Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Monday, June 13, 2005

Steve's Gornik paintings are exhibited

The Halifax Daily News (Nova Scotia)
June 9, 2005 Thursday
Gornik's brush with beauty
Smulders, Marilyn

April Gornik didn't always paint scenes of breathtaking beauty - mystical landscapes so lovely they invite you to step inside. Now, though, you can walk between avenues of tall leafy trees, feel the gentle spray of a waterfall tumbling over rocks, or touch soft, billowing tips of wheat beneath your hands. Monumental in scope, these artworks will sweep you up and smooth out your ruffled edges.

On the eve of her show opening at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the 52-year-old artist reflects on her artistic beginnings - a kid from Cleveland, Ohio, attracted to NSCAD in its conceptual-art heyday during the mid-1970s.

"I feel so much older here than I did at Neuberger (Museum of Art in New York where the exhibition originated) ... I keep saying, 'In 1976 ..." she laughs. "I do love Halifax. The light is exquisite."

It's a massive show which, like Rodin: A Magnificent Obsession, spills over two floors at the Halifax gallery. Even so, the gallery has given the paintings, some the size of bus shelters, plenty of breathing room. Included among the works are three stunning paintings from the collection of comedian Steve Martin and one smaller painting, Rain, Sun, Cloud, donated to the gallery by Fred and Elizabeth Fountain.

Back when the Manhattan-based artist was getting started, as a student in the conceptual art department at NSCAD, "beauty" was a dirty word.

Clinging to the notion that painting was dead, and disdainful of "lowly painters" like future husband Eric Fischl, Gornik resisted the temptation to paint.

"I was all over the place," she said when asked about the kind of artworks she made during her conceptual art phase. "There were these photographs with captions - semiotic blah blah blah - collages, and kind of arrangements of sticks on the floor."

Then came an image of a landscape that appeared in her head - "It was very upsetting! Of all the things to land upon. I can't think of a historically less appreciated subject matter."

Then, after a pause, she adds: "It was so thrilling and amazing."

Her first landscapes were made up, created with great abandon in the small corner studio she had overlooking Barrington Street. "I loved depicting space and light, and that came very fast. I felt like I was reinventing how to paint, as if I hadn't done it before ... I was drawing it out of a deep place in myself."

That changed after Gornik made a trip to the desert in 1980: "There were things out there that were wilder than my imagination could perceive. That moment, looking over a horizon that went on forever, almost literally blew my mind."

Her paintings are no longer wholly fictitious - Gornik borrows liberally from photographs and images found online. She blows them up, skews them, takes an element from one and something from another to create an invented reality. And she no longer has a problem with beauty.

"For me, it's nice to make a painting and have people say, 'this is beautiful.' Not 'this makes me feel this way' or 'this reminds me of.' Beauty is the essential element."

if you go

WHAT: April Gornik: Paintings and Drawings
WHEN: To Aug. 7
WHERE: Art Gallery of Nova Scotia


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