Central Alberta artist Dave More is getting a jump on summer with his first-ever figurative exhibit, based on Sylvan Lake beach-goers.
While the Benalto resident is better known for painting landscapes than people, ‘nature’ as a broader descriptor, could certainly be applied to the subject matter on display until May 7 at The Edge Gallery in Calgary.
Folks of all shapes, sizes and ethnicities are shown enjoying their scrap of crowded Sylvan Lake shore in the Shore Figures exhibit.
More, who previously depicted figures mostly in his public murals, aimed to create a “gathering of humanity” in these pictures.
The 23 paintings, studies and drawings were done around More’s landscape and garden artworks over the past five years. “I painted about one (large beach scene) a year,” said More, who was interested in the crowds that have been gathering at Sylvan Lake for more than a century.
“On any hot day, as many as 30,000 people can swarm to a narrow strip of public beach,” he added.
But the shore was a tad quieter in the 1950s, when More’s parents vacationed at the resort town so he, his sister and twin brothers would play in the sand and water.
“We’d rent (a cabin) with a biffy out back and a wood stove where everyone would gather… It was a family tradition,” he recalled.
More later studied and taught at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, and lived in B.C. for a few years.
When he returned to Central Alberta in the 1980s, he noticed different types of beach-goers at the lake.
“No longer were there the Caucasian hordes … the crowd was more cosmopolitan,” he said. “There was a blend of cultures — as there should be — and I was intrigued. I started sketching and taking photographs.”
His compositions are actually composites. The artist explained he’d usually start by sketching a female figure, then look through his source material for another person who might complement her — whether a cowboy or biker, back-clad older man or a kid with a beach ball.
Soon the grouping in his paintings grew to resemble the diverse mix that can be found on the lakefront on any given summer weekend. More describes it as “a rising carnival blend of voices and music, vivid chromatic beach toys and patterned umbrellas.”
He’s inspired by “unlikely communions … an elderly Hindu matron strolls amongst bikini-clad women … a traditionally-garbed Muslim girl steps amongst tattoo-adorned body-builders …”
In some of his painted scenes, viewers will notice one figure’s leg subtly melding with another person’s shoulder. More said he wanted to emphasize how we are all really the same.
“The beach is a great place to experience people,” said the artist, who made sure to include at least one subject in every painting who stares directly back at the viewer, as if to say “what are you looking at?”
Four of his Shore Figures paintings will also be displayed, starting May 13, at The Whyte Museum in Banff in the group show When the Living is Easy.