ABOUT ART - by Janice Guinan: From realism to surrealism
The Governor General's award in Visual Art is the foremost distinction for excellence in visual art.
Mi'kmaq artist Leonard Paul displays his Governor General's Award in Visual Art he received in 1993 from then Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn. Behind him is one of his pencil drawings paying homage to our waterways.
In 1993, local artist Leonard Paul received the medal from then-Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn for his renderings of environmental landscapes, rivers and streams. I asked if he would mind posing with the medal as I had never seen one before and was impressed with the humility and immense talent of this internationally acclaimed artist.
When speaking of the medal, he reflected with some sadness as his father, Noel, had passed away and never got to see this esteemed award. Paul then showed me a painting of his dad, which is also featured on the invitation to his show soon opening at the MacLellan & Moffatt Financial Gallery at the Marigold Cultural Centre.
"This is a quick rendition in oils of my father searching for a heavy rock to be an anchor. The mayflies were so thick that we could not speak or eat lunch, so we rowed to the middle of the lake to have our lunch in peace," explained Paul. "My father introduced me to the pleasures of waterways: lakes, rivers and brooks. He taught me to respect nature and what he carried into the lake and wore reflected unpretentiousness and humbleness. His name was Noel because he was born just before Christmas and he passed away over the Christmas holidays of 1991.This painting was of our last time fishing."
Paul's Mi'kmaq heritage and love for people, land and nature is evident in his work. Although after almost 40 years of painting representational art, such as landscapes, he is feeling restless and in need of transition.
"I am moving away from realism to depicting native legends done in surrealism from my imagination. My new oil paintings of whimsical stories are a form of traditional storytelling, but without texts to explain them. It is left to the viewer to interpret the story when seeing them," said Paul.
The artist's painting style is high realism using a glazing technique, influenced by the 17th-century Dutch Baroque Period especially that of Johannes Vermeer. Paul formally studied glazing techniques at the Rijksmuseum, Mauritshuis Museum in Holland, the Louvre in Paris, and later finished his studies in Berlin, Germany, and Washington. In addition to his luminous oils, he has mastered watercolour, pastel, graphite and pen and ink. Applying various techniques and skillfully using his talents, he breathes life into the written and oral records of Mi'kmaq legends, so people can visually experience them in a new way. He is also writing and illustrating two books.
His upcoming solo show will be one of the last to showcase both his realism and surrealism works together. He is also celebrating yet another award, from a national wildlife art competition: The Bruce Williams Memorial Silver Fox Award, sponsored by Ontario's Farm Mutual Reinsurance Plan Inc.
An invitational event, top wildlife artists from across Canada were selected to submit a study of a silver fox in its natural habitat. Judging came down to three artists and it was three months before he found out who'd won.
This award-winning painting, however, will not be in the show because the official unveiling by the institute is not until March 2016. Paul is the featured artist at the MacLellan & Moffatt Financial Gallery for the month of December. Come out on opening night, Thursday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m., to meet this phenomenal modern day master.
TAGLINE: Janice Guinan is a local artist who passionately believes in the importance of visual art. Her About Art column appears each week in the Truro Daily News. Guinan also writes a weekly column for the Colchester Weekly News. Both can be viewed online at www.trurodaily.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.