Will Gill went big for his first show at Two Rivers Gallery.
“These are larger than what I usually work with,” the St. John’s, Nfld. artist said Thursday at the opening of Bloodredlife. “I had been working on smaller pieces.”
The paintings are large, and the colours on many could be described as loud.
“People who have seen my previous works may not be surprised by the style,” Gill said, ” but it terms of subject matter, there could be a surprise.”
The show grew out of a visit to Newfoundland by Two Rivers curator George Harris.
“He saw some of my work, came by my studio. Later, he called me and asked about doing a show in Prince George.”
Gill was interested, and Harris asked him what kinds of works he would be interested in showing.
“I told him I was into painting, and he said fine, here’s how big the room is that you’ll be showing in.”
The name of the show, Bloodredlife, came from an earlier work of Gill’s, but he used it as a seed for the current works.
“The roots of the works are in different places. Some draw on my personal life, my family, others are how I see mass media, especially in its portrayals of sensationalism.”
It’s a topic he comes back to a few times in the interview.
“In some of the pieces, the colours seem to clash with the subject matter. I wanted to use carnival-esque colours mixed with a sinister subject.
“I see a lot of news stories, in all forms of media, that way. They always try to make it sensational and nice to watch.”
One of the main reasons for his thinking is his family.
“I have a young son, and I think about him growing up in a world like this. I don’t know if violence is more prevalent now, but with the Internet and television, it’s just so much easier to see it out there.”
Several of the works in Bloodredlife show body parts such as ribcages, lungs and fingers, with some referenced in the title of the piece and others hinted at.
“The ones with fingers are just from the last couple of months. I almost lost the tip of one of my fingers in a table saw.
“That got me thinking about how that could have gone either way. I could have lost the tip of one finger, I could have lost several fingers, I could have had it cut off at the wrist.”
As he thought about what he wanted to portray in his works for the show, he says he came back to one question:
“What are things that make us feel alive?”
“I think I’m more of a witness than an artist at times. I’m trying to pick up the details of what is happening, whether they’re disturbing or beautiful, and put them there for you to see and pass judgment on.”
The paintings, he says, tell him when they are finished.
“There was a quote from a Canadian artist named Doris McCarthy. She said something like, ‘I know when it’s done when it stops saying no’.
“It all to be right. You just know.”
Bloodredlife is a featured show at the To Rivers Gallery until Jan. 5.