Local artist Paul Boultee has captured an engaging and thoroughly unique means of marking the passage of time.
His latest exhibit, Tiny Moments, is currently showing at the Harris-Warke Gallery in downtown Red Deer.
A reception will be held on Feb. 7 from 6 to 8 p.m. as part of Red Deer’s First Fridays.
The 365 small paintings that constitute Tiny Moments are displayed as a calendar year, a ‘Book of Days’ that fills the gallery.
Each painting is supplemented by an item from the newspaper reflecting the best, the most bizarre, or the worst of society.
“Some days there would be four or five things that would catch my eye,” he recalls of collecting inspirational ideas from the newspaper each day. “I would read them again, and then decide which one resonated more with me than any of the others that were there.
“This started in August of 2012,” explains Boultbee.
He and his wife, Glynis Wilson-Boultbee, were at a two-week artist residency at Spark Box Studio near Picton, Ontario.
“I started doing tiny paintings, and just laid them out when they were finished. And then in talking over dinner, I came up with the idea of combining the small paintings along with something from the newspaper that day that struck me.
“It might be something I found interesting or bizarre or outrageous. It became a combination of putting those together.”
He decided to do it over the course of one year.
And he didn’t necessarily paint one every single day. On some days, he would do several as a small series perhaps.
Ultimately, which painting corresponded with which article didn’t fully meld until just last month.
“Then I started to decide what piece of the newspaper goes with what painting.”
Boultbee also chose to leave nine squares as plain gold – these marked dates signifying personal milestones or holidays throughout the year.
And as he explains in his artist statement, some squares seem to illustrate the text in ways that are immediately obvious.
“Sometimes the match may seem more ephemeral. And of course I hope and expect that viewers will make connections between the text and the squares that haven’t even occurred to me.
“What was important to me was taking the text – because I read the paper religiously everyday – and saying how can I match that with the visual?”
The next step was considering how to arrange the works.
“I had no idea what it was going to look like when it came up here,” he said, glancing around at the various pieces.
In a way, they resemble calendars and there is an air of crisp orderliness to the exhibit. But there’s mystery, too. It’s a compelling blend.
“We order the years, the days – we tend to order everything so we know where we are.”
Meanwhile, viewers will also decide how they want to explore and interpret Tiny Moments.
“When somebody comes in to look at this, they may want to just look at the individual pieces. One woman said to me ‘I’m interested in the paintings but I’m more interested in the text you chose’.”
Ultimately, Boultbee admits that it’s a bit of a challenge to describe the nature of the exhibit.
“People would ask ‘What are you doing’ and I would try to explain it, but it was difficult to explain. Even now if people ask what it is like, it’s still hard to explain.”
But that’s part of the allure of it.
Boultbee has provided booklets of each month that show what particular paragraph of a news story connects to which date.
So viewers can utilize that to garner insight into how the stories and images connect. But it’s also just fascinating to look over each month and see how each day speaks to you.
Boultbee has always been so gifted at offering works that challenge, inspire and provoke that urge to ‘dig deeper’.
In putting up the exhibit, discussion was sparked about whether or not to specifically direct guests to pick up one of the booklets.
“The consensus was no. We decided to just leave them there and see what happens.”
As mentioned, Boultbee’s work is always admirable because he allows himself to imagine new ways of expressing himself. Every exhibit is enlightening and a delight to behold.
“I believe that this process has produced an unusual diary of the year,” he notes in his artist’s statement. “An odd amalgam of the personal and the societal.”
The Harris-Warke Gallery is situated on the second floor of Sunworks at 4924 Ross St.