CHARLES MEANWELL – Coastlands
CHARLES MEANWELL – COASTLANDS
Christina Parker Gallery is pleased to present, Coastlands, our first solo exhibition with painter Charles Meanwell. The exhibition opens on Friday, June 9th and continues until June 30th. There will be an artist reception on Friday , June 9th from 5:30 – 8pm with music by Boyd Chubbs.
Landing in Newfoundland is to be startled by the majesty of the rock, which endures, and the dominance of the sea, which gives life, two elements which jostle and ignore each other. I sailed the south coast decades ago, but I was still unprepared last fall for a fresh sight of the quiet power of this place.
I don’t have to tell you this.
First I visited Cape Pine, thanks to Ned Pratt, at the south end of the Avalon Peninsula. There is a light there, with two poured concrete houses, and nothing closer than a half-hour drive, except the wind, which makes you careful about which door you try to open.
It was my premier experience of solitude, staying at what felt like the end of the world, thrown back on my own resources. Winter had not given up, so I left a day early to improve my chances of getting out. Driving there involved missing two turns in blinding rain, trying not to hydro-plane on the ruts of the Trans-Canada, and arriving just at nightfall.
There was no point in trying to express my feelings here since the landscape overwhelmed them, and I was left to wave a brush at rock and sea, element s that dwarfed my experience.
This poem is as close as I got in words for the place.
Everything about the place is singular.
A point at both the beginning and the end
Of things, a butt of low and massive rock
Swathed in chaos that appears as ochre,
Crimson, green, that makes it difficult to say
Whether sea or land has greater mass.
Why the land stops just here, at a shore that
Lunges, plunges, soars, and halts, brings
Only silence as reply. The shore is hemmed
By the ocean that provides both life
And death with careless nonchalance. There is
No fire in this elemental mix, but the whistling
Air spurs snow pellets to race parallel
To the horizon, and makes the windward door
Impossible to breach. A tower, striped in
White and red, sits massive and unmoved
In all this flux, a transplant that cannot
Connect, still, to what it stands to mark.
The light yet gleams at piercing intervals,
Establishing a point for all within the gloom
To steer us safely by a fatal coast.
Though light can punctuate and shred the dark,
It cannot banish it at last, and we are
Left alone to navigate the briny film
Or scattered hues ashore. And while the light
Illuminates us here, it cannot shift
The context that will bind us all: the dark.
A later trip took me to the west coast to Gros Morne (Big Bleak), and north to Cape Norman, at the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. Gros Morne is a series of mountain sized lumps that are strewn without any pattern we have access to, and we are left at the mercy of million-year-old masses that have no time for secrets.
North from Gros Morne the land turns flat and featureless, and at Cape Norman is lost in a mix of chaos and order. The land is flat and low, and is even less willing to provide secrets. Painting this contradictory mix was difficult, but through painting, it seemed that chaos could be as sustaining as order, perhaps since they each come from the same ground.
The impulse for a painting always comes from the land, so I paint quickly to preserve that moment as long as possible. Thinking about things ruins a painting every time for me. I can’t tell you how profoundly this place, and you who care for it, have helped the way I paint. It will carry me forward for a very long time.
Charles Meanwell lives and paints in Hamilton, Ontario. In 2014, his work was featured in Painting Hamilton at the Art Gallery of Hamilton. Solo museum exhibitions include On the Ground, Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, Ontario in 2010 and Windsor Paintings, Windsor Art Gallery, Windsor, Ontario in 2008.
Charles Meanwell will be featured in a two-person exhibition with artist Ned Pratt at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery in Toronto, ON opening June 28th.