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The Uniter, May 27, 2010

Inspired by New York City

University of Manitoba fine arts teacher displays the fruits of his recent trip to New York with Recent Work

by Aaron Epp (Managing Editor)

It’s four days before the opening of his latest exhibit and local artist Jeff Funnell has no idea which pieces he’ll include.

“Right now, I’m painting a cat – exactly as we speak. I paint cats, you know. I do several different kinds of work, but one of the things I’ve done since the ‘90s is paint cats,” Funnell says by phone from his Exchange District studio.

“I want to make cat paintings that are unsaleable, and it seems I’ve succeeded.”

It’s hard to tell if the eccentric University of Manitoba fine arts instructor is being ironic or completely honest.

Known primarly for his paintings and drawings, Funnell’s latest exhibit – currently showing at Semai Gallery – is titled Recent Work, and it is just that: a collection of work created primarily during a recent six-month stay in New York City.

“While I was there, I was drawing from still life or (models) or whatever, and it’s different,” Funnell says. “Digital photography sort of has taken over reality, so when someone’s just sitting there with a brush and ink, drawing reality, they’re capturing different aspects of (reality) that the digital doesn’t capture – different spatial aspects.”

Funnell notes that because he was born in 1940, his formative years were spent before he had a TV. No matter what kind of art he makes, drawing is the way he thinks and responds best to the world.

“I firmly believe in the aesthetic experience, so you get something from a really good painting or a really good drawing,” he says. “You’re gaining an experience on a very high level. (It’s) a high-level experience, like boredom. Boredom is a really privileged experience. And maybe art is, too.”

Boredom is important, he says.

“I think it’s something people worry about, but if you don’t try to fill (the boredom) and you try to experience it … it’s like a religious experience.”

So, Funnell says he’s always bored.

“And I like that. I think it’s great. And Winnipeg is the perfect place to be bored in. The thing about New York is, there’s always something to do.

“It’s more difficult to be bored in New York, but I manage. Through severe meditation, I can get back to boredom, usually.”

Recent Work by Jeff Funell is on display at Semai Gallery (264 McDermot Ave.) until Saturday, June 26.

This article appeared in Volume 64, Number 26 of The Uniter, published May 27th 2010.

The Original Article by Aaron Epp in the Uniter