Imagine the dust, dirt and back-breaking toil of working in a coal mine. Then
consider the potential of this fossil fuel – the warmth and the energy produced
from it. Think of the wealth and riches that coal brought to mine owners, then
the hardship and poverty heaped upon entire rural communities when the mines
ceased to be profitable and were closed down.
These images, these dilemmas, lie at the heart of a group of paintings by local
artist Gary Blundell, who struggles with the ‘heaven and hell’ of coal mining in
his exhibition, Bituminous Illuminations.
Showing at the Rails End Gallery in Haliburton Village until Oct. 12, before
being shipped to the United Kingdom for a year-long international tour, the
exhibition is the culmination of four years of work for Blundell. His collection
of 23 paintings was produced following an artistic residency in Yorkshire,
England, in 2011 and 18 of them are currently on display at the Rails End
While in the UK, Blundell visited a number of mines – some working, others now
derelict – and was captivated by the textural beauty of these harsh
environments, scarred by our insatiable quest for fuel. However, as he walked
the mines, often deep underground, Blundell was also struck by the light cast by
his head lamp.
“I was living in the space lit by my lamp,” says Blundell. “The light shone down
the tunnel but eventually vanished, dwindling into the blackness. It was as if a
metaphor for the end of an era, the illumination dimming as the coal mines close
one by one.”
His paintings portray the scarred floors and walls, the drainage ditches and
cart tracks hewn from the once coal-rich strata of the Yorkshire mines. Equally
they capture the more ethereal sentiment in Blundell’s mind, their lines often
receding to vanishing point in exhaustingly beautiful works that speak of the
hardships endured by those who worked there just as much as they depict the
physical aesthetics of the places themselves.
Blundell achieves this in part by painting on carved plywood, a medium that he
has long used to capture geological texture throughout Ontario (check out his
website for paintings of mines and mining in Cobalt and Sudbury). His training
as a geologist enables the artist to “look differently at the formations, the
strata, the natural and manmade patterns; to appreciate the often unseen beauty
of the earth.”
As such, the deep grooves that Blundell cuts into his wooden canvases serve to
accentuate the textural beauty of his oil on wood works, making viewers want to
feel as well as look at the paintings. The result is a body of work that is
powerful and emotive in an exhibition wonderfully suited to the heritage
atmosphere of the Rails End Gallery.
For more information about the exhibition and artist go to
www.railsendgallery.com and www.hotspurstudio.com.
expecting a show by an accomplished painter, but I wasn’t expecting a meditation
on the history of chalk and coal mining in England. Gary Blundell’s striking
relief paintings are on exhibition at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington until
Blundell and his partner
Victoria Ward live and work at Hotspur
Studio, a log cabin near Gooderham and I’ve enjoyed watching the work
of these two intrepid painters evolve over the years. Work informed by the
landscape is an apt term here, but Blundell and Ward travel extensively beyond
the Canadian shield to the wildness of places like Newfoundland, Iceland and
England to explore their geographies.
This is a
great show to sink your teeth into because it exhibits work with 3 distinctive
themes. Downstairs, the gallery presents one series based on the painter’s
background in geology – reminsicent of maps and topographies – and another that
explores abstract figurative themes, graphic and colourful. The influence of one
of my favourite Canadian painters,
Paterson Ewen is evident in the scored
plywood panels encrusted with paint – not quite as playful, but bold and
thoughtful, enriched with research. “My work is both calculating and romantic,”
the artist writes. ” I am prone to paint and live in this dichotomy.”
is especially engaging on the upper floor where “Coal” is hung. With exposed
beams and cement walls, it isn’t ideal for displaying large work, yet the
industrial ambiance of the space more than makes up for it. In fact this black
and white collection of Blundell’s work has the most impact. In addition to the
solemn paintings was poignant and engaging documentation – maps, drawings,
clippings, photos, diagrams, notated photocopies of the history of the mining
industry in Yorkshire, revealing some of the thought process that went into the
show. And a soundtrack – a Welsh male choir and the chipping, hollow hacking
sounds of miners underground. For some time, I found myself in a state of quiet
being with the paintings rather than simply viewing them – the best way
to experience art.
important to note the significance of a having a space conducive to experiencing
an art show of this caliber. The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is a barley
mill that has been beautifully renovated to accommodate 3 galleries and a middle
floor of studio space, less than an hour’s drive from Peterborough. Its
expansive wall space and light do justice to contemporary art installations such
as this one.
is still time to catch the Artist Talk, June 24th at 2pm or see the show before
it heads across the pond.
The County Voice
May 6, 2010
by Will Jones
Artists Show the Beauty in the Unnoticed and Forgotten of New York & Haliburton
“The trip to New York has brought about a realization that over
a decade of our work about geological events, decomposition and regrowth can be
as relevant in the city as it is in nature, for both of us.” Victoria Ward
What do you think New York City and Haliburton County have in
common? ‘Not much at all, thankfully’, would be the answer of most folks that
live around here. However, ask the same question to artists Victoria Ward and
Gary Blundell and their answers, and artworks, will have you viewing both places
in a new light.
Opening on June 4 and running until July 24 at the Agnes Jamieson
Gallery in Minden, the duo’s exhibition, More Paintings About Buildings And
Rocks, is a journey through oft forgotten places urban and rural and frequently
un-noticed patterns manmade and natural. The works exhibited illustrate Ward and
Blundell’s ability to find beauty in the most unexpected of place and their
talent in conveying their finds to us via collections of challenging and yet
beautiful paintings. Ward states that her focus often begins with the discovery
of ruins, recycled items and forgotten things. A sugar shack left to rot in the
bush or the decaying debris of an abandoned industrial site, each slowly being
taken back by nature; these story-filled places provide inspiration. “I like to
convey uncertainty, flux, restlessness and isolation; notions that I believe
inhabit the natural world and the role we play in it,” she says. “My subject
matter often focuses on abandoned shelters or derelict homes that dot themselves
throughout rural areas. They are to me the residues of our need to mark
ourselves onto the land. These lonely little structures convey how nature and
mankind go back and forth in domination. At one time a shack was a home with a
cleared yard, now it is a thicket where woodcocks live. The ineffable area
between the land, its indifference to us, and our need to see our image
somewhere on its surface is where I want my work to exist.”
Wards’ artistic ethos transfers remarkably well into the urban
context. While the glittering towers of Manhattan Island are an almost
artificially cleansed reality, the majority of New York – the Bronx, Brooklyn,
Queens, to name just a few districts – is in constant flux, its streets
witnessing the birth, life and death of countless people and places in a slow
evolutionary cycle. “When we visited New York last year we stayed for the first
time outside of Manhattan Island,” explains Ward, “and it gave us a new
perspective on the city. Suddenly we could see the real New York, the diverse
mix of people, the wildlife along the river, the poor neighbourhoods, the
forgotten and unnoticed places. It opened my eyes to how my artistic focus was
just as relevant in the midst of this metropolis as it is in the outlying rural
areas of Haliburton County.” In response, Ward’s paintings (acrylics on wood)
such as Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass and WTR BKLN present a starkly
beautiful alternative perspective on the city, and, they dovetail wonderfully
with her paintings of forgotten places more local, such as Sugarshack and Camp.
As Ward was inspired by the abandoned and disregarded of New
York, Blundell came to realise that his senses were awakened, heightened even
while in the city. “I got the same feeling in New York as I do when I’m out in
the wilderness,” he says, “that alertness, that need to be on your toes. Also, I
felt anonymous, small, just as you do when you are trekking far from the human
comforts that people are so used to now-a-days. New York is the opposite of
where we live and what we experience everyday but in so many ways it is the
same.” As a trained geologist, Blundell’s artwork often begins with rocks. He is
intrigued by their patterning, their longevity and the tales they can tell of
the slow yet constant changing of the landscape. “In practical terms, I use
rocks as a starting point to explore my interest in patterning,” he explains. “I
create a web of shapes evoking hydroelectric lines, lots and concessions, city
grids, quarries and mines, river systems, tectonic plates, satellites and human
tissue. My paintings reflect landscape as often transformed through development
and always imbued with human memory.” As such, New York is just part of the
evolutionary history of North America and its buildings, roads, sewers and
subway systems more sets of patterns, this time carved out by man, rather than
nature. Blundell takes these patterns and literally carves them into his
paintings. Working on thick plywood, he routers the patterns into it, paints and
routers more – adding and taking away, adding and taking away – to create
exciting patterned artworks that are less immediately understood than Ward’s
paintings and so more challenging to the viewer. The origin of these large
format paintings, with names like Grip, Reviviscence and Elegy can only be
guessed but their patterning, their blurring of life, evokes memories of places
visited be they rural or urban.
Although they are partners in life, Ward and Blundell do not
often show their work together and so it is a rare treat to see how the same
things – lifestyle, journeys, events – can touch two people in different ways.
“We take the same journeys, use the same inspirations but that is where the
similarities end,” says Blundell. “Our work takes on very different characters
from then on.” Ward adds, “What I would say though is that the trip to New York
and this show have brought about a realization that over a decade of our work
about geological events, decomposition and regrowth – the slowest of life’s
events – can be as relevant in the city as it is in nature for both of us.”
Importantly, what this exhibition also does - with its throw away
title that plays on the Talking Heads album ‘More Songs About Buildings and
Food’ - is make the viewer realize that painting, the oldest art form, can be as
powerful, exciting, beautiful and intriguing as any of the more immediate and
unusual mediums that we see artists employing today. Go see it because it’s just
as good as all that art in the city!
The Brantford Expositor
FOUR APPROACHES TO LANDSCAPE
The abstract relief painting of Gary Blundell appears initially to have
nothing in common with the pristine realism of Doherty or Watts and , although
his expressive technique and style are far removed from painterly realism, his
attention to the detail of the natural world in its most physical sense brings
us closer to a geological representation of the world. A strong sense of
composition, colour and form - build up by his thoughtful manipulation of
plywood, plaster, and paint - enables the viewer to step into Blundell's world,
where man intervenes to change nature.
The Sudbury Star, On the Arts
FINDING BEAUTY IN THE ROCK
Gary Blundell is a geologist by training, but a cartographer by artistic
impulse. His attempt to chart the vast geological diversity of the Sudbury
region in an untraditional abstract series of works is on display at the Art
Gallery of Sudbury. These are intriguing pieces that incorporate a surprising
range of colours, presenting an unusual beauty in their idiosyncratic features.
Blundell's works are threaded together by geometric patterns partly shaped by
horizontal and vertical lines routered into the surface of plywood panels. There
is a tendency for interest to wane quickly as a result of the apparent sameness
of these mainly abstract interpretations, most of which follow a prescribed
pattern of blocks accumulating upon and around each other like cells in an
organic structure. But this is a superficial perception that fades after a more
considered contemplation of their individual characteristics, many of which
envision the vitality of a subject mistakenly seen as inert and lifeless - rock!
Crow flight Minerals, for example, is an oil-on-wood interpretation of a rock
surface that blazes with colour diversity and unique geometric configuration. A
series of long, thin rocks stand perpendicular to each other, dominating the
centre. Larger rocks, each uniquely shaped, appear to move out from this
clustered periphery, illuminated by firey reds in some and shades of gold in
Rational materialists would scoff at the idea of rock imbued with a life force.
Others might hold a different view. Theosophists and others sharing similar
metaphysical viewpoints consider the mineral kingdom to have consciousness, a
decidedly controversial, but intriguing, and even inflammatory notion in an area
where we depend so much on the extraction and manipulation of minerals. There is
no evidence that Blundell shares this view, but his animated interpretations of
this regions crustaceans, each stamped with his unique imprimaturs, do bring to
mind alternative ideas about Sudbury's rock - inescapable , beautiful and
integral to our history. Indeed, the relationship between its eternal presence
and human activity is never from out attention in these works.
Connection to the literal bedrock of our existence is an interpretive exercise
that Blundell conveys with an ambiguity mirroring his own ambivalence about
Sudbury's mining history and the huge consequences for the lay of the land.
In Edge, a shuddering reaction is evoked by a forbidding image of what looks
like the cold dominion of an industrial landscape. There are the characteristic
geometric lines that divide the image into rows of rectangular shapes. But then
there is the horizon line, a deathly black streak above which blood red strokes
fill the sky. It has the power to evoke images or a hellish order as well as
awe. The power of human industry to create and simultaneously destroy is never
far from the horizon of our awareness. In yet another work, Embarkation invites
us to linger on the details of place and movement. This visually charged image
is a layered, subterranean illustration that dances with rich contrasts. Daring
brushstrokes of strong reds and yellows streak across the surface of geological
formations separated by much darker tones, their shapes indeterminate, yet fully
alive in their appearance of motion that flows across the display.
The Thunder Bay Source
November 25, 2005
by Kathryn Lyzun
On Saturday Nov. 26, two of Ontario's most interesting landscape artists are
giving local artists the chance to challenge traditional ideas of landscape
paintings and discover new and rugged contemporary practices. E. G. Blundell,
born in England but a longtime resident of Ontario, and partner in artistry
Victoria Ward of Oshawa, ON, will spend the day helping people develop new ideas
about landscape painting and environmentalism at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery.
Their exhibition is already in place, showcasing Blundell's enormous, bold and
"virile" gouged-wood paintings and Ward's smaller, softer wood and paper
Curator Glenn Allison said the pair's style is a really hands-on, return to the
earth concept that is the modern face of landscape painting. "In the 60's and
70's, landscape atrophied as an art form... the Group of Seven is now three
generations gone. Blundell and Ward represent a new group of talent that is
re-examining landscape, and it's coming up very differently, perhaps
E. G. Blundell and Victoria Ward are two of Canada's best known landscape
Blundell and Ward the make the environment a direct part of their work, using
the plywood canvas as a carving board before it's painted. They use heat guns,
blow torches, hammers and gouging tools to carve out and illustrate their
stories. Blundell, in fact, is not artistically trained: he has a background in
"You see in Blundell a real mining of the wood," Allison said, "It's a shift
from objective representation, as seen in the old landscape style , to direct
engagement. As environmentalism both artists call for a greater depth of
identification with the forces of nature."
Blundell's mesmerizing pieces look geological, like flowing lava or alien
terrain of rock and earth. Ward's are more ethereal , story telling pieces, like
the strangely beautiful "lunar shack" which features a huge glowing moon painted
above a tiny stuck-on photograph of a little shack, dwarfed against the massive
The pair both strongly believe in their art, and Allison said the workshop will
be wonderful for anyone willing to open his or her mind. "It's a chance to
experiment and explore new ways to discover the earth."
Artist has feel for Canadian landscape, August 29, 2002
By Kathleen Hay
It’s time to rock on at the Cornwall Regional Art Gallery. A new exhibit by
E. G. Blundell, who actually has a degree in Earth Sciences, is a collection fo
unique paintings with a three-dimensional touch – literally.
The collection, 40 Years of Rock – opens today and runs until Sept. 21 at the
Gallery, 168 Pitt Street. A reception, with the artist in attendance, will take
place at the gallery today at 7 p.m. The general public is welcome to attend.
“I love the texture of his paintings,” said Sylive Lizotte, gallery director.
“The carving on the wood adds a great dimension, and the colours are the actual
colours of the rock. He’s more interested in the pattern of them than he is in
Blundell sculpts large sheets of plywood, then uses rich oil paints to create
his works. Rejecting a traditional approach to landscape painting, he believes
high realism and abstraction are one and the same.
He was born in England, but immigrated with his family to Canada in 1962. A
graduate of the University of Waterloo, the self taught artist began painting as
a way of expressing his feelings of the Canadian landscape. He spends a part of
each year traveling throughout the country, making sketch and visual records of
his journey. Back in the studio, he words them into large, vivid art works.
Instead of depicting a site visually, he expresses his impression of a
particular place through textures and colours.
Blundell has been artist in residence for educational institutions in both
Newfoundland and Iceland. “Half of his show is inspired by these scenes of
Iceland and Newfoundland,” said Lizotte.
This is Blundell’s first exhibit at the city gallery , however his list of
credentials includes the McMichael Collection of Art, the V. Macdonnell Gallery,
BUSgallery and Joseph D. Carrier Gallery’s in Toronto.
From Eye Weekly
The Year in Pictures, December 2001
"The most surprising thing about the last 12 months of art? Not one Stanley
Kubrick or the HAL the Evil Computer Tribute show -- no kaleidoscopic tunnel
rides, no big black slabs, no shiny white rooms and only a handful of psychotic
primates (mostly gallery dealers). What a waste.
Here, then are my 10 Best Art Moments for 2001. Just because I care.
7. Gary Blundell and Victoria Ward at the BUSGallery. The most joyous, straight
out-of-the-tube paintings of the year. Imagine a Pucci pantsuit crafted out of
wood and metal by rural Ontario eco-activists and you're halfway there."
R. M. Vaughan
The Globe and Mail
Partners in Art and Life, July 17, 2002 by R.M. Vaughan, front page Arts &
From Gallery Going, September 2000, Gary
Blundell at V. MacDonnell Gallery
Like his predecessor Paul Walde at V.
MacDonnell, Gary Blundell – who is trained as a geologist – takes a router to
plywood and gouges his way into his paintings. But where Walde also employed
porcupines and beavers as assistants in the wood-rendering process, Blundell,
who lives in the Haliburton region of Ontario, depends on his camera for
assistance. He is attracted, he says, to the rich and subtle colouration of the
rock outcroppings of his neck of the woods (the show is called Metamorphic Goss,
goss being short for gossen, “the rusting of an ore-carrying rock body at the
surface”). The artist turns his colour photos into highly textured paintings,
their raw and robust colour rubbed into the distressed wood in a manner that
lands them somewhere between abstraction and the ways things really are out
there on the Canadian Shield. –Gary Michael Dault
From The Broken Fence Society
Newsletter, summer 1999
The focus of Toronto artist, Gary Blundell, is to promote an interest in the
natural world through his uniquely textured art. Blundell uses sheets of
plywood, oil paint and a router to create large, extra-dimensional works of art
that express his deep love and appreciation for nature.
By using the special technique of gouging, Blundell’s art takes trees, rocks and
land forms into a realm beyond the two dimensional, His pieces range from
semi-abstract interpretations of Canada’s rugged wilderness, to the subtlety of
the microcosm: barnacles, fungi and lichens.
Blundell believes that people often appreciate the wonder of grand landscapes
while ignoring the intricate beauty of nature at their feet. It is this abstract
quality of nature that he endeavours to capture in his work.
Gary moved from England to Canada, with his family, in 1962. It was this early
introduction to the Canadian wilderness which kindled his passion for nature.
After graduating with a Bachelor of Science degree in Earth Sciences in 1983, he
began painting. Initially his focus was on landscapes, but his travels across
Canada engendered a deep appreciation for the beauty and rugged texture of the
Blundell’s sense of protection for the environment continued to grow and he
ultimately became an Environmental Consultant, his chosen profession for the
last four years. He has also worked for eco-friendly groups such as The Sierra
Club of Canada, The World Wildlife Fund and The Endangered Species Coalition.
From Arts Watch –Ottawa’s art news and notes
‘Gary Blundell aims for eco-art’
Toronto landscape painter Gary Blundell knows a
thing or two about rocks.
In describing his work he marries geological buzz words – like fissures,
fractures, glacial deposits, deltaic features – with an artist’s vernacular.
This fusion of art and science dominates his bold and vivid paintings that grace
the pages of recent issues of Canadian art mag Vie Des Art and the cover of eco-zine
Wildflower. No surprise Blundell’s business card bills him as Environmental
From childhood rock collecting Blundell moved easily to a degree in geological
engineering from the University of Waterloo.
“I was much more interested in the aesthetics of what I was learning rather than
the practical applications,” he says. Blundell returns briefly to his hometown
for a showing of his work at Gamma Ray Productions Gallery (494 ½ Somerset
West), on view until May 2.
Studying landscape painting under Ottawa artist Ian Hobson, Blundell took
weekend trips to Lake Superior, Algoma with Gamma Ray colleagues and later with
Toronto-based Bay Woodyard and pals. To expand his geographical horizons,
Blundell journeyed to the Maritimes on sketching trips.
His most recent – a two month trek last summer – fueled (sic) eight months of
studio painting and a half dozen gallery shows.
His large (3’x 4’) landscape painting incorporate a modified version of a
technique pioneered by Canadian landscape painter Paterson Ewen – a supporter of
Using rough-textured plywood boards, Blundell gouges out areas of wood with a
router. The defined space is transformed into images of the earth, sea and sky
in a manner.
In his Bay of Fundy series, terracotta rock faces rise form the swirling blue
waters of the Bay of Fundy’s tide-land drainage area paintings.
‘The tides come in and out twice every day with12-foot-high changes in water
level,” he says. “The land is very scoured and scraped and these beautiful
Blundell’s powerful palette is also infused with light. Acid-green lichen covers
the red-orange rock of the Cape Breton Highlands. The cold waters off
Newfoundland’s North Peninsula are all brooding blues and blacks, capped in
Shying away from brushes, Blundell applies paint with putty knives and removes
it with rags. The works are textured and substantial. -Anita Euteneier
From Fragile Embrace – Reflections on the
Burlington Art Centre, June 4 – July 23, 2000
Blundell has worked as an artist and an
Environmental Consultant since the mid 1990’s. Although he has his degree in
Geotechnical Earth Sciences, he shares a love for art, splitting his time
between these two passions. As an artist he is self taught yet his works, much
like the layering of the earth’s surfaces, are as close to a relief painting as
is the rock faces he depicts.
Blundell admits: “I was much more interested in the aesthetics of what I was
learning than the practical applications.” He has a fondness for the work of
Paterson Ewen and has adapted a technique reminiscent of his painting style.
Blundell uses rough textured plywood boards and with a router, gouges out the
layers of laminate to create images of the earth, sea and sky. He then paints
these panels, not with brushes, but with putty knives and removes the excess
with rags. The paintings are moulded as much as painted. His colours are vivid
and the final works emanate a presence that seems to be cut from the very
surfaces they depict.
Blundell is an avid outdoorsman and a keen observes of nature. This love comes
from a youth spent collecting rocks and exploring. He often visited abandoned
mines in the Gatineau Hills near his hometown of Ottawa:
“I think painting is probably the best way to express the power and tranquility
of nature. Nature is big and powerful but also so easy to destroy. Ever since I
was a kid I’ve been attracted to natural places and animals…If you look closely
in nature you will see many abstract paintings just waiting to be painted and
those are the things I am trying to depict in my art. I let nature dictate to
me, not the other way around.”
It is in painting close observations of nature’s abstract images, where Blundell
is most successful. Initially created like traditional artworks, with a
preliminary sketch and rough drawing, the creating process then takes over and
Blundell gouges, pushes and manipulates his panels until the desire resulted is
The Serpent Rock Face is the most abstract of the three works on display. The
gouged surface and repetition of shapes form undulating patterns across the
painting surface. Not only does he record this rock face, he actually renders
it, mirroring the intricate marking of a snake. We can see the interdependent
nature of the environment resonated in this image.
Blundell’s work is not easy to absorb or interpret. His painting are raw and his
technique primitive, a contrast to the refined, precise application of paint by
Bateman, Danby, Ross and even the tranquility of the pastels of Kozowyk.
Blundell, on the other hand, is crude and deliberate in his process. The
geologist come painter is most at home unearthing his nature paintings instead
of merely recording them, paint to canvas.
Volume 8, Winter 2000 - 2001
Gary Blundell - Metamorphic Goss at V.
MacDonnell Gallery 1340 Queen St. West
Sept. 9 – Oct. 7, 2000
Gary Blundell is Toronto’s butchest artist. A
real man’s man. He chops wood, lives in the forest, can grow a really bushy
beard, and likes chicks and beer. In other words, he’s great! His paintings are
big, highly coloured blowups of minute lichen growths and rock formations. They
look like abstracts, but so does most of the natural world, and that’s
Blundell’s point. “Hey!” his work says, “Look around, look down, look close!”
The undersides of rocks are pretty! Nature Art (such an awful term) is not
exclusively about finding the perfect titanium white for the fur on the mountain
goat’s arse. Blundell is part of a new gang of eco-artists who are taking the
preciousness out of the form and replacing it with intellectual vigour. And such
a manly vigour, too. R.M. Vaughan
Excerpted from The Hamilton Spectator
June 10, 2000
“Environment embraced – Landscape art featured in BAC exhibit”
Fragile Embrace: Reflections on the Environment is the rather fuzzy title of
the Burlington Art Centre’s blockbuster summer show. Te exhibition purports to
‘celebrate the wonders of nature, reflect on the fragile condition of the
earth’s ecology and examine the relationship between man, society and the
natural world.” And it includes works by Robert Bateman, Gary Blundell, Ken
Danby, Martha Henrickson, Akira Komoto, Patricia Kozowyk, Stephen Scott
Patterson, E. Robert Ross, Alan Sonfist and Lorne Wagman.
The most abstracted images in the show are Blundell’s evocations of rock faces
and roots. Blundell is a geologist/artist who was inspired by the paintings of
Paterson Ewen. Like Ewen, he uses the router on plywood, but instead of Ewen’s
views of the heavens, Blundell likes to look down and get up close to nature.
The results are strongly expressionistic, rugged, almost visceral evocations of
nature’s earthiness. Blundell’s relief-like images make an interesting
comparison to the rhythmic, expressive paintings of Wagman, an artist who
describes his work as a ‘rabbit’s eye view of meadows, and lichen covered
Ottawa, April 5, 2001
United colours of Gary Blundell,
the Canadian landscape on wood and paper
by Molly Amoli K. Shinhat
Some may see Gary Blundell's landscapes as un-Canadian. But it's not because
they are not suitably deferential - Blundell is certainly all reverence when it
comes to the craggy mysteries of the Canadian landscape. Rather, the blasphemy
comes in his rejection of what has become the typical perspective of Canadien
when it comes to landscape painting.
Blundell does not produce the usual broad Canadian vistas being taken in from a
distance by an imaginary master of the land. Instead, the artist plunges right
into the scene, embracing the perspective of a lover - he is up close and very
personal. It's as if he hovers inches away from the subject of his observations.
A cursory glance at the 18 works on wood and on paper underscores the radical
departure this alone makes from what we have come to expect to see when we look
at paintings of the Canadian landscape.
Blundells' background as a geologist makes itself felt in his work, especially
in the works on wood. Using routers of various kinds to gouge, carve and score
plywood boards before painting them. Blundell manages to create an extraordinary
sense of volume. Seen from a distance and up close from various angles, the
textures reproduce the roughness and rawness of the natural world.
These large wood pieces ma well have been easier to create because Blundell did
not have to create multi-layered three-dimensional spaces on two-dimensional
surfaces. On this level, the works on paper are far less successful. Blundell is
still mastering the art of creating volume on paper. While it is understandable
he would use sheets of plexi-glass to cover the works for their protection,
these glossy, smooth visual barriers definitely detract from Blundell's cause.
Shroud-like, the plastic wipes out all the textures and illusions of depth
Blundell may have created. Hanging them on the wall opposite the wood pieces
further underscores this difference.
Perhaps it is the change in medium that led to the works on wood becoming truly
abstractions (i.e. entirely non-representative of any recognizable natural
form); whereas, in many of the works on paper, Blundell uses the same style but
the resulting subject is identifiable.
Interestingly, each medium appears to have generated a markedly different
palette, Blundell's investigations and experiments with colour take flight in
the paper works. In the wood pieces , he sticks mostly to what most would typify
as "natural colours" - oranges, browns, greys, blues, yellows and grey-turquoise
colours as well as white and black. On paper, suddenly Blundell's imagination
gets "coloured in" - does he realize finally almost every colour we can possibly
imagine exists already somewhere in the natural world? Perhaps, for instance,
this is what inspired his bright fuchsia shadows, which spill back around the
edge of a group of rocks. The ease of executing colour transitions on a smoother
surface may well form the underpinnings to this distinction.
Blundell is a former arstist-in-residence at the Pouch Cove Foundation in
Newfoundland. This summer he will head for what should be an engaging experience
- a summer residency in Iceland.