"Still Life, Pomegranates on Green"
Ronald Boaks, "Still Life, Pomegranates on Green," 2005, Fujiflex print, edition of 10, 54" X 48".
RONALD BOAKS, Paintings & Still Life Photographs
The Weiss Gallery, Calgary
Feb 7 to March 8, 2008
By Jill Sawyer
There are many artists who work in more than one medium, but it’s rare to find an artist who combines media in the way that Ronald Boaks does. He began as a painter of delicate and muted abstracts, canvases that have evolved to become bolder and more colour-saturated. Then, maintaining his painting practice, he discovered a new way to represent the work —as backdrop in a series of lush still life photographs shot with a large-format Linhof camera.
The technique began as an experiment — Boaks discovering the possibilities in still life photography, and looking around for subjects at hand. His house in Toronto is full of objects and art — his wife’s aunt was acclaimed early Canadian abstract painter Kathleen Munn — and Boaks says that in his house it’s “common to see objects in front of paintings.” So the still life subjects suggested themselves readily. Putting up an old plywood table as a shelf, he began placing things in front of his paintings, posing them for the camera. His photographs are a mix of living and inanimate objects — flowers and fruit, sculpture, china, books, bowls — the accoutrements of a life full of intellectual curiosity.
The balance of colour is clearly important to Boakes — both in his paintings and in the photographs. Some of the photographs have an almost otherworldly richness of colour — deep apple greens and burnished oranges that suggest the extremes of nature found only in tropical regions. Others frame a paleness and simplicity that’s more in the context of his earlier paintings. In fact, Boaks says now that he’s finding it more difficult to feature his newer paintings as photographic subjects. The newer paintings are too active, and don’t work well in his compositions.
The work is all in balance — both structurally and in terms of colour, and he describes the simple technique forced on him by the medium of large-format photography. “When I look through the camera, everything appears upside down to me, and that helps me to check the composition.” He likens it to the old painters’ technique of looking at a subject through a mirror to see it anew. This show at Calgary’s new Weiss Gallery, which will combine paintings and photography, is the first Boaks has had in western Canada. He describes the new work in its connection to moments in time. The paintings represent this moment, now, while the photographs capture a moment that has already passed, but has been preserved.
Represented by: The Weiss Gallery, Calgary; Moore Gallery, Toronto; The David Kay Gallery, Toronto