A new exhibit opens today at the Christina Parker Gallery in St. John's, featuring work by Newfoundland painter Clifford George. The beautiful, colourful collection of landscapes is called "Ancestral Art: Oh From Twillingate Moreton's Harbour, All Round the Circle (Will the Circle be Unbroken)." These paintings will be on display for the next three weeks.
Here, Clifford explains how this region inspired his paintings:
To enjoy and nourish my ancestral upbringing is a serious matter to me.
Our forefathers, people of the fishing rooms fished here for over 500 years. When the fishery folded its curtains, old trap boats were pulled up for the last time leaving them to die propped up on cripples near the land wash in long forgotten grasses, whispering a lonely tune to the ebb and flow of the tide.
I keep having a dream of our ancestors where I am looking through upright wharf sticks and flake shores with my grandfather and my Uncle Fred washing out salt fish at the land wash. The dew of early morning makes a swishing sound against their long rubber boots and the salt water at the land wash kisses the beach.
In this series of paintings I travel to places where folklore thrives. Songs of our ancestors were etched in this place. I find myself lured by the distinct images, and whispering echoes calling to me over the expanse of time.
Sea air freshens one old house; the wind carries its tune into every room, windows broken, curtains blowing open stage doors of my mind. This old house sits in long, uncut grasses and portrays its many greens and yellows as it dances to the northeast wind.
It was a privilege for me to go to places like Moreton’s Harbour, the home where poet Larry Small grew up, where he wrote about his ancestral people. Then I painted Art Scammell’s house at Change Islands where it stood with great reverence and across the road I painted the very sea that he wrote about in the song “The Squid Jigging Ground.” The old salt box house in Back Cove, Change Islands, where the people once lived, someone said Bishop Genge was born here.
My grandmother’s name was Eliza, in the song “I took Liza to a dance as fast as she could travel.” I was now here painting the places that the song was all about. Eliza, my grandmother, danced to the tunes that my grandfather played on his accordion in the old parish hall.
While in Tilting, Fogo Island, I met Roy Dwyer, a historian, we talked about the old ways. He read a poem to me that I will end with:
Old houses stand empty
On winter nights there is a stark beauty in their stillness
As moonlight glints on window pane and frost sparkles on their roof
But once there a baby cried and mother and midwife smiled after their labours
And once there an old man lay dying