Skip to Content

Art Gallery of Ontario

Keyword Site Search

Art Matters Blog

Rex Murphy and David Blackwood in Conversation (Audio)

May 6th, 2011

David Blackwood's Sick Captain Returning
Click to play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 40.1 MB MP3

Recorded: Wednesday, April 27, 7 pm @ Baillie Court
Duration: 01:23:26

David Blackwood, one of Canada’s leading printmakers and most popular artists, was born in 1941 in the outport town of Wesleyville to a family with a long seafaring history. He has been telling stories about Newfoundland in the form of epic visual narratives for 30 years. He will be joined in conversation by fellow Newfoundlander, writer, broadcaster and teacher Rex Murphy. Murphy is a regular contributor to CBC’s The National, writes a weekly column for The National Post and is the author of the book, Points of View, a collection of his columns and commentaries.

David Blackwood (Canadian, b.1941), Sick Captain Returning, 1973, etching, aquatint and drypoint on wove paper, 92.2 x 61.9 cm (imp.). Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999, Acc.no.99/933. © 2010 David Blackwood.

Blackwood on the Tradition of Mummering (Audio)

March 2nd, 2011

Blackwood talks about key aspects of his prints – Newfoundland’s long tradition of mummering.

Duration: 00:02:29

Click to play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 1.1 MB MP3

David Blackwood, Lone Mummer Inside

Lone Mummer Inside, 1979
etching and aquatint on wove paper
61.0 x 91.4 cm
Given by friends in memory of Norman Bruce Walford, chief of administration and corporate secretary, Art Gallery of Ontario, 1981–1989, in appreciation of his devotion to the arts, 1994
93/415

Still from the National Film Board documentary

Film still from NFB’s Blackwood

Mummers
Ritual visiting lies at the heart of Newfoundland culture. Early settlers brought this tradition, known as mummering, from England and Ireland. Between Christmas and Epiphany, members of the community visited each other’s homes, usually in groups. Mummers disguised their appearance – at times using lace curtains – as well as their voice. But an encounter that began with threatening undercurrents ended with drinking and seasonal good cheer, as mummers entertained their hosts with music in the kitchen while their hosts attempted to identify them. Mummering began to die out after Confederation in 1949, but was revived in the mid-1970s following the release of a National Film Board documentary.


Blackwood Ancestors (Audio)

February 22nd, 2011

Blackwood talks about key aspects of his prints – his ancestors who were sea captains.

Duration: 00:02:28

Click to play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 1.1 MB MP3

S.S. Imogene Leaving for the Icefields, 1973

S.S. Imogene Leaving for the Icefields, 1973
etching and aquatint on wove paper
58.1 x 87.4 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999
99/930

The SS Imogene
The SS Imogene has close personal associations for Blackwood – it was captained by his grandfather. Each spring the ship left St. John’s for the Labrador icefields. The sealers on board hoped to earn much-needed cash, yet dreaded the potential dangers ahead – bitter cold, fog, powerful waves, crushing ice and gale-force winds. Departures were particularly poignant, as many sealers never returned.

In 1933 the SS Imogene brought in a record number of seals. Twelve years later the ship hit a sandbank and sank. Its bell and flag were rescued and are on display in this exhibition.


Blackwood’s Bonavista Bay

February 15th, 2011

Wesleyville, Bonavista Bay
No subject has inspired Blackwood more than the isolated outport of Wesleyville on Bonavista Bay, where he was born and raised. While he now makes his home in Ontario, Blackwood returns to northeastern Newfoundland every year to work in his Wesleyville studio. Through his prints he keeps alive the memory of his hardy ancestors, the places where they lived and worked, and a way of life that all but disappeared after Confederation (1949) and resettlement.

For more than a century, the settlers of this town (immigrants from the West of England) battled the Atlantic Ocean, struggling to make a living in the seal hunt and cod fishery. The violent storms, looming icebergs, bone-chilling cold and isolation that they encountered permeate Blackwood’s imagery.

David Blackwood, Hauling Job Sturges House

Hauling Job Sturges House, 1979
etching and aquatint on wove paper
43.9 x 88 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999
99/948

Bragg’s Island, Bonavista Bay
“The Newfoundland that we knew is no longer there,” Blackwood once said. This comment is particularly relevant to the fishing outport of Bragg’s Island, where as a child he spent most of his summers with his maternal grandparents. He remembers Bragg’s Island fondly – the sense of community and the inhabitants’ self-reliance, confidence and industry. In the early 1950s, however, his world was shattered by the provincial government’s resettlement policies. The entire town was forcibly uprooted to join a community on the mainland, in part to provide them with better social services. In his prints Blackwood draws on memories, letters, photographs and even personal belongings to express this loss and to reclaim the Newfoundland of his youth.

David Blackwood, Vigil on Bragg’s Island

Vigil on Bragg’s Island, 1973
etching and aquatint on wove paper
61.8 x 92.1 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 1999
99/931

David Blackwood on Storytelling (Audio)

February 10th, 2011

David Blackwood’s prints are a metaphor for the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. Set before our time, his images depict Newfoundland as a place of struggle, danger and tragedy. They tell stories of a barren land, a hostile climate and a threatening sea. Drawing on childhood memories, dreams, legends and oral histories, Blackwood captures the hardships of the cod fishery and the seal hunt in the land of his ancestors. Life is fragile, and death by drowning or exposure ever-present. Yet the earnest, hard-working, God-fearing people of Bonavista Bay persevere in a menacing world.

Blackwood talks about a key aspect of his prints – the role of storytelling.

Duration: 00:01:20

Click to play:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download 636 KB MP3

David Blackwood, Great Lost Party Adrift

Great Lost Party Adrift, 1971
etching and aquatint on wove paper
62 x 92.3 cm
Gift of David and Anita Blackwood, Port Hope, Ontario, 2008
2008/278

Up Close and Personal (Video)

February 4th, 2011

By: David Wistow, Interpretive Planner

It’s not every day you can get inside an artist’s mind. In the Blackwood exhibition there are three short films, all included with admission. They really give you a sense of the man, his unique etching technique, and the rock and sea of Newfoundland that inspired him. The first film dates from 1976. (Blackwood still has black hair!). It concentrates on the artist’s amazing skills as an etcher. The second features an interview conducted by Blackwood’s fellow Newfoundlander, CBC celebrity Rex Murphy (2008) and talk of the tough life of sealers and fishermen. The third, produced by the AGO, documents the artist’s 2009 trip to Bonavista Bay and the Newfoundland of his youth. The footage is mouthwatering. It makes you want to go there.

Total running time on continuous loop: 55 minutes

Black Ice: David Blackwood Prints of Newfoundland, opens this Saturday February 5.

David Blackwood Book Signing, February 2nd 2011

January 14th, 2011

Meet Canadian artist David Blackwood at the launch of Black Ice: David Blackwood – Prints of Newfoundland – the companion catalogue to the exhibition running February 5th to June 12th, 2011.

Pick up your copy and have it signed Wednesday, February 2nd in shopAGO between 5:00 pm and 7:00 pm.

The 224-page volume, edited by Katharine Lochnan, features 115 colour plates and an international, interdisciplinary approach to Blackwood’s works, including essays by Lochnan, geologists Derek Wilton and Martin Feely, historian Sean Cadigan, folklorist Caoimhe Ní Shúilleabháin, art critic Gary Michael Dault, and novelist Michael Crummey. Black Ice will be available to purchase at shopAGO in February, or online here.