Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly into the mystic
And when that fog horn blows I will be coming home
And when that fog horn blows I want to hear it
Van Morrison – Into the Mystic
This summer, the Gibsons Public Art Gallery had hosted an amazing exhibit by a local Renaissance Man Stewart Stinson. Titled “The Crossing”, this group of oil paintings is to be enjoyed as a whole, ideally. The pieces are arranged by the points of the compass – North, East, South, West, in clockwise fashion, as you may note. According to their creator, all of these pieces taken together work as puzzle of sorts. Yet, the impact of each individual painting cannot be denied. But the artist himself is in best possible position to present his work
The Crossing is an interconnected series of sixty-five oil paintings on canvas. Together they form a continuous image of the crossing of Howe Sound from Horseshoe Bay to Langdale. Views from out on deck with a face full of wind. Views through sea sprayed windows. Blurred views from a streaked camera lens, snapshots taken as the boat rocks back and forth. North, East, West, South.
Snow topped mountains, islands of forests, rocky beaches, waves shimmering with the reflection of an ever changing sky. A rainy sky, a cloudy sky, a sky that breaks open to blue with sunlight, sparkling. In the face of whatever differences we may have as people, we all agree, at the very least, that the scenery is beautiful.
The ‘Spirit’ of coastal BC cannot be contained or captured. These paintings follow the foolhardy tradition of attempting to put onto canvas with paint what cannot be put onto canvas with paint.”
Perhaps, but that what a remarkably daring and successful attempt. The masterful illusion created by a very unorthodox – and more power to him! – technique, is that of truly experiencing the movement, the ever-shifting wake of the ferry, the water and the sky reflecting and complementing each other, the elements blending and separating in an eternal dance of sorts. Quite imperceptibly and gently, the viewer enters into the landscape and becomes one with it.
No two ferry crossings are ever experienced in the same way. One of the visitors to the gallery commented on the “signs of our civilisation” shyly peeking out, often rendered with just a few brushstrokes. One needs to be in close proximity to the works to see any such hints of human activity. This creates a welcome (to me, in any case) impression that, after all, once the humans – or at least, those who can be categorised as “takers”, as Daniel Quinn calls them in his books – are gone, the mountains, the sea and the sky will still be here. And the Earth will heal Her wounds.
Mr Stinson talks of seeking “to find the cosmic and microcosmic rhythm linking all things together.” (A Unified Field Theory as applied to the arts? Although, needless to say, but I’ll say it anyway, Art is very much part of the great cosmic equation, Life, The Universe and Everything and all…)
While it may be challenging to my mind to encompass, apparently, Mr Stinson, in an earlier incarnation, was a “federal agent”. He had left that career in order to pursue his passion and to raise a family.
Stewart does not usually take photographs in order to capture what may be termed “reality” – for the lack of a better word”, but works from memory. As he chooses not to wear his glasses on occasion, the images he perceives may be a bit “blurry’ since, to quote him “The resolution is up to the mind”. Very true, we see with our mind, not our eyes, and our perceptions are constantly coloured by our moods and experiences in all ways.
This artist works with great concentration and intensity, and is able to disregard the somewhat less than ideal working conditions. His studio is in small garden shed, which is cramped and damp and harbours squatters in the person of mice. The occasional insect that sacrifices its life so as to be incorporated into one of Mr Stinson’s oeuvres, seeking immortality, is also part of the charm.
But whatever I might say here would be hopelessly inadequate, therefore, I urge you to surf over to Mr Stinson’s own site. As he is as talented a wordsmith as a visual artist, you would be in for a delightful read:
Stewart, who is remarkably unselfconscious and approachable in person – a trait that he seems to share with many of the coastal artists – mentions as some of his inspirations painters such as Emily Carr, Vincent van Gogh, E.J.Hughes, Jack Wise and many others.
Personally, I was struck by the similarity of Stewart’s style to that of the late Nicholas Roerich, especially to that of the latter’s “Himalayan” period.
What do you think?
Nicholas Roerich “The Path” and
Nicholas Roerich “The Call”
This similitude – and, when questioned, Stewart admits to having never heard of Roerich – may be due to the fact that both artists see their life’s purpose in promoting peace, enlightenment, personal freedom, justice. As Mr Stinson puts it, “to maintain the balance of the cosmos and become one with the universe. Or some such thing.”
If you are curious about the Roerich legacy, in both artistic and social terms, please check out this website dedicated to his work:
Stewart Stinson is actually, a very prolific artist and finds his inspiration in genres as varied as comic books, Salish art, “psychedelic folk art painting”, Surrealism et al. . The Crossing may be indicative of one particular style he favours, but is by no means limited to that. Here is a rendition in oil of a familiar skyline:
In conclusion, I have to say that I was enchanted, entertained and led into the mystical realms by this exhibit. The warmth, charm and humour of the creator were a much-welcome and unexpected benefit!
Post by Lydia Lemay.