Mike Gough’s solo exhibition “How We Get There” is opening at the Christina Parker Gallery tonight, the show runs until December 23rd. This week, he was voted “Best Local Visual Artist” by readers of The Overcast.
Gough is a Newfoundland-based artist, known for paintings that use blank space and methodical mark making to explore the act of remembering. His work has been exhibited and added to public collections across Canada and the UK.
In “How We Get There,” Gough experiments with new colour palettes but for him the most significant departure from his older work is the use of restraint. Gough explains that these paintings are simplified and only contain what he believes is necessary.
“I’ve introduced figures in my work in the past but they play a more predominant role here, as they are positioned in stark landscapes,” Gough explains.
Many of the pieces in ‘”How We Get Here” depict figures looking out at bald horizons. These landscapes are characteristic of Newfoundland, especially the east coast, where there is often only a skim of grass separating a jagged cliff from the sky.
Over the past few years Gough made it a priority to travel to parts of the island he had never visited. The pieces in his new exhibit were inspired by the barren landscapes he encountered during those trips.
A lot of the work was the result of an artist residency Gough did last July at the 2 Two Rooms Contemporary Art Projects on the Bonavista Peninsula. During the residency he spent hours alone, driving and hiking through the area.
“…spending time considering the landscape gave new breath to my work. The moments of solitude made me think about the elements and how they connect and define us, ” Gough says.
He believes our physical environment influences who we are as people.
The show’s title “How We Get There” is a reference to the penultimate line of “Rivers/Roads,” a poem by Newfoundland author Michael Crummey. The final lines of the poem are “where you arrive finally depends on/how you get there,/ by river or by road.”
For Gough, the poem plays with the connection between the choices we make and the way we physically move through the world, suggesting both inform our identity.
“For me the duality of the title, ‘How We Get There,’ speaks to both a physical expedition as well as a mental journey,” Gough says.
“How We Get There” conveys a journey by depicting how Newfoundland’s severe scenery is transformed by the changing seasons; some pieces capture the way light bounces off slick ice, in other pieces the ground is the yellow of grass revealed by melting snow. The suggestion is that the figures taking in the horizon as the world freezes and melts around them are also transformed by the changing landscape.