David Blackwood and Michael Crummey

Both these Canadians are from Newfoundland and through their works they have dealt with themes of life and struggles of people living in these regions. Last week I got a chance to see for the first time David Blackwood’s exhibit entitled Black Ice.
David Blackwood is one of Canada’s leading printmakers and most popular artists. This exhibition showcases some iconic works for the first time, revealing the richness of Blackwood’s imagination and his working methods.  His prints at their best stand as a testimony to his art. Going through this link below we will realize the long painstaking process involved behind the creation of each of his works.http://www.nfb.ca/film/blackwood

This short film studies his works.  The artist himself guides viewers through a step-by-step explanation of the etching process. Scenes of his hometown, examples of his own work and vivid tales of an old mariner recall the tragic seal hunts and a way of life that has now vanished.

The most amazing part of reading a book (especially fiction) is perhaps the visualization. Michael Crummy’s Galore is perhaps a vivid depiction of a group of people in the fictional Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep, slaughtering a whale that has inexplicably beached itself. Young Mary Tryphena watches as the body of a man, pale and stinking, is cut from the whale’s belly. Her grandmother, an old crone named Devine’s Widow, defies the town oligarch, King-me Sellers, and has the man carried up the hill to prepare him for a proper burial.

The man, it turns out, is in fact alive, though he cannot speak a word. In the spirit of compromise and illiteracy, he is given the name of Judah. He never does utter a word, and he never loses his stench, but his presence ignites a spark in Paradise Deep that sustains the story for multiple generations.

Crummey’s prose is flawless. He has a way with the colloquial that escapes many writers, an ability to make the idiosyncrasies of local speech an asset in creating an image in the reader’s mind.

“They’d scaled the whale’s back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work and they sat with their splitting knives and fish prongs, with their dip nets and axes and saws and barrels. The wind was razor sharp and Mary Tryphena lost all feeling in her hands and feet and her little arse went dunch on the sand while the whale expired in imperceptible increments. Jabez Trim waded out at intervals to prod at the fat saucer of an eye and report back on God’s progress.”

The book itself is an interesting read and is no less than a walk through the world of Newfoundland. After reading Galore you definitely end up having some images in your mind.

David Blackwood and Michael Crummey have depicted the lives of Newfoundlanders using art of etching and art of writing respectively. It was as interesting going through the exhibit as it was reading Galore. Certainly they have  immortalized a way of living and hardships faced in some parts of the world. Nothing can overcome the power of nature and the biggest test of endurance is life despite all odds. For me Michael Crummey created a curiosity that in a way was  satisfied by David Blackwood.

References:

http://www.ago.net/black-ice-david-blackwoods-prints-of-newfoundland

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