A HISTORY OF BLACKFRIARS MILL (1833 – 1912)
The flour mill depicted in this painting was the second mill at this location – Ridout Street south of the Blackfriars Bridge. The first was a small two-storey affair built by Thomas Park in 1833. Park sold it to Dennis O’Brien a year later. A 5’ dam spanned the river south of the bridge, diverting the water down a mill race. The path of this diversion is now marked with a low wooden wall at the bottom of the walking path at the north end of Harris Park.
In 1871, the mill was managed by George Phillips who enlarged it to 6 ½ storeys. The mill was becoming a major business in the city, producing 160 barrels of flour a day. In 1877, Joseph Saunby purchased the mill from Phillips and modernized the operation by changing to rolling mills from the old-fashioned stone-ground method. This enabled the mill to produce up to 300 barrels a day of patented “Ruby” and “Tecumseh” flour.
With technological advancements in the milling industry, Saunby closed his mill and the building was demolished in 1912. Ridout Street was being expanded to accommodate more building and so tons of earth was brought in to extend the hill out into the river flats below. As a result, the only remaining part of the mill, the two-storey stone foundation, was buried under the earth fill.
Today, the only traces of what was a major part of London’s development as a city are the reconstructed mill race and a number of white posts with small metal models of the mill building on top. These markers are found at the entrance and exit of the old mill race along the riverbank and clustered at the bottom of Ridout Hill where the mill wheel once turned.
The painting “Landmark” is meant not only to commemorate a disappeared part of London’s history but to remind the viewer to pay attention to those subtle and sometimes invisible reminders of the city’s past. The banks of the Thames were home to much of London’s early history – the original Carling Brewery at Ann Street, the London Soap Factory (foot of Clarence and South Streets), the site of the Victoria Boat Disaster (near Greenway Park) and the formerly world-famous Sulphur Springs Spa at the Forks.
As far back as she can remember, Bonnie Parkinson was drawing every day. She doesn’t recall the decision to pursue art; it was simply always there and always something she was called to. When she began her studies at Beal in 1955 she was full of excitement about the possibility of a career in art. For several years, Bonnie worked as a fashion artist both at the London Free Press and T. Eaton Co. She enjoyed the work but says she always felt a calling to find more time to paint.
When Bonnie finally left the commercial art world and began painting full-time, she describes herself as bursting with ideas that had been pent up over the years. Bonnie embraced the simplicity of painting on plywood over canvas, a unique approach that set her paintings apart. Using layers of shaped plywood, she allows certain areas of her paintings to break out of the square mold.
A painter for over 50 years, Kevin Bice follows in the artistic legacy of his father; artist, writer, illustrator, and gallery director Clare Bice. Growing up immersed in the arts and brushing shoulders with prominent artists including A. Y. Jackson, it seems a natural conclusion that Kevin would end up in the visual and theatre arts himself.
Bice takes inspiration from historical artists working in a range of mediums and styles as well as from his experiences as an art instructor. Bice’s career as an educator began in Sault Ste. Marie where he was asked to begin an art department. Returning to London in 1976, he was asked to do the same at London Central Secondary School. Over his career, Bice taught at five London high schools and says that the process of fostering creativity in his students was integral to his own artistic development.
Kevin Bice’s work can be found in collections at the McIntosh Gallery at Western University and in corporate and private collections throughout Canada, the US and Europe. Bice and textile artist Lorraine Roy formed the London Artists’ Studio Tour and has participated in it for over 25 years. He was one of 19 artists who participated in The River Project in 2008.
Bonnie and Kevin’s exhibition opens on February 16th at Westland Gallery, and continues until March 6th.
Over his experience of the unprecedented times that the pandemic has presented, Andrew Sookrah has had to learn to find ways to embrace the mandatory and necessary isolation, and the effect of this towards his practice. This has involved changing the way in which Sookrah both thinks about and executes his work, and analyzing the role of the external factors that inform it. On these changes, Sookrah describes that “time seemed to slow down, and with it, my approach to my art; my entire being, my thought process, my brushstrokes seem to slow down too, to match time… I have found that my work has changed ever so slightly as a result of this calmer state of existence…”
Quieting the passionate social commentary often found within his work, Sookrah has focused on landscapes of past expeditions, allowing time for past monologues to quietly grow to bear fruit in the future. Although his work presents a newfound sense of calm and freedom through his imagery, Sookrah’s work is informed by his study of the powerful influence of unquestioning belief over human decisions; sometimes followed by disastrous results.
Having to spend more time at home during the lockdowns of this past year, Dana Cowie has juggled homeschooling two young children and finding time to paint. Although hectic at times, Cowie found herself with the opportunity to pursue a great deal of work on archiving her family tree, and gathering a deeper understanding of her connection to the land where her ancestors had resided. This research would eventually become intertwined with her art, exploring Cowie’s interest in family lines, her own origins, and the history of the UK. From her home Cowie observed images digitally of areas of England, Scotland, and Ireland that her family had come from. Cowie’s research culminated in a series of paintings of the British countryside and of Coll and Tiree Islands of Scotland. Throughout her process, Cowie employs trust, patience, and faith in God, which is always a strong element within her work. She hopes to one day visit these places of the UK in person, exploring the castles in which her ancestors had lived.
“The piece I call Forgotten Field is of an area in Essex where one line of my family has deep roots and were mostly paupers and servants - many were in jail for stealing food! I have always felt connected to England and Scotland but now I have places, names and stories.”
- Dana Cowie
Over the course of 2020, Brent Schreiber’s practice went through many changes in reaction to the pandemic, and for Schreiber, the year would become a period of training and exploration. At a time of turmoil experimentation came naturally to Schrieber, giving him the freedom to “pull back into simple ideas and making art for art’s sake.”
Primarily a figurative/portraiture artist, Schreiber decided to dive head first into a new series, confronting his insecurities with landscape painting and working for months to develop his strengths and work on his weaknesses. Schreiber would create studies of the areas surrounding Lake Huron incorporating a glow of natural light, a technique that he would come to build further understanding of within his work. Working with charcoal for a small series of his figurative pieces, Schreiber had to find ways to get around being present with a live model. Opting to collaborate digitally with his subjects, he had to forgo a level of control in the creation of his drawings, leading to interesting and beautiful results. Experimenting with different materials that he has added to his drawing toolbox, Schreiber is currently exploring techniques and studies for a new body of work that will reflect the events of the past and upcoming year.
The title of “Still Life” for Donna Andreychuk’s floral series is one that follows a feeling of stagnation, the sense of life standing still over the past year. As a COVID-19 diagnosis and implications of pandemic limited Andreychuk’s opportunities to paint plein air, she moved her studio space that she had occupied for 5 years from downtown Delaware, ON back to her home. Although a disruptive and challenging time to make art for Andreychuk, she began to paint from memory and took inspiration her immediate surroundings, often from her studio windows. The blooms of spring and summer became the main source of Andreychuk’s imagery, and during the past year she has found herself being able to complete commissions in styles such as portraiture, much different from her usual work. Andreychuk’s gestural and colourful floral paintings mean to spread happiness and joy, even in hardship.
"Breaks are a lot Quieter These Days", "Hope"
Jeanette Obbink’s work for the Gallery Group Show 2021 was created during lockdown in the Spring of 2020, and during social distancing for the remainder of the year. Working from en plein air, Obbink focused on scenes close to her studio in Paris Ontario or else worked from photo references.
"Isolation", "STOP KILLING US", "God givin freedoms" "DANGER due to America"
For photographer Paul Lambert, the circumstances of the past year has proved challenging for his creative output, perhaps in hindrance to the turmoil of 2020. Inspired by the social commentary behind the subjects of his photographs, Lambert turned his focus towards the dialogue of chaos, protest and isolation intertwined within the events of this past year.
“STOP KILLING US” documents the Black Lives Matter protest on June 6th 2020, which drew an estimated 10,000 supporters to Victoria Park in London. This occurred as part of widespread civil unrest extending across North America. On July 3, 2020, the New York Times wrote “The recent Black Lives Matter protests peaked on June 6, when half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the United States. That was a single day in more than a month of protests that still continue today.”
“God givin freedoms” depicts members of the Church of God participating in unsanctioned anti-mask protests in Aylmer, ON. Aylmer Mayor, Mary French, had received threats after declaring a state of emergency over fears that a so-called Freedom March by those opposing COVID-19 safety measures could attract counter demonstrations.
Pat Gibson began this small series in late 2019 as an experiment in mounting semi-transparent Mylar layers on board. Focusing on abstracted images of the home, she explores the sentimental meanings and values tied to our connection to domestic space. In Gibson’s words, “The house shape which is placed under the top layer suggests to me a safe place to live, grow, love and create.”
As Gibson continued the series through the COVID-19 pandemic, her view of the series began to change and evolve. She described that “The work soon took on a life of its own reflecting the current stories of historic floods, fires and masses of people seeking asylum. Perhaps the piece Neighbours at Night foretold of the isolation we would experience in 2020.” Although there is an added sense of melancholy involved with the disruptions and layering of Gibson’s imagery of home, what is also revealed is strength in adversity.
"Considerations 2020", "Thinking 2020"
Lisa Johnson’s creative journey over the past year has faced many ups and downs and challenges due to the pandemic. It was a feeling of newfound freedom for Johnson that emboldened her to paint solely for herself, but with an added sense of isolation that left her with what she describes as somber introspection.
On this introspection, Johnson writes “With all the uncertainty of this past year --not just with the pandemic but with the political chaos in general and the worries for the future, I often find myself questioning my purpose. What to paint? How to paint? Why to paint? Certainly I've been more aware of my own mortality.”