in the 1930's. However, "drawing in space", as Matisse called it, suggests a code or disguised form of expression, and with a pair of tailor shears it is nothing short of enchanting as his late work involved large hand painted coloured papers, cutting, pins, and the flux of compositional manuvering. 

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Monday, 15 May 2017


Picasso's Dream, oil on masonite, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

Picasso in many respects was one big dream, or nightmare depending on how one views his art and time, and his various artistic periods. Picasso's portrayal of contemporary man and his wars, was very much the story of man's inhumanity to man with little time to consider the consequences of his actions, or spiritual decline. Carnality for Picasso was the antidote.

 Dreaming turbulently, mirroring an image of the twentieth century, Picasso's world was deeply inhabited by those women he seduced and transformed into his muses, consuming them until his creativity was almost exhausted, enough so that a new muse was needed to enable the dream to continue, and so making their dreams into his dream as the cycle of the artist/model manifested.

The muse for Picasso's "The Dream" was Marie-Thérèse Walter whom he met when she was seventeen and he in his forties. In 1977, four years after Picasso’s death, Marie-Thérèse Walter hung herself in the garage of her home in France. She was 68 years old.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Olympia's Gaze

Olympia's Gaze, oil on masonite, 20" x 24", Steven Rhude

“The word scandal originates in the Greek skandalon, which means "trap, snare, stumbling block." The viewers of Olympia at the 1865 salon acted as if they were trapped by this provocative image, able to respond only with derisive hostility and contempt. Indeed, the
Bourgeois public took such offense at this apparent affront to its morality that the painting
had to be rehung high up out of its retaliatory reach. Not even professional critics, as Clark has demonstrated, were able to articulate any kind of coherent, intelligent response to Olympia in terms of form, content, technique, sources, or purpose.  They did little more than confirm the public's offended incomprehension. Like the Goncourts viewing La Paiva, the journalists seem to have relished their reduction of the prostitute to a dead and decomposing body, a painted corpse. Their rhetoric may be sensational and hyperbolic, but its emphasis on absence, negativity, lack, and decay reveals a deep seated anxiety that is at once expressed and controlled through this morbid imagery.”

- Charles Bernheimer, Manet's Olympia: The Figuration of Scandal

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Lemieux's Solitude, oil on masonite, 14" x 13", Steven Rhude

Jean Paul Lemieux's painting "The Nun" was born into existence in nineteen sixty seven. It was the phenomenon of the summer of love, primarily in San Fransisco, but celebrated also throughout parts the rest of the US and Canada. A counter culture then held the belief that "A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind."[1]

  Throughout the twentieth century, Jean Paul Lemieux lived with the power of the Catholic clergy's long and sustained role in Quebec politics, culture and the domestic environment. Inspired by the Italian primitives, Lemieux found a way to both capture the moral rigidity and loneliness, (yet with an undercurrent of humour) of those called to a religious order and monastic life. It paved the way for the solitude inherent in his mature work.

For a long time Lemieux had painted sur le motif: directly and immediately from nature, often outdoors, but from the end of the 1950s on he worked in his studio, without models, using only daylight for illumination. “I am painting … an interior world. I have stored up a lot of things.”5  His free approach was in many ways similar to the practice of abstract painters: “You are guided by the picture much more often than you guide it. And that can lead to results completely unlike what you may have intended or planned.”6 -

[1] San Francisco Oracle, Vol.1, Issue 5, p.2

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Friday, 12 May 2017

Thérésa at the Alcazar

Degas' Song, oil on masonite, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

“Degas’s interest in depicting the energetic and evocative gestures of such performers,” write Saywell and Wolohojian, “is reflected in a letter in which he urges a friend to ‘go at once to hear Thérésa at the Alcazar. She opens her large mouth and there emerges the most roughly, the most delicately, the most spiritually tender voice imaginable.’”

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Hopper's Door

Hopper's Door to the Sea, oil on masonite, 16" x 14", Steven Rhude  

Ever since I read Gail Levin's bio on Edward Hopper, I've had mixed feelings about his art. I realise ones art should stand alone and the separation of church and state is a reasonable maxim when thinking of the relationship between two married artists, as was the case with Jo and Edward Hopper. However, painting is never so compartmentalised as that, and neither are people. In Jo's case freedom equated with latitude - the mobile kind we take for granted today. In the 1950's that latitude came in the form of a car.

Jo Hopper was fiercely independent and realised that driving an automobile (as it was called back then) gave one a kind of liberty for all sorts of things, especially from the confines of a Truro summer retreat and an over bearing husband.

"Although occupied with painting, Jo renewed her campaign to drive. Harking back to her strongest argument, she again threatened to sell the house unless Edward let her practise: "I was tired of being prisoner on this hill 2 miles from a bus & such 2 miles of deep sand & long hills to trudge over on foot." When he did allow her to drive back from Provincetown, he let her go only ten or fifteen miles per hour." [1]

At the time Rooms by the Sea was painted, it was believed Hopper suffered from lethargy, and saw a physician. Subsequently from Jo Hopper: "Six days later, he was "struggling to get new canvas started - having such a bad time. It is an open door with a sea outside & strong pattern of light inside house. Looks like only a diagram as yet." [2]

History reports that the canvas improved as it diverged from the reality of the actual house. Steps were removed and a horizon was reinstated in the final version. Like much of Hopper's work, departure plays a role in the philosophical underpinnings of his visual observation. Hopper seeking liberty through the motif of the western door, Jo, from access to the western automobile. Later on at Christmas, Hopper's gift to Jo was Arthur Rimbaud's poetry in French inscribed: "La petite chatte qui decouvre ses griffes presque tous les jours. Joyeux Noel, 1951 ("to the little cat who bares her claws almost every day")

[1] [2] Edward Hopper, An Intimate Biography, Gail Levin pg. 442

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS



Tuesday, 9 May 2017

O'keeffes's Long Week End

O'keeffe's Bones, oil on masonite, 16" x 14.5", Steven Rhude

"I would have been willing to stay on in Canada if it hadn't been so terribly cold," she declared.

No doubt about it, Georgia O'keeffe was not only one of the best modern painters of her time, but also a warm weather gal. Out of her element when it came to Canada, with it's climatic warehouse of cold fronts claimed by American weather millenarianists, to be regularly exported down to the mid western states, eastern seaboard, and further, surely to disrupt their Edenic enterprise prior to the second coming, Georgia was having nothing to do with this, or cold weather repentance. She wanted warmth and dry bones. 

Notwithstanding the surreal popularity of her landscapes and flowers, it was her bones that did it for this snowlander. The idea of a bleached artifact isolating through it's cavity the graphic solidity of a New Mexico sky, or the idea of a ghost ranch where bones were scattered in one's yard, or where "Ghost Ranch folks replaced the pump on her well" [1], just made the O'keeffe myth grow tenfold for me, as her work continued to address the nature of space and development in America.

It's good to see Georgia back on Canadian soil. Our apologies for the weather.


Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS