Wednesday, 27 December 2017


Sehnsucht (Leaving Port Lorne), oil on canvas, 37.5" x 57.5", Steven Rhude

Port Lorne could easily be renamed "Port Forlorne" if one were so inclined to register a place name describing the human condition. A few area farms and a continuing sense that the road leading down to a tiny community could revert back to the land it once sliced through with such hopefulness, crossed my mind on a few occasions. I spent about two weeks last spring traveling to a newly constructed cottage to install a reclaimed floor for a retired couple, and as I did, a landscape of logging tracts, junk yards, a land fill site, and crumbling roads, held no over biding sense of aesthetic in the same way an ocean vista could. Photographs of this region were better left to the White Cube crowd, documenting the collapse of the Twenty First Century manufactured landscape in sun, fog, with an overall dull, overcast, banal tonality.

A lot of my ideas for paintings have been hatched from behind the wheel of a car. Cars are a modern contemplative moment; isolated and encapsulating the individual for movement. But who and what is doing the moving? The feeling that the landscape is indeed moving through us while we remain immobile lends itself to the illusions and sensations of the mind - as in the way driving through a snow storm easily creates this strange quality of something that is moving at us, not us at it - opening up the doors of imagination and wonder, and of danger too.

 But put in check and properly contextualized, that sensation can also prompt another... perhaps longing is a better word for it. A longing that, as C.S. Lewis described is "inconsolable." It can lead us to ponder why it is we eat, drink, sleep, and wake, with it, with out ever really specifying why or how this longing came to be.

For this lapsed Catholic, the fearful legends of the bible still lurk beneath the surface of any experience and issue. One can't eradicate a child hood memory, only rely on it to prove itself in the light of day, even while driving towards the sensible reasons of income and stability, namely going to work. The pale horse from Revelations always stood out - his rider a mean son-of-a-bitch, moving towards us all as we sat immobile in the pews of an suburban church outside Toronto. It struck me as someones longing - not mine, certainly with inconsolable desires, but not one a child wished to entertain. Later, as an adult, the war I saw was one against the poets, those that didn't fall into line with church doctrine. Yet that horse is now used and promoted by the world's worthies to wreak vengeance on everything from the crashing environment, to bad shopping habits, and the recklessness of the markets - its blade getting dull from over use.

Sehnsucht - the horse, my horse, is now riderless; gone is the scythe and Hades with him for now. It is a peaceful horse - yet the longing that has no English equivalent is still there as the landscape continues to reveal itself in the rear view mirror. 

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS