Whiteway artist open­ing new show

Whiteway painter sticks to New­found­land roots with new ex­hi­bi­tion

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY ANDREW ROBIN­SON edi­tor@CBN­com­pass.ca

Whiteway’s Clif­ford Ge­orge loves a good story. While sketch­ing a scene out in the open air some­where in ru­ral New­found­land, he’s apt to think about what events might have un­folded decades ago in the very same spot where he’s seated. This week, a new ex­hi­bi­tion of his painting will open at an art gallery in St. John’s, ti­tled ‘An­ces­tral An­thems.’

Vis­ual artist Clif­ford Ge­orge can pack a lot of de­tail into a 16-minute chat about his paint­ings and pas­sion for New­found­land and Labrador.

That love for the land, its peo­ple, and the sto­ries and songs they’ve shared over cen­turies plays a piv­otal role in his new ex­hi­bi­tion ‘ An­ces­tral An­them,’ open­ing Fri­day, April 8 at Christina Parker Gallery in St. John’s at 5:30 p.m.

Old homes and fish­ing stages are cap­tured vividly, of­ten look­ing like they haven’t been oc­cu­pied in quite some time. But for Ge­orge, he likes to think of the ac­tiv­ity that once thrived in these ru­ral en­vi­ron­ments.

“It’s about what’s rooted in me over the years,” Ge­orge told The Com­pass. “It’s all about my his­tory and my peo­ple. Keep­ing faith with the de­parted peo­ple.”

For the three years he spent work­ing on pieces in­cluded in his new show, Ge­orge trav­elled to places like Change Is­lands, Fogo Is­land, Twill­ingate and Mor­ton’s Har­bour, work­ing from photos and sketches to cre­ate his paint­ings. He was par­tic­u­larly smit­ten with Mor­ton’s Har­bour, given its promi­nence in the pop­u­lar New­found­land and Labrador folk clas­sic “I’s the B’y.” That song car­ries spe­cial mean­ing for Ge­orge, harken­ing back to his days grow­ing up in Whiteway.

“My grand­mother’s name was El­iza, and (the line) ‘I took Liza to a dance,’ I used to say it to me grand­fa­ther, and we used to laugh at that song when we’d lis­ten to it with my grand­mother in the house. We all lived in the one house, and grand­fa­ther used to play it for the dances with the old ac­cor­dion and ev­ery­thing.”

In his trav­els that in­spired the new paint­ings, Ge­orge was struck by the his­tory of these struc­tures and how they stirred his cre­ativ­ity. Of­ten enough, this hap­pened com­pletely by chance.

“Ev­ery­where you go, you see some­thing or some house that’s im­por­tant. I was down there in Change Is­lands, and out on the back of the is­land, al­most catch­ing this real old house … There was an eerie feel­ing that there was ghost’s and ev­ery­thing there.”

He would of­ten write notes un­der sketches, as he did in this case.

“Sea air fresh­ens this old house,” he wrote. “The wind echoes its tune through ev­ery room. Cur­tains blow­ing in the di­rec­tions of the wind open these stage doors of my mind. Long un­cut grasses por­trays the many greens and yel­lows as it dances to the tunes of long ago.”

As it turned out, this house had a di­rect con­nec­tion to Ge­orge’s life story.

“Some­one came along and said, ‘ Do you know who lived there?’ I said, ‘No,’ and they said, ‘That’s Bishop (Mark) Genge.’ Now he con­firmed me in the Angli­can Church when I was a boy … You think about all the peo­ple who lived in them houses when you’re sketch­ing them and what hap­pened inside and all that kind of stuff.”

Ge­orge hopes to one day com­pile his sketches and mus­ings into a book. In the mean­time, he’s con­tent to con­tinue painting for as long as his body will al­low.

“You take a ded­i­ca­tion in your life at art­work, and then as you get older it’s more im­por­tant to say what you’re got to say. I’m addicted to it. I’m at it ev­ery­day.”

‘An­ces­tral An­thems’ will be on dis­play at the gallery April 8-30.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO BY AL­LI­SON GE­ORGE

Clif­ford Ge­orge inside his artist stu­dio in Whiteway.

“Fish­ing Room, Mor­ton’s Har­bour (The songs of fish).” Acrylic on can­vas, 40 in. x 5 ft.

“I Pray the Lord my Soul to Keep.” Acrylic on can­vas, 3 ft. x 5 ft.

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