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Powerful series of new etchings by Dan Steeves explores light and dark

January 30, 2013

The Memory of Pain now on exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery

(Charlottetown, P.E.I.) – The past three decades of the career of printmaker Dan Steeves have been punctuated by his evolving exploration of the theme of how good and evil battle over the souls of the living. Through his deeply expressive etchings interpreting the land and people of the region around the Bay of Fundy, Steeves probes the natures of temptation and redemption. By using familiar examples - a delivery vehicle, a home nestled on its comfortable lot, the rocks and cliffs eroded by Fundy's tides – the artist depicts the struggle to find meaning, truth and salvation in the pursuits of daily life.       

Dan Steeves: The Memory of Pain, now on exhibition at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, includes 23 very characteristic, black and white prints that also deal with an intensely personal medical trauma that afflicted Steeves’ family. The ordeal left its trace on all of the artist’s family members with marks as indelible as the incised impressions on the plates from which his vivid images grow.

These images of struggle present a dense overlay between the manner in which pain and suffering leave their scars on a family, and on the human race. The iconography of the prints varies between depictions of Steeves’ New Brunswick home and others drawn from a recent trip to the ruins of the Mauthausen work camp, which, during the Second World War, served as a Jewish concentration camp.         

“These are compelling and resonant images of an artist searching for meaning and redemption in the familiar world around him, and in his experiences of his life with his family,” says the show’s guest curator, art historian, Tom Smart. “This exhibition of new work shows how Dan has developed his personal vision to come to terms not only with a traumatic episode in his family, but also a significant site of horrific events during the Second World War.”

Steeves' personal struggle and its lingering memory are points of departure for a compelling artistic exploration of an encounter with pain and suffering. They are testaments to his trauma - real and spiritual - and its transformative, mortal aspects.

Dan Steeves: The Memory of Pain shows until May 26. The Art Gallery is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

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Photo Cutline: 
Dan Steeves, It’s a ritual that’s worked, 2012, etching on paper, 45 x 60.5 cm (image), courtesy of the artist.