Steve R. Coffey Artist Statement
I'm a sky watcher. I'm a curious onlooker. I study light and the optics of illusion. I love the art of storytelling. I love colour. I'm drawn to patterned intricacies of land and atmospheric abstractions of sky. I'm drawn to the mystery of our own existence somewhere in between. My impressions are presented in oil on canvas. And with lyric and a guitar.
Outtake from a gallery interview in 2022~
I'm originally from Winnipeg, Manitoba but moved to Alberta at a young age. My upbringing was a bit of a wild ride- Musician, hard living, Air Force father- Farm girl, independently strong mother. Soldier blood further back across the board. Father's side- military, music..and booze. My dad's dad was shot in the face at Vimy Ridge in France only to survive and get hit by a train in Canada (railroad man). The Coffey clan origins are County Cork, Ireland. Mother's side were of Scottish/Irish, Norwegian decent and were Western Canadian homesteaders. They raised their 9 kids in a tent for a few years of her upbringing while my Grandad built a house. Hard times. My mom left home at 13 and eventually landed in the air force where she met my Dad. They wound up in Germany where my Dad began playing music for Canadian Forces Radio.
The rest is history.
Anyways...I was an angry kid. Broken home. Raised literally on the other side of the tracks. The train rolled through my bedroom every night to the point where I couldn't sleep without it. I used art as an outlet. Hence why I'm an advocate for mandatory art in schools and art therapy for troubled kids. All that said, My dear Mom raised us 5 kids the best she could with a (eventually physically debilitating) seamstress living and plenty of love. In search of myself after leaving home at 14 I hung on at grade school until I was eventually thrown out for selling spliffs and arguing with the art teacher. I travelled back and forth to Winnipeg and worked construction but missed my brothers and sisters and returned to Alberta where I first became a tradesman (power engineering) then eventually wound up in art school against all odds where I flourished in creativity and partying. It was the Eighties, what can I say? But eventually creativity won the day and addictions began taking a back seat and were finally thrown clear from my old beater car.
I'm a fortunate man. I have a band. I travel the world, I fell deeply in love and married a prima ballerina who pushed me to grow up and raise my art bar. We have two beautiful daughters that are now grown and succeeding in life, an old cat and a crazy lab. We live in Southern Alberta in a hundred some year old house with a few friendly ghosts and starry skies.
My drug of choice is art making.
With strong prairie roots I've the deepest respect with gratitude to the First Peoples of the great plains, past and present. This patch of Mother Earth fills my senses and fuels my attempts at reflecting it's powerful light, shimmer and rhythm in paint.
I was first trained as a sculptor with a leaning toward formalism and abstraction but in the end my voice wasn't being fully realized in that three dimensional world. So, by way of my love for drawing of the figure and landscape to my attraction to colour and gesture I made the leap to oil paint in 1995.
My paintings are mental snapshots. I don't paint from photographs and I seldom paint plein air. Essentially I gather what strikes me, file it away in my head and draw on it in my studio. These mental files I call ‘Memory Polaroids’ of which I think of as a mingling of what's around me with a subconscious inkling of perception of what was, similar to the otherworldly quality of a polaroid picture. This process offers me the freedom to step outside a more traditional palette into what I consider to be the real nature's abstraction.
I'm a storyteller. I'm a self taught musician and singer songwriter and music is in my blood. I was literally raised with it penetrating my walls next to my father's rehearsal space. I consider my music to simply be an extention of my paint palette. I only practice it with different tools. I consider poetry and melody as tubes of paint as are the collaborating musicians that texturize, nuance and spark my music canvas. As with paint and it's each individual personality I am also drawn to the walking breathing versions :o))- Artists in their own right using me equally as a hue for their own brush. We have forged lasting friendships over the years and I am grateful.
The reverse can also be said regarding music and visual art: melody and poetry inform my canvas and often I'll replace the language of visual art with that of music composition. For me a painting with rhythm, tempo, swells, beats, harmony, verse, chorus and crescendo have a much higher likelihood of succeeding in the theater of optics. And why not? The ear and the eye are close neighbours.
In the end I would hope that my work triggers the feeling of familiarity, that somewhere at sometime the viewer has seen or felt this; a familiar mystery that lives on the tip of the tongue. I would hope that my work is accessible for simply what it is; a painting or song left to interpretation with no tricks.
-Steve R. Coffey.
“My only defense against fate (is) color”.
American Painter - Larry Poons: