The Evening Telegram
August 30, 2005
The main gallery space at Jim Baird's Pouch Cove Foundation is awesome in the true sense of the word – entering it you're struck by a feeling of wonder. The physical enormity is almost distracting initially; it takes you a moment to pull your eyes from the vaulted ceilings down to the art that's hung upon the walls.
The choice of Sheila Gregory to present the inaugural show in this space was well made. Entitled Flip, Gregory's work is of a large scale, incredibly bright, vivid and unmistakable. Created in 1997, Flip is to be considered as a single composition. It's made up of 20 panels each 4' by 6' in eye-popping acrylic color. An interesting point about the work is that Gregory gives over control of how the 20 pieces are combined to the gallery, leaving room for thousands of permutations, an ever-changing work.
Flip was inspired by Gregory's visiting an archeological dig in the Canadian Arctic. The experience of seeing the artifacts broken down into fragments gave her the idea for the abstract canvases that eventually became the giant work. Each canvas itself is wild, almost jarring. Colors are in harsh contrast to each other, piled in thick layer and juxtaposed without hesitation. They're painter’s paintings - exploring the limits of the medium, more concerned with form and fluidity than with subject.
In addition to the colorful Flip, Gregory is also showing more recent works, done entirely in black and white. Created in 2005, these works mark a departure in Gregory's style.
"It's important to keep things fresh, to challenge yourself as an artist. So I decided to take away the color. But still, there are similarities: some of the brush strokes are the same for instance. Each group of work also shows the thickness, the layering of paint. It's like composting, adding layer upon layer, generating a heat within those layers,” said Gregory.
In a second exhibition space, the Stage Space, is Jason Jenkins’ work. A native Newfoundlander, Jenkins become involved with the Pouch Cove Foundation when Baird invited him to help transform the Pouch Cove Elementary School into the artists residency that it is today. All ten pieces exhibited are nudes, and all ten are intensely beautiful, erotic and attractive while avoiding vulgarity.
One of the ten stands out for it's subject - it's of the artist himself, sitting back in a chair, camera upheld to his face while a beautiful blond crouches over him on her knees. It's startling, as Jenkins appears to be taking a photo of you the viewer while you watch him in a sexual act. It's cunningly named Eat Your Heart Out. Another work is also somewhat disparate from the others; it's of a blond nude, wrists bound, squeezed into a pantry cupboard, her face showing abject terror. Jenkins was inspired to paint this work by feminist literature he studied as a student and the dictates that he felt the feminist movement initially put on how a male painter could paint the female form. Jenkins thinks that the social conscience has had enough time to absorb the feminist perspective, that it's had time to become part of the public psyche, so that the hesitation to paint certain images can finally be thrown off. "Lets stop being afraid and just do," said Jenkins. The painting is entitled To Own A Female Person.
This exhibition is also about celebrating a new location for the Pouch Cove Foundation. The foundation began in 1990 with just two residents staying at the original facility, The Pipe House as it came to be known after one of the artists staying there painted huge smoking-pipes on it's exterior. Since that time the Foundation has hosted more than 500 residences, and become a much-coveted international artist destination.
Robert Clarke-Davis is a photographer who first came to the residency program in 1999 and has been returning twice a year ever since. "I just like the place; the feel, the comfort. Everyone here knows I'm a come-from-away, but they don't hold it against me. There's an openness, an engagement with the world here that you don't see in many places internationally," said Clarke-Davis.
While renovations at the Pouch Cove Foundation are not yet completely finished, the potential that exists for it to become a world-class exhibition space and residency destination are clear to see; if for no other reason than the passion of the artists who live and work there, and their enthusiasm for what it represents.