Shadows and Tall Trees

by | Jun 17, 2024

Oversized exhibit by Stephen Hutchings opens at Andrew & Laura McCain Art Gallery

Stephen Hutchings, a dedicated artist from Johnville, has poured his passion for trees into his latest series of artworks, aptly named ‘Shadows and Tall Trees.’ His work is featured in the latest Andrew & Laura McCain Art Gallery exhibit, which opened on May 31.

Hutchings’ exhibit is unique as its feature piece – a stunning charcoal and oil painting of a single tree that is 40 feet long by 10 feet tall. The painting is simply titled “Tree.”  The piece was so large that a construction crew was required to build a wall to mount and display the artwork. Brennan’s Home Hardware generously provided a crew to oversee the installation.

During a question and answer session at the opening event, Hutchings offered his unique insight into the inspiration and process for creating his monumental painting. He said trees have always resonated with him, as he perceives them as having distinct personalities and symbolizing life. He pointed out the intriguing juxtaposition within the painting for his feature piece.

“Notice that the tree is laying down, but it’s not really dead. It looks like it could be – the roots have been pulled from the ground, they’re black, but at the top, it’s thriving, and the leaves are in full colour,” Hutchings told people gathered during the opening night of his exhibit.

Hutchings saw the tree as a metaphor for the precariousness of the world around us and, on a personal note, for the growth of his career.

“As you walk along [the painting], you get that sense of a story, of personal growth. I’ve always done large-scale sculptures and paintings. So, I wanted to do something that was so oversized it would be exciting,” he explained.

Creating such a large piece of work was not an easy feat. Due to the height of the painting, Hutchings had to raise the canvas so he didn’t have to lie on the floor to paint the canvas bottom. The artist used ladders and scaffolding to paint the top, creating a system of rollers using sono tubes to accommodate the length of the painting. The entire length of canvas was mounted on the rollers, and as he completed a section, he would roll it up and expose the next section of the blank canvas. As a result, Hutchings only got to see the finished painting in its entirety once it was installed at the Andrew & Laura McCain Art Gallery.

A crew of volunteers, led by a team from Brennan’s Home Hardware, installed the 40-foot painting. (Andrew & Laura McCain Art Gallery photo)

“I just looked up and felt in awe,” he said.

Hutchings thanked his supporters, including the Canada Council for the Arts, which, through a grant, enabled him to undertake his monumental work, which took three months to complete.

“I’m exceedingly grateful to have been able to work on something of this scale,” he said.

The exhibit will be displayed at the gallery until July 6, 2024.

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