"Y, International Code Series"
David Blackwood, "Y, International Code Series," 1998, oil on panel, 24" x 32".
By Suzanne Mir
“By what a delicate and far-stretched contribution every island is made! What an enterprise of nature thus to lay the foundations of and to build up the future continent, of golden and silver sands and the ruins of forests, with ant-like industry.”
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Like an island, David Blackwood is a singular and self-contained individual who grew up on the wind-swept, tundra-like plateau of Bonavista North in Newfoundland. The island’s people, icons and landscape are the soul of his work. From his paintings and etchings, one understands the solitude, humour and heritage that form the essence of the Newfoundland spirit.
One of Blackwood’s most unique subjects is the legendary Newfoundland mummers, disguised characters who travel from home to home at Christmas time, singing and dancing in exchange for food and drink. Pale and mystical in Blackwood’s work, these veiled figures are cast upon a background of cool and eerie night, lit only by the light of their lanterns. His palette is a silent array of blues, blacks, umbers and siennas. One cannot miss the relationship between the temperature of the palette and Newfoundland’s weather.
Blackwood’s work also focuses on the symbolic. Working in series, he depicts the noble and the ignoble. Seascapes and boats, diminished in size by whales and icebergs, demonstrate the island’s heroic commitment to a livelihood dependent on the sea. Still life images of mundane but essential mittens are set upon a canvas with the same reverence as the gothic mummers. A colourful series devoted to flags reflects the island’s heroic and seafaring tradition.
Elected to the Royal Canadian Academy, recipient of the Order of Canada and Government of France Ingres Medal, Blackwood’s work is in public and private collections worldwide.
A comprehensive exhibition of new works by the artist, featuring his flag paintings as well as etchings, watercolours, oils, drawings and works done in the historic method of egg tempera, runs January 11 to 31, 2004, at the new location of Winchester Galleries in Victoria, 2260 Oak Bay Avenue.