Celebrated artist Clifford George introduces his largest showing of work to date in one special, stylin’ way
Clifford George has the soul of a poet. A true artist, he sees beauty in all things, including this very writer.
When we arranged to meet to chat about his Solace in the Canvas show at the Christina Parker Gallery, George mentioned how he wanted to wear his red shoes, his fancy bow tie, and his special cap. I couldn’t be outdone!
DRESSED TO IMPRESS
I hit up the divine diva herself, Shelly Neville, and borrowed one of the most glorious gowns she had and showed up ready for the occasion. Playing dress-up made both George’s and my day a little brighter. Pandemic times have been challenging, and a gallery showing — even at the prestigious Christina Parker Gallery — isn’t the rubbing elbows that it used to be.
George grows reflective as we explore each and every piece in his collection. “Time stood still,” George told me. “It’s like a COVID play that has no ending yet. Our younger generation will remember when they grow older, the days when time stood still”.
“The communities gave me a new offering, alone in the silence I found solace in the canvas.”
— Clifford George
LONELINESS IN THE ART
As he embraced “the new normal,” George began to paint. “I found myself, at the beginning of the epidemic, painting in the stillness of my studio to the new normal. I looked back at my sketches or I visited a new place, and I just felt what I wanted to express. It’s all happiness. All my paintings are happy, but it’s also a reminder of how alone we have all been,” he continued.
“This silence is hard to explain,’ he added, “but there is a peace in the silence.” As George reaches out to touch one painting he shared, “I added bits of rock to this from where I painted. It gives texture. Over here I have sand added to the paint from that very beach in the painting. It’s part of my style. It’s a reminder,” he shared.
“A MAGICAL KIND OF WAY”
He paused. “I am overwhelmed with the sounds in my head. Sounds of rivers flowing to the sea, fishermen on the stage head in the morning mist, sun dancing on the rocks. It touches my soul in a magical kind of way. And then, I put it on canvass.” Beautiful words. Stunning artwork. Inspirational man. George loves to share his craft with others, saying that he loves nothing better than a “suffering artist.” “During this period I posted several videos of me painting to inspire others to carry on in this lock downtime.
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I communicated with friends on Facebook; writers, musicians, other artists, and the feedback was tremendous,” he shared. Yes, we were alone, but we could also be together too, he explained. “When spring came in 2020, out I went doing Plein Air painting. I traveled around the Avalon and down to Twillingate where Art at the Gate organized a Plein Air painting video with myself and J.C. Roy for educational purposes.” The sights and sounds captivated him, he added. While he has a favourite place to paint (Salvage), there’s beauty to be found everywhere, he said with a smile. Every little community has a story to tell. And every place, no matter how big or small, is worthy of being captured on canvass.
SOUNDS OF THE TOWNS
“While I was painting, I could hear the sounds of each community. There were dogs barking, cars driving by, people calling out to me to say hello, crows were cawing and the wind was blowing through the coves. I captured it all. I stayed and traveled around the area and did some more painting in Little Harbour, Purcell’s Harbour, etc. In the evenings, J. C. and myself would have a few drinks and talk about days gone by, it was great to laugh and get reacquainted again.” There was more travel. Gander Bay, Musgrave Harbour, Lumsden, Cape Frees, Green’s Pond, New West Valley, all placed George considered “a painters dream.”
“TIME WAS IN A TRANCE”
“Travelling for miles, the shoreline seemed to go on forever. Communities were in silence, signs on the road said restaurant ahead and signs listed a special, but the sign on their doors said closed due to Covid. The only thing moving was the clothes on the lines and they were all flapping in the wind. “Time was in a trance, waiting for the curtains to open and for life to start up again. I painted life in these communities. I learned the stories and I listened to the sounds.”
“…the loneliness I saw out in the world was telling me that other people might want to see these paintings.”
— Clifford George
As we sashayed around exploring the paintings, as we poured through his glorious sketches and read his poetic ponderings, as we happily posed for picture after picture, as we laughed at one another’s jokes, there was still a sense of the magnitude of this pandemic that George had painted his way through. “The communities gave me a new offering, alone in the silence I found solace in the canvas, thus the show’s name. It gave me peace and it gave me joy,” he said. Something else that gave him joy? Playing dress up for The Herald as we helped kick off his show in fine style, in spite of the realities of the pandemic.
THE FEELING OF STILLNESS
“This has made all this painting worth it. It was like the loneliness I saw out in the world was telling me that other people might want to see these paintings.” When COVID came into the world it changed so much, he added. “Our way to create changed and most of my paintings were done during a time when everyone stayed away. All along the coast clothes swayed in the wind, but even the clothes lines looked lonely and not a soul could be seen. Stores stood, but all the doors were locked.” His Solace in the Canvass collection captures that. “The feeling of stillness is there. It’s hard to explain, but I did find solace in the canvas, and I hope others find that too.”
For more on Clifford George and the Christina Parker Gallery, visit christinaparkergallery.com. For more stories by Pam Pardy, click here, or visit our new Instagram page for story updates as they happen.
Correction: A previous version of this story misattributed authorship.