GEORGE CAMPBELL TINNING, The Newfoundland Paintings
Chapel Gallery, North Battleford
January 1 to February 28, 2012
By Margaret Bessai
Inspired during his short visit to Newfoundland as a Canadian war artist, George Campbell Tinning returned to paint the island in 1949, just two months after the colony voted to join Confederation. That summer, he created watercolours documenting a community perched on the rocks — brightly painted clapboard houses, laundry lines splashed by the ocean, small wooden boats. It was a breakthrough in painting for Tinning, and in retrospect, has become an unsentimental record of Newfoundland before the loss of the cod fisheries and subsequent industrialization. Curator Heather Smith contextualizes Binning’s large-scale Newfoundland paintings with a selection of his works from 1926 to 1978, and a full-colour exhibition catalogue which reproduces previously unpublished sketchbook pages, and wonderfully descriptive diary excerpts. Striving to find his voice in paint, Tinning writes “At last I am beginning to see the place — the colours are deeper, the tones are deeper — I am beginning to see grey.” Born in Saskatoon in 1910, Tinning studied locally at Regina Collage, and internationally at the Art Students’ League in New York. An early member of the Canadian Society of Painters in Water Colour, his colleagues included Frank Carmichael, Arthur Lismer, and CW Jeffries, and he made his home in Montreal until his death in 1996.