Stu Richardson is gone, but his spirit lives on in his artwork — his friends and fellow artists have made sure of that.
The Artists of Bernie’s Barn — a collection of painters who meet each week in an old building at the back of Bernie Major’s south Langley property — will exhibit a collection of pieces which are a unique posthumous collaboration with their former colleague.
The Fort Gallery show, titled Connections, runs from now until Nov. 13, and will also feature ceramic pieces by Langley artist Kathleen McGiveron.
Curated by Bette Laughy, a member of both groups, the show aims to demonstrate how the spirit of an artist carries beyond his or her lifetime, expressing the works of Richardson as they are interpreted by a group of his contemporaries.
Richardson was a Surrey artist who taught in the Kwantlen graphic and visual design program for 25 years, helping developing artists grow and develop their own talent and concepts. As a result, before his life was cut short at 70, he had time to develop only a relatively small body of finished work.
Richardson was a founding member of the Bernie’s Barn group. He and Major, renovated the loft of a barn to create a studio where a small group of artists have enjoyed one another’s company, inspiration and critique every Thursday for the past 10 years.
One year after Richardson’s passing, his wife, Sherry, gave the barn group 25 of his unfinished paintings, in various stages from sketches to nearly finished. The artists each took a couple of paintings and finished them in a blend of Stu’s style and their own, respectful of Stu’s intent and appreciative of the foundation he continued to lay down as a teacher and cowlleague.
The result is a series of about 15 unique paintings. Some are very close to Richardon’s style. Others are quite different while still containing his spirit and intent.
The show will contain some of Richardson’s finished works on loan to the gallery.
Eight exhibits will display one or two finished collaborations, together with a photograph of the partly finished work and other artifacts that enabled the artists to complete the piece. Each will also display one work by the artist who completed the piece. A brief statement will tell what the process meant for each artist, how each approached the work, and how each felt working in such an unusual collaboration.
For Major, it was a bittersweet experience.
“I knew him so well, we were almost like brothers. I made no attempt to copy his style, I was content just to add my touch of paint to his,” Major said.
“The collaborations will best seen side by side, where they show the common thread with diverse interpretation,” said Laughy. “They are all Stu, yet more.
“This is a very personal journey for me,” she said. “Stu’s death hit me very hard. He was so full of life, humour and irrepressible spirit that I simply couldn’t believe my friend and colleague of 35 years could be gone. I fully expected him to be around in his 90s, still cracking his corny jokes and world famous for his exceptional talent. Working on his paintings was like having him here again, peering over my shoulder and teaching by example how to work with colour, shape, contrast, adding little touches to brighten and create interest.”
McGiveron, meanwhile, feels quite comfortable showing her ceramic art pieces as part of Connections.
“I’m interested in exploring the connection between the contemporary, popular icon and the traditional, home-residing figurine,” she said. “The sculptures I create are reproductions of figurines, or have been built under the influence of the figurine.”
Animals and birds are her instinctive subject material, but through the eye of the figurines that represent the traditional family home, with the comfort of the pieces our mothers and grandmothers collected.
“My pieces run in series, focusing on an animal or bird, each one unique yet each connected.”
Connections runs until Nov. 13. Fort Gallery, located at 9048 Glover Rd., is open Wednesday to Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. There will be an opening reception Friday, Oct. 28, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.