Local artist has first gallery showing

Rudy Norman
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Graham Matthews grew up all over the Green Bay. He’s lived in South Brook, Baie Verte, La Scie, and for the past few years he’s settled with his family in Pacquet.
Despite his travelling ways, though, Matthews has had a love for art for as long as he can remember, and, for the past 15 years, it’s had him in a semi-professional career.
“I always loved to draw, mostly,” he said. “I would be sketching and drawing growing up, and that’s where everything really started.”

Eventually, his passion for artistry prompted him to pursue it through education.

“I went to school and did a four-year art program,” he said, graduating from Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook with a Bachelors of Fine/Visual Arts in 1999. However, his love for rural Newfoundland and Labrador meant his likelihood of putting his art education to use in a professional career was unlikely.

Matthews said he knew if he wanted to be successful in the art world, it would have to be a long ways away from the home he’d come to know and love.

“With that stuff, you can only really be successful if you’re in a bigger centre on the mainland, somewhere,” he explained. “I knew that, and I knew that’s not where I wanted to live for the rest of my life.”

The hunger for saltwater overtook the taste for worldwide fame, and Matthews set off to return home, with his artistry education, talents and desires in tow. His destination — Green Bay.

“I went home and went to work, and first I went to work in a fiberglass plant, and then in the fish plant,” he said. “I wanted to be home, because I love rural Newfoundland and I don’t want to live anywhere else.”

However, no matter where he lived, and no matter how much the unlikelihood existed of becoming a famous artist, Matthews didn’t let that deter his love for the craft and kept at it constantly.

“I’d usually work in the summertime, and then when we were off during the winter, I’d just paint all the time,” he said. “I loved it, because I love to express myself through art, and it was a great opportunity for me to get better and perfect it.”

Because of his upbringing, and perhaps his new career choice, a theme started to form in the young artist’s works.

“People are going to see a lot of stuff in my paintings from the things I’m influenced by,” he said. “I guess growing up near the water, and working in a fish plant, it’s no surprise that I do a lot of paintings relating to the fishery.”

Matthews has put the brush to canvas to create unique and interesting takes on the province’s oldest industry. His versions of fishing vessels in the harbour, lobster pots in a pile, or even a school of cod fish trying to escape the food fishery are not only pleasing to the eyes, but also speak to the artist’s unique take on the world around him.

Despite his many years of painting, though, Matthews still hasn’t been able to find his footing in the art world.

“I haven’t sold that much over the years,” he said. “I’ve sold some portraits and sketches, and some people have asked me to do some stuff for them, but I’ve never really done anything big until now.”

Matthews isn’t working at the fish plant in La Scie anymore, because it’s been closed for the past couple of years. However, when one door closes, another opens, and the rural artist may have finally caught his break.

A few months ago, JL Gallery, an art gallery in Corner Brook, called asking if he’d like to display his work as part of an exhibition.

Matthews jumped at the chance, and said he looks at it as his first big opportunity to get his work out there for more people to see.

“I guess up until now it’s been a bit of a self confidence issue,” he said. “I just didn’t think my stuff was good enough for something like this, so when they called me it was great.”

The show is called Out of the Bay, and Matthews had his grand opening last week. His biggest surprise, though, was when he sold his first painting during the debut.

“You don’t usually do that,” he said. “People don’t come out and buy art on the first day, so when I sold a piece the first day, I was a bit shocked, but really happy, too.”

If you’d like to view some of Graham Matthews’ artwork, drop by JL Gallery in Corner Brook, or you can visit the artist online at www.grahammatthewsart.com.

Organizations: Sir Wilfred Grenfell College

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador, Green Bay La Scie

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