Despite suffering a nasty sinus infection this weekend, I pushed myself to go out and see Cliff Turner’s exhibit at Gallery 78 before it closed. I’d never been to Gallery 78 before, so seeing my old high school art teacher’s work was as good an excuse as any to finally check out this gallery hidden in downtown Fredericton. I have happy memories of class with him. I was a shy introverted artist in high school and after meeting him for the first time I became known as “cat”, since when I first tried to say hi he asked me to speak up, saying I looked like a cat meowing through a screen door. He was animated and always kept us on our toes with various fun art projects.
Gallery 78 is a lovely house that was built in 1976. The rich wooden window sills and doors and colorful stained glass provide a beautiful home for the art inside. I browsed through the other exhibitions that were on display and found many beautiful works of art. What I’m going to focus on in this entry, though, is Cliff Turner’s work.
The “Technicolor” collection is composed of two parts; a collage of hyper-realistic still life and popular imagery from the 60s onwards. He describes the nostalgic works as having a dream-like quality, memories represented as slivers in the paintings. They’re watching your favorite saturday morning shows over breakfast when I was little, eating my favorite candy and playing video games. Crisp bright colors suggest pleasant memories, how everything was new and exciting. My favorite piece from the memories/popular art portion of the exhibit is this one:
This piece was the one that convinced me to go to his showing. I’m completely blown away by the realism and attention to detail: the distortion on the lid of the jar, the crumpled candy wrapper, the plastic-wrapped lollipop. Everything is in such bright vivid delicious color! It brings to pleasant memories from my childhood, playing videogames with my bro & friends, eating sugary candy before I was worried about calories and chemicals. Sonic in particular has a special place in my heart since the Sega Genesis was a beloved christmas present to my younger brother and I from Mom & Dad that completely surprised us. Many, many hours were spent with it cheering and yelling and fighting and laughing. This piece caters to my love of bright colors, happy nostalgia and exquisite detail. I absolutely love every aspect of this painting.
The other “half” of this exhibit is comprised of still lifes. In this article where he discusses his exhibit, he says that the focus isn’t so much on the subject as it is the narrative these objects create. The stunning detail in the fruit on the painting below is captivating. All of the fruit and bread looks delicious but the birds aren’t eating it.
The painting below positively glows in person. Many times it’s difficult to fully capture with a camera the colors in a painting with contrasting colors, like the one below. The bright sky and feathers on the birds really bring this image to life. Perhaps there is something to bird watching after all…
Seeing these works up close was a truly inspirational experience. Digital images tend to flatten colors a little bit and can make the works look more like photographs than paintings. Examining them in the gallery revealed the beautiful gradients and brush strokes in the background to make such a smooth transition in the bird still lives, for example. This work isn’t on exhibit at Gallery 78 any more but since he’s a Saint John resident, you may be able to find it with his other works at Handworks Gallery.
My love of painting stems from a fairly simple pleasure of putting color on a blank white canvas. I’ve been painting a lot of still lives over the past few months and was starting to feel it getting a bit stale. Cliff Turner’s work is an example of how it can be exciting and amazing to look upon. Time for me to splash down some colors and get cracking!