PRESS RELEASE and Revue of last show Aug 2016 Halifax NS

Unforgettable: The everyday wonder of artist Andre Haines

Scenes from Nova Scotia and around the world abound in the intimate portraits and landscapes of Indelible Moments, at Halifax's Art Zone Gallery until Aug. 6.



Andre Haines has created an unforgettable series of artworks for his show Indelible Moments, now at Halifax's Art Zone Gallery. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Local Xpress)

He sits at the keyboard, his supple fingers sending a cascade of melody into the crowded, light-filled Halifax gallery.

Then he switches to a rollicking song that sounds as if a vaudeville number got together with a heady blend of jazz and ragtime; the witty lyrics praise a partner who doesn't mind doing dishes or whipping up a little something for dinner.

It's not uncommon to include live music at an art opening, but this reception, for the Andre Haines show Indelible Moments, at the Art Zone Gallery, is just a little bit different.

That's because Haines himself is performing the tunes — Paris Suite and Great Guy — which he also wrote.

Haines doesn't play and sing the whole time — Halifax musician Lisa MacDougall does the honours for most of the afternoon — but the surprising, delightful interlude also serves as a reminder of the artist's roots as a song-and-dance man, musician and actor. Before finding his vocation as a painter, he studied musical theatre at Acadia and Mount Allison universities and at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in New York, and performed everywhere from off-Broadway to Neptune Theatre.

"I discovered that I'm a creator more than an interpreter," says the lively, energetic artist, sitting in gallery owner Mohamed Ahmed's spacious office as MacDougall's dulcet tones waft through the gallery.

"I do still keep my hand in as a composer, and I teach music as well as art to young people, but visual art is really my focus now. I'm usually up by 4 a.m. because I love the quality of those early-morning hours that really inspire creation."

Haines, who shares a home in Bedford with his partner of 31 years, Gregory Watters, has travelled widely and lived in varied communities, from his birthplace of Toronto, to his adolescence in Yarmouth and later years in Martins River before moving to HRM.

His fondness for people and places informs the paintings, sculptures and installations of Indelible Moments, and these creations of colour, light and contour invite the viewer to experience a passion for everyday moments transfigured by the artist's gaze. And the movement in all his work is a testament to his musical identity.

Come Fly With Me, a large canvas showing two boys in a huge red balloon amid dappled rainbow-hued sky and tiny blue houses, offers a soaring, wondrous invitation; the gritty dark-hued shades of Halifax Street beckon the pedestrian in all of us; Studio Nap, with its recumbent figure surrounded by canvases, asks us to become painters ourselves, experiencing the joy of creation. 

Landscapes show skilful composition and clear, strong coloration, as in Shag Harbour, with its splashes of purple, pink and white wildflowers below blue-windowed white houses reflecting the deeper blue of the ocean. A tiny painting, Apple Blossoms, conjures, in just a few strokes, a whole orchard of scents and masses of gleaming white flowers. And a similar microcosmic effect is achieved in Land, Ocean, Sun, a sandstone sculpture in which touches of colour and line summon an entire seascape.

Haines is a confident, instinctual and adept painter who is unafraid to show his influences in works that suggest, but never imitate, admired and beloved artists.

The long, red, flowing hair of Woman on Bike, Amsterdam, immediately calls to mind the portraits of Chagall, yet Haines displays his own, inimitable coloration (the cyclist wears yellow shoes and green socks) and immediacy of composition that asks us to step onto the faraway street and maybe grab a bike ourselves.

His impressionistic Windmill, with its swirls of colour in sky and field, holds more than a hint of van Gogh — yet here, too, the touchable quality of the scene is pure Haines. 

The straight, simple, bright coloration and shapes of The Ferry Ride to P.E.I. are reminiscent of Dufy, but again Haines has made the scene his own with figures at the rail that seem to be moving with the motion of the boat.

Then there are works so personal that no associations with other painters emerge.

A self-portrait, Andre with Green Onions, evokes a tender, whimsical moment in beautifully minimal, eloquent lines, while Cats and Daffodils is saturated with earthy colour contrasted with a sophisticated composition.

One of the show's most striking pieces is Woman in Paris with Cat and Cigarette, which evolved from an experience Haines had while visiting the French capital. He saw an elderly lady in a black lace dress; she was sitting quietly smoking, as a cat sat in her lap.

The large painting does so much more than simply render the salient features of the scene — gaunt woman with a thatch of red hair; cigarette in hand; fluffy feline reposing. There is immense respect and compassion in this portrait: a dignity glows around the figure; her manicured fingers and proud head signify elegance; and the white cat, scruffy as it is, looks well-loved.

An indelible moment among many in this remarkable collection.

Indelible Moments is at the Art Zone Gallery, 1673 Barrington St., second floor, until Aug. 6. The gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 1-5 p.m.