Visually Speaking: Love and Landscape

By Anna Horsnell

This month, well-known Wolfville artist Steven Rhude is presenting a new series of oil paintings at Harvest Gallery. His inspiration grew from those things he cares about, something certain to hold onto in our year of turmoil. Those things are love and landscape.

“I was getting all kinds of requests to participate in online shows with COVID themes which I thought were predictable, so I ignored that and observed some of the things that are familiar to not just me, but all of us in this region. The Wolfville trail remained open and that’s where I started – with a few small works of couples walking together. Who would have thought walking together would need to be considered a freedom?” Rhude explains, ”It’s important for a painter to understand the nature of contemplation: why and what makes us do it in the first place. When one is faced with unprecedented restrictions, it changes the things we take for granted.”

These paintings are comfort food. Amidst the new reality of sometimes unnerving precautions, we’ve all sought solid ground. Relief has come in the guise of simple things close to home. Many of these paintings are smaller than Rhude usually creates, but each one is quietly emotive; gentle landscapes and landmarks many of us will recognize. Some will make you smile. Any people portrayed in these places are relaxed and at ease. When the world has turned upside down, normalcy is valued like never before.

“The overview of our lives as individuals usually is composed around the nature of love. No one cares how many boats someone owned, but at the end of the day we do care about our love of that which we can’t own: love of a place, a person etc. I wonder how love can be expressed in a painting of a person, or a landscape for that matter. I may see it, but do others? They may see it, but do I? For the painter, love suspends time, and thus how we arrange our insight into love is often revelatory, even if they’re small things. If 2020 has taught me anything it is to appreciate and save the small things.” He continues, “Paintings have a way of trapping memory. They become relics of past thoughts, actions and experiences. We can call them time capsules, or even placeholders, so one can remember where we stood, metaphorically speaking, when we experienced something as monotonous as a pandemic.”

Originally from Quebec, Rhude has shown his work extensively and his paintings now hang in many private and permanent collections around the world. What’s next? “My work by and large has been regional in context. I actually like being referred to as a ‘regional painter.’ I’ve never worried about overcoming my geographical context where others might see it as a burden. I want to continue to make ideas into texture and just hope to see another door open because of all this. Because of 2020, I suspect in the arts there will be a culture of inquiry that will naturally show paradoxical situations, and a rub of confusion for sure. I hope to be a part of it.”

Don’t miss “Love and Landscape” at the Harvest Gallery, 462 Main Street in Wolfville beginning November 21. For more information on the artist, visit: stevenrhudefineart.com