April 2015

Charles Meanwell, “Gravel Swirl, Nanisivik,” 1991, oil on board, 60 x 80 cm. Anonymous gift, 1997

Charles Meanwell (Canadian, b. 1946)
Gravel Swirl, Nanisivik, 1991
oil on board
60 x 80 cm
Anonymous gift, 1997

Charles Meanwell is a Hamilton, Ontario-based painter known for his muted palette and pared-down compositions. He finds visual intrigue in humble subjects and in the accidental arrangements of forms he encounters in his surroundings. His landscapes—based on keen observation and usually painted en plein air—are subtle, poignant portraits of specific places.

Meanwell painted Gravel Swirl, Nanisivik after a trip to Baffin Island in June of 1991. He was enraptured by the arctic landscape’s undulating vastness and the primordial pull of the continuous summertime daylight. As the artist notes: “The gravel swirl is a remembered patch of yellow and orange, which seemed at the time to be a place where the earth started spinning.”

The sense of wonder that affected Meanwell in the Arctic is a phenomenon shared by many. However, despite its awe-inspiring beauty, land in the Arctic is often jeopardized by processes of resource extraction, such as mining. The town of Nanisivik, for example, was founded in 1975 to support the operations of a major mine. The mine closed in 2002 and the town has since been abandoned. Due to heavy lead-zinc contamination, the majority of its buildings were demolished.

Charles Meanwell was born in Windsor, Ontario in 1946. While he attended the University of Toronto and Trent University in Peterborough, he is a self-taught artist. His work is in several museum collections across Ontario including the Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Owen Sound; Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, Art Gallery of Windsor and the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie. Exhibitions include Windsor Art Gallery in 2008 and Thames Art Gallery in 2010 and a forthcoming solo show at the Georgian College Campus Gallery in Barrie in July, 2015.

This Art of the Month is presented in honour of Earth Day (April 22, 2015)