Small art makes big visual splash at Wortley Village gallery

Small art makes big visual splash at Wortley Village gallery

Hundreds of works from 250 aspiring and professional local artists are now on display at a gallery in London’s Wortley Village, all with two things in common.

They’re all one-square-foot in size, and they’re all for sale.

The 11th annual Square Foot Show kicked off Wednesday afternoon at the Westland Gallery with a grand opening event. The exhibit runs until the end of December and features more than 450 works of art that cover the gallery’s walls from floor to ceiling.

“There’s a huge range of mediums on display. Painting and drawing, of course, but also photography, collage, mixed media, and encaustic,” said Danielle Hoevenaars, Westland Gallery’s director.

“All the artwork will be staying on display for the first week of the exhibition, so if you want to get that full Square Foot Show experience, come on in the next few days.”

The show predominantly includes work from local artists, but Hoevenaars says people from other provinces and countries are also participating. They include everything from emerging artists who’ve never had their work displayed, to seasoned artists who have practised professionally for years.

“It’s a great opportunity for all these artists to come together for one community exhibition… There’s been a number of artists that we’ve been introduced to their work through the exhibition, and we’ve gone on to have great relationships with them over time.”

Dan Rock is among the emerging artists whose work is displayed as part of the Square Foot Show at Westland Gallery in London, Ont. Rock painted the two pieces to his right,  a toucan and a Collingwood landscape, using acrylic on canvas.
Dan Rock is among the emerging artists whose work is displayed as part of the Square Foot Show at Westland Gallery in London, Ont. Rock painted the two pieces to his right, a toucan and a Collingwood landscape, using acrylic on canvas. (Matthew Trevithick/CBC News)

Among the emerging artists is Dan Rock, who has two paintings in the show, both made with acrylic on canvas. 

One is of a toucan on a tree branch in the tropics, while the other is a landscape of Collingwood in the summer, featuring a lush forest and a pond, based off a photograph he had taken.

“I’m working on a triptych, which is like three canvases beside each other, and it’s of the same pond,” Rock said. “The other one, my daughter likes toucans, so I painted a toucan.”

Rock, a musician and Beer Store staffer, says he painted in his teens but took a lengthy 20-year hiatus from it.

He says he started picking up the brush again thanks to his 14-year-old daughter.

“My daughter likes to paint, so she kind of forced my hand… I showed her some of my old stuff, and she encouraged me to pursue that. If you’re good at it, you might as well try doing that,” he said.

“I find it calming… I think I got about five hours of painting into [the two paintings]. It flew by really quick. I hadn’t done it for a long time. I’d actually never painted a landscape before.”

Painter Gail Gifford points toward her two pieces at the Square Foot Show, taking place this month at the Westland Gallery in London, Ont. Gifford's two pieces are of tulips, both painted using oil on canvas.
Painter Gail Gifford points toward her two pieces at the Square Foot Show, taking place this month at the Westland Gallery in London, Ont. Gifford’s two pieces are of tulips, both painted using oil on canvas. (Matthew Trevithick/CBC News)

Londoner Gail Gifford also has two pieces in the show, both of tulips made with oil on canvas. 

“I’ve been in a flower thing lately… I love tulips,” she said. 

“These ones here are orangey and yellow. I did another series that are all bright yellow, and I’ve done another series, and they’re all white… I’m probably gonna go on to landscapes next.”

Gifford attended Fanshawe College for advertising art, and worked at a sign company doing illustrations and construction drawings. Later, she says she used her artistic eye in the floral department of a local grocery store.

Like Rock, Gifford saw painting pushed off the priorities list by the demands of life. 

Now retired, she says she got back into painting about a decade ago, has submitted art to the Square Foot Show every year, and has sold several works.

“It showcases a lot of talent in London,” she said of the show. “It’s interesting, it’s diverse.”

The 2023 edition of the annual exhibit at Westland Gallery in London, Ont. features more than 450 pieces of art from roughly 250 artists, most of them local.
The 2023 edition of the annual exhibit at Westland Gallery in London, Ont. features more than 450 pieces of art from roughly 250 artists, most of them local. (Matthew Trevithick/CBC News)

All artwork at the show is viewable online and for sale. Prices start at $150, with each artist pricing their own work based on time and materials used.

In the gallery, sold pieces are designated with a coloured sticker on the artwork label. Within an hour of the show opening, numerous pieces had coloured stickers.

“One so far. I’m probably going to stay, and my wife will probably come back to look,” said Wortley Village resident Dave Turnbull when asked how many pieces he had purchased.

“I’m sort of at the end of the road for this kind of show because I hardly have any room for small paintings. I’ve already got unhung ones at home.”

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