Perry Patterson’s “absolutely joyous” new paintings on show in Gore Bay

Perry Patterson’s soft pastel paintings in the Harbour Centre’s gallery exhibition entitled ‘Sweet Peas’ replicate what it is like to see a field full of the old-fashioned scented blooms that never fail to inspire a feeling of nostalgia.  Photo by Isobel Harry.

GORE BAY—For the first time in over two years, the ground floor gallery in Gore Bay’s Harbour Centre is alive with art. Perry Patterson’s new exhibition entitled ‘Sweet Peas,’ encircling the gallery’s large room with the floor to ceiling windows overlooking sweeping views of the bay and the East Bluff, opened here on November 18.

Covering the walls and spilling onto tables and easels, the artist’s tender-coloured acrylic paintings fill the space with his interpretations of the delicate, luminous flowers that climb up vine-like stems and scent the country air with heady aromas of jasmine and honey all summer long.

There’s a roadside patch of these beautiful blooms on the drive down into Gore Bay; they appear suddenly each year in a nondescript grassy area and catch the eye with their soft hues, vines rambling along the ground like wild escapees from civilization.

“I drove by this sweet pea patch every day, twice a day, on my way to work and back,” says the artist. “For eight years. One day, I thought, ‘I’ll paint these’.”

Perry Patterson’s first-ever exhibition of paintings was in 2018 at the Gore Bay Museum. ‘Abstractions’ was much different in mood, he says: “It was a little darker, it looked inward; passing by those sweet peas gave me a more joyful idea. After the whole world went through COVID, this vision of sweet peas was like the light at the end of a long, awful tunnel.”

Using brushes and spray paint, Mr. Patterson works at home, preferably outside on his balcony or, if indoors, on an old Hoosier cabinet given to him by his mother. Popular in the 1920s, the kitchen cupboard style has a pull-out tabletop that is ideal as a painting surface and it’s here and outdoors that Perry set to work for the better part of a year to “convey my impressions of how the flowers looked close-up.”

The paintings in the gallery installation replicate what it is like to see a field full of the old-fashioned blooms that never fail to inspire a feeling of nostalgia. In that spirit, the artist has titled the canvases with feminine names that were common in the 1800s and 1900s, perhaps also evoking the era’s tins of ‘Sweet Pea’ talcum powder that women loved, like his grandmother Gertrude, his aunt Beatrice, or queens of old, like Victoria and Isabella.

The paintings glow with a silvery sheen or have a texture like crackling on distressed furniture, a process he painstakingly applies over a black base coat to further enhance the old-time feeling. The nubbly texture is important to him, says the artist, so that his visually impaired friends can also enjoy his work; he encourages viewers to touch the paintings if they are so inclined.

The backgrounds to the tangles of green tendrils are creamy in colour, or of the palest sage green or softest sky blue, making the pastel mauve and pink blossoms pop out like little butterflies in flight.

“This is absolutely joyous!” says Nicole Weppler, director of the Gore Bay Museum and of the Harbour Centre. “Out of so many difficulties of the last two years comes this very enchanting show.”

After eight years of driving to and from work up and down the hill in town and glancing each summer day at the patch of sweet peas, Perry Patterson found new employment. “In my new job as manager of the Inn at Gore Bay, suddenly I was interacting with people from all over, from Europe, Ireland, everywhere. I was reminded that there’s a whole world out there; the world wasn’t shut down any more. There was joy in seeing people again and meeting them inspired a brand new perspective and fresh, new thinking about art.”

‘Sweet Peas,’ Paintings by Perry Patterson is on through March, 2023 at The Harbour Centre, 40 Lighthouse Road, Gore Bay. Closed from Christmas Day until Tuesday, January 3, 2023, the show is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 am to 4 pm.