Gerald Squires, one of Newfoundland and Labrador’s most distinguished artists, passed away Saturday (October 3, 2015) at the age of 77 after battling cancer.
He was an artist who found inspiration from the landscape of this place, it was fitting than that it was the landscape that gave him comfort at the end. Squires, the subject of a new film that will be released in 2017 by Kenneth J. Harvey ‘I Heard the Birch Tree Whisper in the Night’ told the producer:
“I was told I was sick by a birch tree …. It was getting late in the evening… I knew something was wrong. I looked out my window at the birch trees, they were shivering …. Suddenly my mind accepted the reality of being sick …. “
Filmmaker and fellow-artist Kenneth J. Harvey is working on a film about Squires and his work, to be released in 2017.”I Heard the Birch Tree Whisper in the Night” Please take time to view: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-z1TsLgUh8Q&sns=em
Born in Change Islands, Newfoundland, in 1937, he took his early art training in Toronto, where his family moved when he was 12. Growing up, Squires and his family moved often as his mother worked as an officer with the Salvation Army.
He wrote about his mother:
“During the darkness and despair of the first round of chemo, I got fixated on my Mother who died some twenty years ago, my thoughts kept returning to my childhood, to our life together… We loved each very much, we shared many in conversations, concerning Christianity and the things of God, my first influence.”
He returned here with his wife and daughters 20 years later, and settled in 1971 in the lighthouse-keeper’s house in Ferryland.
Much of Squires’ painting has an overtly spiritual quality. Early symbolic works such as The Wanderer, The Boatman, and Cassandra were followed by a major commission from Mary Queen of the World Parish in Mount Pearl: two triptychs and The Stations of the Cross. It is also home to the celebrated Last Supper where Squires casts his friends as the disciples. He often joked that he was the unofficial Catholic artist with major commissions for the Sisters of Mercy, St. Clare’s Mercy Hospital and the Basilica Cathedral.
In subsequent years Squires has concentrated on landscape; the origins of this interest go back at least to the Ferryland Downs paintings of the late 1970s.
Among his many honours, Gerald Squires was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy and appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1999, received the Golden Jubilee Award from Her Majesty the Queen in 2003 and was inducted in the Newfoundland and Labrador Art Council’s Hall of Honor in 2008. A major retrospective of the artist’s work was mounted by the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador in 1998, and in September 2008 a solo exhibit “My Lanscape” was held at the Granary Gallery in Waterford, Ireland. Gerald Squires: Newfoundland Artist, by Des Walsh and Susan Jamieson, was published in 1995 and in 2009 Breakwater Books Publishing came out with the artbook “Where Genesis Begins” including 71 artworks by Squires and 37 poems by his good friend Tom Dawe.
Gerald Squires has lived in Holyrood with his wife Gail since 1983.
The Rooms was working with Mr. Squires curating a major retrospective of his work that will open in 2017.