02 Dec Pedie Wolfond’s Lumen exhibit a bright spot at the MacDonald Stewart Art Centre
Pedie Wolfond Artist Pedie Wolfond stands in front of Apollo, one of the paintings in her colourful exhibition called Lumen, opening Sunday at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.
GUELPH — Doctors aren’t prescribing Pedie Wolfond exhibits to their patients yet, but there’s some evidence that viewing her work is good for your health.
Many pieces from her Hearts and Flowers series now hang in hospitals in Toronto and Oshawa, particularly in the cardiac or cancer wings, and it makes her feel good to hear that other people say they feel better when looking at her art.
For all the planning, patience and hours of physical work that go into each of her pieces, Wolfond says she doesn’t care if people like it or not as long as it elicits an emotional response.
“This one makes me feel good,” said the 74-year-old as she steered a mini-tour at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre to rest in front of her painting called Spring Fever, a cheerful mix of blues and greens.
“I’m in love with colour, but my work is really about the light.”
That is Wolfond’s brilliance, says the MSAC’s assistant curator Dawn Owen, and why after 50 years as an artist, her work is still turning heads.
“They look like the light comes from within the painting,” Owen said. “When they are properly lit, they are almost on fire. It’s breathtaking.”
Wolfond’s exhibit Lumen opens at the Guelph gallery Nov. 20 and runs until Feb. 20 and her massive pieces have taken over all four exhibition spaces on the main floor.
They are deceptively simple-looking abstract works reminiscent of confetti or swirling squares of tissue paper. But her process is painstaking and involved. She staples her canvasses to the floor of her studio, mixes paint, water and a gloss medium in a blender and layers each colour, one by one, allowing each coat to thoroughly dry before adding the next. New shades develop where shapes overlap.
Her canvasses are saturated, and so are her colours.
“It’s very physical work,” she said, adding eight of the paintings in the exhibit were done this year. “No wonder I’m so tired.”
“And there’s no room for error,” added the art centre’s director Judy Nasby. “When you stain unprimed canvass like this, you can’t fix your mistakes, so by the 20th layer, there’s a lot of pressure to get it right.”
As a child Wolfond would sit for hours and colour she said, despite her sister imploring her to play dolls instead.
She met her husband Mel (of the Armel Corp. family of Wolfonds) at McGill University and they moved to Guelph in the 1950s. She studied art in Guelph in the late ’50s and her studio was a gathering place for local artists, like Gordon Couling, Corbett Gray and Daisy Kurp.
She started with trees, flowers and faces, she said, but by the 1960s her work was becoming more abstract. She used charcoal over layers of paint for her 1966 piece Man and Woman — a piece that informs her later work.
She moved with her family to Toronto in 1978, where she’s represented by the Lonsdale Gallery.
“I’ve been so very lucky,” she said. “I’m married to Mel for 55 years; we have three sons and 10 grandchildren.
“I focused on my relationships and my friends and the rewards have been gratifying. And as for the art — I normally don’t have enough hours in the day to do all I want to do.”