A wave of inspiration

Millvale artist Hans Wendt presents his unique watercolour take on usual objects for an exhibit at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown.

Mary MacKay comment@theguardian.pe.ca
Published on September 6, 2008

A crumpled piece of paper, a misshapen eggplant or a multi-pierced pincushion might not be the usual still life subjects for an artist to interpret.

But for Prince Edward Island artist Hans Wendt, these items blend into a collective of watercolours that is part of an ongoing singular series. And some of this ongoing body of work will be on display at the entrance gallery to the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown this fall.

A lot of painters do a series of paintings and its in a certain vein, such as portraits. . . , Wendt says. The way its been going for me is they are all connected. Its not like this batch of paintings is vegetables and this one is nudes.

Its not like that at all. In fact, there are recurring themes.

Art has always been a recurring subject in Wendts life. He grew up in Charlottetown, the son of two teachers who had a background in the arts: Lisa Wendt of Charlottetown and Conrad Wendt, now of Nova Scotia.

I have two siblings also and they encouraged us to get into creative stuff like art or dance or whatever, says Wendt, who is passing along this gentle style of creative encouragement to his two children, Zora, seven, and Fidel, three.

Memories of art in childhood date back to about the age that Zora is now.

Whenever I was in elementary school I had an art book I took to school and I drew all the time. I was just inclined that way, he remembers.

One defining family factor was outings to loads of gallery openings, some of which were at the now bygone Holland College School of Visual Arts, which had a strong presence from the 1970s to the 1990s.

Exhibitors such as Barry Jeeves, Brian Burke, Ron Arvidson and Gordon Bellamy left a lasting influence on this impressionable teen artist, as did the late Hilda Woolnough who was a huge support in his early art years.

First Barry Jeeves interested me. I took some evening courses with him, and just his whole attitude about painting was excellent. He was so enthusiastic about it. He just loved it and the way he talked. We were doing still life-type drawing and he just rambled on the whole time about how wonderful everything was. It was good, Wendt says.

(And) the thing about (Brian Burkes) work is that it was kind of the first thing I saw when I was young locally that was not just nice pictures and that was the real key. They were pretty freaky, really, and so that was important.

Wendt spent a year at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, but being that he was right out of high school he admits his heart and mind werent really into it. So he struck off in search of golden sunshine in California where he worked as a finish carpenter and met his wife, Angel McKann, who is from Los Angeles.

The couple now lives in a hexagonal home in Millvale with their two children.

In addition to selling produce from their market garden, they operate a small crocheting company called Angelbaby and sell their wares at the Farmers Market in Charlottetown.

I havent had any incentive to only do art because its not a full picture yet. So we have a couple of businesses, says Wendt.

Of course art has never really shifted off the radar. His works are also in private collections here and in Ontario, Nova Scotia, Washington, California and British Columbia.

He has had previous shows on P.E.I. and elsewhere with the installation at the entrance gallery of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery being the latest.

Hans Wendt is a committed and exceptionally talented artist, gallery director Jon Tupper said in a news release.

His multifaceted artistic production is both a means of philosophical expression and livelihood.

Wendts exhibit, which was curated by Lee Plested of San Francisco, opens on Sept. 6.

And I think (viewers are) going to see a certain fluid body of work. Theyre going to understand how it flows with the older work. It will be more obvious without being too obvious I hope, Wendt says.

Im not on an accessibility trip. Im not going out of my way to make everything accessible specifically but I think the work is accessible to people in general, even though its clearly not just pretty paintings.

Fast facts on Hans Wendt

34 years old.

Grew up in Charlottetown.

Wife is Angelica McKann; children Zora, seven, Fidel, three.

The couple runs their farm and small crocheting company, Angelbaby, from their hexagonal home in Millvale.

Previous jobs include boat builder, freelance finish carpenter, cabinet/furniture-maker, carver, potters assistant.

Hans also made multimedia performances, stage craft, sculpture and trompe loeil paintings.

Locals may know his commissioned Bruegalesque mural at Babas Lounge in Charlottetown and the notorious Spacebaby Productions, multimedia events held at The Guild in Charlottetown, P.E.I., Wake the Funk (2000), Science Friction vs. the Nostrological Shake (1999) and Hot Funk in the Summertime (1998).

His exhibit of watercolours will be on at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery from Sept. 6 until Nov. 9.