Oil on Canvas
Hockey cards were a big part of the elementary school experience for me in the 1970s, and this painting pays tribute to that time. In recent paintings, I have included (although often inconspicuously) some childhood subjects—sources of visual novelty that still evoke fond sentiments. While the paintings that I’m making now reflect back on that time, they reveal a more complex relationship with the past. In the painting,1974, a winter schoolyard scene at night sets the stage for this still-life grouping of randomly-strewn hockey cards. The light source that confronts us is powerful and direct; its origin not given, its purpose unclear. Old footprints provide evidence of human presence, and appear to converge upon the grouping. I opted for a ground-level view with a skewed horizon, almost as if seen by a player on one of the cards.
Artist Statement / Bio
I paint open-ended narratives that feature ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities. Achieving an effect that is out of the ordinary is where the work begins: the transformation, the editing, the re-imagining. That’s the point at which art overtakes illustration and the specific gives way to the universal. Equal parts ‘eyewitness account’ and ‘symbol-laden parable’ contribute to the tendency of my paintings to invite interpretation yet still retain a comfortable and coherent plausibility. It is a fine balance.
If I were a filmmaker, I’d probably cast the movie before the script was written. Long before I know how the story will unfold, the spark of an idea presents itself in the form of a face, an expression, or a gesture. The gesture, almost always candidly captured, is prominent in most of my work. Since body language is held in a tenuous relationship with any kind of objective truth, context is indeed everything. I use this to my advantage to highlight tension through visual irony—all in the service of provoking thought.
In 2016, I received the Laura Ciruls Painting Award—an accolade given annually by the Ontario Arts Foundation, and one that has meant the most to me, so far. I am very fortunate to have the representation of two well-regarded galleries: Ingram Gallery in Toronto’s Yorkville district, and Earls Court Gallery in Hamilton. My home and studio are located in Orangeville, Ontario where I live with my wife, Wendy.
— Steven Volpe