Oil on Canvas
30" x 32"
Two women scurry under a rope barrier that divides an expanse of green lawn and the Centennial flame monument burning in the foreground. Because of the flattened perspective creating a visual effect of compression, the women appear to be situated at a closer distance to the circular fountain than the space would logically suggest—almost as if the flames were licking their heals. All could be interpreted innocently enough, as the public space is used regularly for leisure activities—throwing a frisbee, kicking a ball, or simply relaxing in the sun; this scenario could be no different. However, the apparently absent sandal on the foot of the central woman, combined with the pictorial proximity of the flames, effectively skew any interpretation toward a feeling of urgency and desperation. The prominently-placed provincial shields in the foreground lead the viewer into the composition, through the breached barrier, to the refuge of a sun-lit green field. But, there is an intensity that belies the mood of a bright summer day in the park, as political overtones are undeniably evident.
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