|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