The nature of gardens has always meant much to local artist David More, who has an amazing ability to capture their beauty in his richly-rendered paintings.
More, who calls Benalto home, is gearing up for a new exhibit at the Red Deer Museum + Art Gallery called The Garden Ceremony.
Showcasing works that ‘explore gardens as imaginary havens, as the seats of memory and as places of refuge from personal turmoil,’ the exhibit runs July 7 to Sept. 5.
A reception is set for July 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. and an artist’s talk is also planned for Aug. 19 at 2 p.m.
More, 64, has been working on the series since the mid-1970s. He did a number of drawings that tapped into a garden theme and from there, a theme began to flow.
“I began to call it The Garden Ceremony because it was something I was going through,” he recalls. “But I began to realize that other people would be going through the same thing. When things were going bad and I needed to escape, I would go to parks. I would see others doing the same thing, and I realized that in a way they were seeking refuge. They were finding a haven in the midst of the chaos around them. They were able to deal with their emotions, and maybe sometimes escape from them.”
The Garden Ceremony has grown to include more than 200 works. In the exhibit at the Museum, 15 paintings will be showcased along with nine drawings which show where the ideas come from. Some of the images have been inspired by visits to such places as Brazil and India as well.
For More, it’s been an exhilarating creative journey with unexpected turns along the way. And at various times he’s considered the project ‘a wrap’. But then he would travel and discover more gardens and the roles they have in people’s lives in other places. Fresh inspiration would spring up.
“They are combinations of real places and imagined places, memories of places and memories of events told to me by others that turned into places.”
Spitfire Steps is a vivid portrait merging English garden steps with the garden birdbath of More’s childhood home in Red Deer. Lancaster Moon captures the mystery of a nighttime sky with its shimmering moonlight on a terraced stone wall.
More was born in Scotland, but was raised in Alberta – mostly in Red Deer.
“As young tadpole learning to walk I was always an aggressive doodler, and my mum encouraged me to draw on the cardboard shirt stiffeners that came out of my dad’s freshly laundered shirts from the steam laundry,” he explains. “But my real childhood interest in art as a vehicle for communicating probably began with comic books and realizing how effectively they told stories.
“The power of serious art as portrayed in historical and contemporary art really came into focus when I attended art college and was presented with so many flexible variations of expression and communication.”
Being able to co-author and illustrate books with the late humourist Eric Nicol offered More the chance to engage his practice in a less serious but no less intense mode, he says.
“As a painter though, I have been able to approach the serious side of life when I felt compelled to express outrage or disbelief or disappointment with our human behaviour.”
More, who is always gracious and humble in spite of his tremendous gifting as an artist, is excited about the opportunity of sharing The Garden Ceremony with viewers.
“Really, The Garden Ceremony has little to do with gardening, and everything to do with the human race,” he says. “Humanity with its greatest and loftiest aspirations has created the most beautiful things imaginable, but in the blink of an eye we can undermine and disturb and even destroy what has been attained.
“And we are not talking about material things but ideals, or societal values. The Garden Ceremony is a metaphorical attempt to come to grips with that. On the one hand we can create what we consider to be perfect beauty, but we can quickly walk away from it and abandon it and let it fall into ruin.
“A lot of my images are of gardens that may be interpreted as being on the edge of abandonment, or also as in the process of regeneration. The viewers decide for themselves.”