In 2012, Jean Claude Roy and Breakwater Books of Newfoundland and Labrador published Fluctuat Nec Mergitur, a book that included a painting of every community on the island of Newfoundland, the culmination of an extraordinary forty-five years of painting the island’s landscape. From the beginning of that project, Jean Claude realized that he had neither the knowledge of Labrador nor space in the book to include paintings from there, and so the idea of this second volume was born. In the years between 2011 and 2016, he has spent as much time as possible travelling, sketching, and painting in Labrador. (by Christina Roy, excerpted from Editor’s Note)The paintings in this handsome volume are simply amazing. While I have never been to Labrador, these paintings speak of “the North” to me. Of places that are quite remote, situated perhaps on one of the few roads there, or locations needing the services of a plane, helicopter or boat to access. Of most interest to me were Mr Roy’s skies: almost childlike (the sun appears in almost every daytime painting), yet there is an aboriginal feel to them as well, speaking of a certain awesomeness, one that leaves man feeling small, the land and sea commanding respect for their sheer existence.
Here are three examples generously supplied by Breakwater Books for this review.
Page 48: L’Anse au Clair.
What struck me about this painting was the red mud, similar that of PEI’s. If you look close, you can see the thick brush strokes and almost smell the mud (or the paint, even!).
Page 117: Route 510
I chose this one to demonstrate the sky, as well as the perspective. Mr Roy’s suns are often just a thick dab of red, orange or yellow, never round. In fact, they are typically square-ish or trapezoidal. The clouds and surrounding atmosphere is dominant, a striking feature of all his canvases.
Page 138: First Snow, Hopedale
This one is just magical, like the town viewed through one of those snow globes. The darkened sky, pale moon and the flakes falling gently to earth.
Breakwater Books has done a marvelous job in producing this collection of Jean Claude Roy’s paintings of Labrador. If you are an art lover, or know one who is and would enjoy this elegant book, I’m sure they wouldn’t be disappointed. The text is in English, French, Innuaimun, and Inuttitut. Quite affordable, Terra Magna is sure to be one of the best art books of the year. 208 pages.
Jean Claude Roy was born in Rochefort sur Mer, France, in 1948. Committed to becoming an artist since childhood, he first came in Newfoundland as a sailor with the French merchant marine at the age of 17. After living in Newfoundland for a number of years and taking Canadian citizenship, he now divides his time between France and Newfoundland. Entirely self-taught, he described his style as expressionist colourist. His works can be found in public and private collections in the United States, Canada and Europe.