Oil on Canvas
26" x 20"
Images of hockey players and goalies were always close at hand when I was a young boy: hockey cards, magazines, and many half-finished sketches in half-filled sketch books. In the painting, 1971, I show my adult self holding a Star Week magazine that was issued that year, and featuring Toronto Maple Leaf captain Dave Keon. In the background, we get a glimpse of a nighttime winter landscape showing footprints in the snow that lead toward wooded darkness. This painting was intended as a subtle allusion to a hostage taking, more specifically, a proof-of-life scenario: The orange shirt, the handheld news magazine, and the stark, frontal lighting all contribute to a theme that was intended as a metaphor for how we can become enslaved by our past. With my shoulders and torso tightly cropped, the focus is kept on the central portrait in a more dramatic and mysterious way.
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