Look Both Ways and look twice: Steve Mennie's abstract works, with their bright colors and textures, alongside his homages to Italian artist Alberto Burri contrast with his hyper-realistic panels – both of them grounded in an awareness of the abstract nature of all painting. In a range of styles and mediums, Mennie is not your average one-hit-wonder artist. Unafraid of taking risks, he skillfully navigates across themes, bringing a show that demands the viewer's attention to find the connections among the multiple stories he's telling.
A highlight of the show, Mennie's Gee's Bends quilts series, evokes the quilting tradition that goes back to the 19th century. At that time, influenced by patterned African textiles, enslaved women from the rural, isolated community of Boykin, Alabama, pieced together strips of cloth to make bedcovers.
"I found the photo reproductions [of the Gee's Bends] immediately compelling and appealing because they presented a means of "stitching together" seemingly random and unconnected shapes, textures, and content in a culturally recognized format that lay outside the normative context of 'abstract' painting." – Steve Mennie
Throughout the postbellum years and into the 20th century, Gee's Bend women made quilts to keep themselves and their children warm in unheated shacks that lacked running water, telephones, and electricity. Along the way, they developed a distinctive style, noted for its lively improvisations and geometric simplicity.
Steve Mennie was born in 1945 in Revelstoke, British Columbia, and graduated in 1968 from the Ontario College of Art, in Toronto, Ontario. Before returning to BC, in 1970, he worked as a freelance illustrator in Toronto for two years. Mennie has worked in various media, including hand-pulled silkscreen, acrylic, oil, and watercolor. His exhibition and his statement show just that:
"The most cogent thing I can say about my practice (which I have been involved in for some fifty years) is this: after all these years spent creating images I have become more and more thankful that my particular form of OCD (self-diagnosed) has, thus far, been channelled into a socially accepted and, on occasion, rewarding behaviour." – Steve Mennie
Mennie exhibited since the 1970’s both nationally and internationally, and his works are part of major corporate and public collections across Canada. Also, he has been commissioned twice by Canada Post to design commemorative postage stamps.