A second pandemic opening art show

The rugged skylines and shores of Georgian Bay continue to be an unending well of inspiration for Manitoulin’s own Ivan Wheale. Mr. Wheale’s opening show has always marked the beginning of the summer season for many art patrons, but the past two years have forced the opening onine.

LITTLE CURRENT—A stack of large framed oil paintings lean perched against the wall in Island artist Ivan Wheale’s livingroom. The iconic renderings of Georgian Bay scenes spring with vibrant life from their canvases ready for this year’s opening at Perivale Gallery in Spring Bay.

Mr. Wheale assures The Expositor that the pandemic hasn’t impacted his lifestyle all that much.

“I’m still up by 4 am and working in the studio,” he laughs. But he admits there are a couple more paintings this year than last amongst the pile. “Well, maybe a little bit,” said Mr. Wheale. “I do miss going to the Anchor Inn for lunch on Fridays.”

Mr. Wheale is already ahead of the game for next year as well, with four paintings already in the lineup.

“The plan is to go ahead and open the show at 7 am on the morning of May 21,” said Perivale Gallery owner Shannon McMullan. “They will be hung in the gallery previous to that and, depending on when provincial guidelines allow, we will be open weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), 10 am to 5 pm, and by appointment only Monday to Thursday, 10 am to 5 pm, for this season.”

Ms. McMullan noted that the calls start coming in at 7 am sharp, often from far afield.

“Last year the first call was from England at 7 am,” she said, but her most memorable was from a hiker high atop a hill on the Emerald Isle. “I got a call from a woman who said ‘thank God I got through’,” Ms. McMullan recalled. Apparently the woman was having challenges connecting to cell service because she was on a hike through the mountains of Ireland. “She had been desperately trying to find service because she didn’t want to miss out.”

For 40 years the opening of Perivale Gallery has been marked by the unveiling of the new works from the hand of Mr. Wheale. “My mother (Perivale’s storied co-founder Sheila McMullan) used to have Ivan’s opening on the Sunday, with the gallery opening on Friday,” she said. “I call Friday part of the weekend.”

Mr. Wheale recalled his favourite painting sale story.

“It was years ago and I was taking the largest painting I had ever done into the gallery,” he recalled. “It was huge, 18 feet long and more than six feet high. Jean (Mr. Wheale’s late wife) was on one end and I was on the other trying to wrestle the thing out of the truck and into the gallery when this guy stopped and asked me if I had painted it.” It was one of Mr. Wheale’s works from his Arctic period and featured a huge iceberg. “I told him ‘yes’ and we chatted a bit with us standing there holding the painting,” recalled Mr. Wheale. “Then the guy went into the gallery and purchased the painting before I even got it all the way in the door. Turns out he was from Imperial Oil.”

Ms. McMullan noted that last year’s online opening went very well. “I go and take photos of all of the work before the opening,” she said.

There will be a significant number of other artists’ works on the wall for the opening, as Ms. McMullan has been working with her 60-odd artists through the pandemic, providing a lifeline through her ongoing digital and social media efforts.

“It helps a lot to have a great list of clients on hand,” she said. “We work closely with both our artists and our patrons to provide a great match.”

Of course, the provincial guidelines will have an impact on the opening plans, so stay tuned.