Jack Shadbolt 1990 Essay on Geoff Rees

This is an essay Jack Shadbolt wrote for Geoff Rees in 1990 before his exhibition with Buschlen Mowatt. At the time Geoff was teaching at Emily Carr, and soon to retire in 1992 after his 35 years of teaching career. Being a dear friend of Geoff, Shadbolt writes vividly about Geoff’s art practice and personality, it is accurate and poignant.

“Geoff Rees is a quester – one of those rare and gentle temperaments in search of a truth beyond the actualities of everyday living. For him there is no absolute didactic answer to the ancient question, “What am I, whither am I going?” There is only the seeking.

His relation to art manifests this. There is only the process of art, the intimations of mystery in what is evoked by the way forms move together to find their accord, the “sea changes” they go through to accommodate. His paintings seem to be seeking a configuration. His forms seem to have passed through the spirit and emerge cleansed and illumined by an inner light. His paintings are calm, awaiting resolution, inviting the viewer to share with him a reflection on the nature of just being.

In his search his pores are wide open. He responds to music, poetry, literature, and mythology – and above all, to human warmth. Yet, under this gentle surface, he is tough-minded and persistent with the inner strength to hold to a vision without reliance on external acclaim. His paintings are necessarily large because he needs to be lost in them; and abstract because he deals with states of realization; and his definition of form is loose because he does not court finalities. His movement is floating rather than structurally dynamic, because he is not aggressive. His colour is radiant rather than decorative, and cool rather than flamboyant: it remains just this side of the white mixing film, so the light is rather silvery and distant. Only recently has he begun to tighten up the compositional stress toward more imposing configuration. His output in both notebook studies and canvas is prodigious.

To help keep his inner equipoise, and as a relief from the analysis demanded by teaching, he has traveled to cultures where the non-rational approach to comprehending the world is uppermost. I recall that immediately after graduation from the former Vancouver School of Art, he set out on a motor trip across Europe and Asia as far as Afghanistan and in recent years he has spent time in New Guinea, North Africa, Sri Lanka, India and other places. Although his mind and sympathetic personality have made him a good teacher of the art spirit, he is himself a perpetual student. It is a pleasure to see him finally exhibiting.”

Jack Shadbolt

January 23, 1990

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