Whether a storm is brewing over the Atlantic Ocean, or snow is softly falling on the Medicine River, central Alberta artist David More is attuned to nature in all its guises.
A retrospective of More’s career as a varied landscape painter is showing in the A Painter’s Gift exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
Through 55 artworks that span more than 40 years, “you see his connection to nature — and to place,” said Kim Verrier, the museum’s exhibit’s co-ordinator.
More makes beauty out of the ordinary, Verrier added — whether he’s depicting wild or tended spaces, as far away as India, or as close as his wife Yvette Brideau’s garden, next to their Benalto home.
The Scottish-born, Red Deer-raised More studied at the Alberta College of Art in Calgary. He travels widely, and instructed visual arts students at Red Deer College until his retirement in 2014.
All along he’s painted — mostly in an airy studio space converted from a former church next to his house.
Last spring, More donated nearly 200 of his paintings and drawings to the Red Deer museum — the largest single donation the facility has ever received.
The artist said he wanted to give something back to the community where he has spent most of his life, and also to create awareness around the local museum. “It’s such a great resource.”
By selecting “highlights” from this body of work, guest curator Mary-Beth Laviolette arranged a show that spans the career of a painter she considers “one of central Alberta’s most important artists, who also has high standing in recent Canadian landscape art.”
Instead of arranging More’s works chronologically — an impossibility since he went back and forth between projects over decades — his paintings were organized according to their thematic inspirations.
There are the forest works sparked by More’s concern over destructive acid rain. There are observant portrayals of the nearby Medicine River in all seasons.
The Sky Forms section of the exhibit features paintings of enormous cloud formations over Alberta’s Prairies and above the shores of New Brunswick — Brideau’s home province.
More creates drama with bold brushstrokes and a near-abstract use of colour and shape.
His Garden Ceremony series was started in Brazil in 1975 and returned to continually over the years. These paintings, inspired by his visits to other countries, explore the juxtaposition between man-made and organic forms.
The artist has described the Garden Ceremony as “a state of mind,” while some art critics have called it “his own personal landscape.”
But can it be as intimate as his paintings of family members with nature views visible from their front windows? Or his oil sketches of the Benhaven garden that grows next to his home?
The colourfully tangled flowerbeds that are so lushly depicted in these paintings are really Brideau’s creations, so More’s portrayal of their over-spilling bounty constitutes an unusual artistic collaboration.
“His artwork has captured her’s in a sense,” said Joanne Gruenberg, a museum curator, who helped facilitate the artist’s gift to the museum.
The Benhaven paintings “are very representative of their relationship,” she added. “It’s very much the two of them in this part of the exhibition.”
More refers to Benhaven as “our ultimate artwork” in his artistic statement and credits Brideau’s “input and spirit and devotion” as being key to his creative process.
Gruenberg believes More’s gift of art will be as integral to the museum’s effort to start a larger central Alberta collection.
“I think the exhibit is gorgeous,” she said.
Hanging More’s art on the walls changes it, Gruenberg added: “You are fully seeing it now, and it’s a good representation of his life’s work.”
The exhibit is on until Jan. 1. An opening reception will be held Sunday at 2 p.m.