Tribute to John Handy
Eclectic Passion: A Memorial Exhibit
We all know certain individuals from whom art seems simply to ooze. They have to do it, for their own reasons. Not necessarily to sell or make a living. Not necessarily to document or narrate or represent the reality around them or to make a statement. Not necessarily to make the world more beautiful. Simply because it is in them and needs to get out. For these artists, the process is what matters. However aesthetically pleasing it may be perceived, the product can become irrelevant. Gary Waddington, 1938 to 2006, was one such artist. He chose never to show his work and indeed threatened to burn it before his untimely death. Saved by his loving wife, who has struggled to prepare and show them, the public can now view some of the paintings in Eclectic Passion: A Memorial Exhibit. A brief biography accompanies the work: born in Oregon; studied architecture and art at university; in the American army in the 1960s; moved to Calgary in 1969; retired to Kettle Valley.
Paintings by Gary Waddington © Phyllis Waddington
Monday, February 16, 2009
Big, bold, and beautiful are the first words these paintings evoke in me. Confident compositions in black and white and colour. Big, bold, beautiful, and red. The red dominates; it jumps out at me. From Ella's red lips. From the largest panel, at least four feet square, in all shades of red with black outlines--Escalation. Where all colours flow into one red dot--Red Focus. Studies in black and white with red accents--Miroesque. Fantasyland. A warped lidded jar on a black field, red and gold and purple, with eyes, evoking primitive pottery, Humpty-Dumpty, and Picasso--Face First. I can see the artist playing. Challenging himself with the styles of twentieth-century masters--Miro, Picasso, Mondrian, Braque--with whimsical twists.
A closer look reveals the presence of other colours in the show. A navy blue and white composition evoking Calgary weather--White Invasion. A beautiful sky-blue field with black, white, and green notes--The Blues. Blue and Red Dance. Red Slash. And a lot of gold. Bottles. Journey III. Girl with Dog is a forest of brown, green, and gold, a girl's face, an elusive dog. Journey II is a dream, a mauve pastel drip, with a Mondrian-ish corner. Like the background in the Ella portrait, the saxophone is yellow in Tribute to John Handy. I remember Gary's giant pup of a dog named Mingus. Names, like titles, are clues.
Very twentieth century. Very ''modern art" with a post-modern sensibility that rejects the myth of progress and the belief that art can improve things, that it can make a positive contribution. These paintings are an homage both to one man's life and to life in the last half of the twentieth century. They celebrate the artist's passions--jazz music, art, places of forest and snow. In colour and composition and movement, in a variety of applications of oil to linen and canvas, they communicate emotions and ideas. Red Slash, like a wound; red dot like a bullet hole. Back at the huge black and scarlet square, its shapes morph into deltas, islands, peninsulas, its colour devolving from blood red to agent orange--Escalation.
Eclectic Passion hangs in the Back Room of the Hope Arts Gallery, Hope, British Columbia, for the month of February, 2009.