Inspired by resettlement

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Grand Bruit paintings at centre of Peter Lewis' anniversary show

At the start of June, painter Peter Lewis went to the community of Grand Bruit on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland. He set up his easel and painted what was in front of him. It was one month before many people in the community would leave behind their permanent residences in resettlement.

Lewis said the residents of Grand Bruit (about 30 voted on resettlement, 97 per cent in favour) welcomed him as he went about painting the community as it existed - with laundry drying on clotheslines, men on the wharves and small boats in the harbour.

Left, created in Grand Bruit by Michael Greene was a painting titled "Morning Light: Grand Bruit." The painting will be part of an anniversary exhibition at the Peter Lewis Gallery in St. John's. Right, "Grand Bruit Takes a Bow," a new oil painting from a

At the start of June, painter Peter Lewis went to the community of Grand Bruit on the Southwest coast of Newfoundland. He set up his easel and painted what was in front of him. It was one month before many people in the community would leave behind their permanent residences in resettlement.

Lewis said the residents of Grand Bruit (about 30 voted on resettlement, 97 per cent in favour) welcomed him as he went about painting the community as it existed - with laundry drying on clotheslines, men on the wharves and small boats in the harbour.

"A friend of mine, Mike Greene, who's also an artist had been there before, Grand Bruit. He lives in Stephenville Crossing," Lewis said.

"So he suggested the idea of going and painting there. I guess the thought it was going to be resettled also attracted me to the place as well. I wanted to capture the place before it disappeared. That was my main inspiration."

Grand Bruit is known through its English translation as "Big Noise." Yet it is an isolated community, reached by boat, as unlikely to make a "big noise" as a bird in the night.

Lewis had seen it briefly, prior to his work there in June. He had flown over it, heading further on for a salmon fishing trip.

"I usually go and scout out the community first for an attractive composition, but I might have a destination in mind - Grand Bruit was a destination and it took a fair bit of organization to get there," he said of his work.

The required organization did not scare away Lewis. Whether on Les Champs Elysees in Paris or Hare's Ears, Ferryland, Lewis has learned how to get to and work with the locations he selects to paint.

"All of my paintings are worked on site. I'm a 'plein air' painter, which is a French term meaning painting outdoors," he said.

Lewis started painting in his 20s. He had been a school teacher, painting big backdrops for school concerts.

"I've been a serious artist for probably the last five or six years," he said. "Mike Greene is somebody who got me into painting years ago, so it was kind of nice to go to Grand Bruit with him and paint with him."

Greene has worked with Lewis in Grand Bruit and his paintings are featured alongside Lewis' in an ongoing exhibition at the Peter Lewis Gallery in St. John's. The exhibition was opened Thursday night and also includes work by Michael Kilburn.

The exhibition will run through the one-year anniversary of the Peter Lewis Gallery, found at 5 Church Hill (West of the Anglican Cathedral). The gallery opened July 29, 2009.

"It's been going very well. We've been very successful this past year," Lewis said. "We've had several exhibitions. I would say probably five or so since we opened last summer and each of them has gone very well."

The gallery's inaugural exhibition featured 25 oil paintings by Lewis. The next month came an exhibition with eight Lewis charcoals - scenes of downtown St. John's. In September, the gallery held "Irish Connections," an exhibition of 15 new pieces by Lewis, created in Ireland. October brought work by Irish painter Neal Greig.

Closing out 2009 was an exhibition called "Alla Prima," featuring works Lewis created on a visit to Tuscany.

More recently, in March of 2010, the gallery presented new works by Lewis, Michael Greene, Michael Kilburn, Lyndon Keating, Tracy Adamson & J.J Allwood. In May,"

The Gathering" had more work by the same, with the addition of work by architect-turned-artist Peter Jackson.

Lewis said etching out a space in the downtown, with many artist galleries competing for the buyers' dollar, has been far from an impossibility.

"We are getting a lot of walk-in traffic," Lewis said. "I think we're in a good location. We're sort of right in the heart of downtown and the foot traffic of tourists coming up and down the hill by the Anglican Cathedral."

Following on the heels of the "Grand Bruit" exhibition, Lewis said he is looking at the, already resettled community Harbour Deep on the Northern Peninsula for his next series.

For now, he is curious as to the reactions to his work in Grand Bruit.

The Peter Lewis Gallery (709-722-6009) is open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Anglican Cathedral, Church Hill, Michael Kilburn, Lyndon Keating, Tracy Adamson & J.J Allwood

Geographic location: Grand Bruit, Newfoundland, Stephenville Crossing St. John's Paris Ireland Tuscany

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