Gene Ward, artist uninterrupted

Artistic expressions in South Dundas series.

The Leader’s Wendy Gibb has undertaken a series of articles focusing on the visual artists who live and create here in our own community, discussing with them how their work and experiences may have been “influenced” by the “new reality” of a COVID world. Many of the artists also discuss how they perceive the future of the arts post pandemic. Previously featured were artists Jan Mills and Elsie Gallinger. Those articles can now be found online at morrisburgleader.ca. This week Gibb spoke with Gene Ward.

IROQUOIS – Gene Ward is both an accomplished artist and an accomplished musician.

“Even if I take a few days off,” he said, “I must go back and paint. I must make music. It’s like a drive inside. I simply have to open up to the magic of music and art.”

Like artists of every persuasion, Gene Ward, a resident of Iroquois, has had to cope with the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a person living with physical limitations, he has, unfortunately, been cut off from his accessibility to normal life in the community, unable for some time now to visit friends, to go to restaurants and gathering places. These social restrictions have not been easy.

“However,” Gene said, “COVID has not cramped my style. Mine is a somewhat solitary existence anyway, so the lock downs have just not slowed me down. I have found myself working steadily. I have actually created four new paintings in the last three months. Frankly, if these lockdowns keep up much longer, I am going to run out of walls to hang my new works,” he laughed.

He is not a person very interested in the internet.

“I don’t use the internet to connect with other artists. Frankly, I am not comfortable with going online. For me, the real joy of painting is self-discovery.”

He also chooses not to show his art online (although he did purchase a domain name), because he feels that physically, it would just not be possible for him to carry out the work involved in selling a piece online.

“If people wanted to purchase a piece, trying to ship it to locations possibly anywhere in the world, would just be too difficult for me. There are just too many considerations.”

Gene also feels strongly that the viewer has to be part of a painting. “There are no animals, no birds, no humans in my paintings,” he explained. “There are no distractions for the viewer. I want a person to walk up to one of my works, to make a personal connection with it, possibly to project himself into the painting.”

Consequently, the lockdowns and shut downs, and the end of studio tours have been difficult.

He misses talking with others during shows, and on the patios. Yet art, he feels, can also be a way to cope with hard realities. “People need to see, to think, to create a dialogue with the art work. I believe art can take people away from the latest crisis. A person can just sit and choose to stare at a painting, simply “imagining” himself away from trouble.”

Gene has worked steadily during the pandemic.

He recently finished a work entitled White Swan Lake that “I struggled with for five years. And then, suddenly, I finished it in one sitting. The spectacular east coast mountain in the background, a lake in front. I used cobalt blues and whites under the water, to create volume and feeling, and, just like that, it all worked. The pieces supported each other.”

Gene paints abstracts. His landscapes come “not from photography, but out of my soul. I sit down in front of a blank canvas, and a few hours later, a painting appears.”

Currently artist Gene Ward has “four guitars and five canvases on the go. The way I see it, art is a bit like performing. You just can’t go on for long without them.”

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