Roots artist Steve Coffey’s ‘Paint Songs’ bridges the gap between brush and guitar

Monday 23rd, November 2015 / 13:54
By B. Simm
Photo: Neville Palmer

Photo: Neville Palmer

CALGARY — For the past two decades Steve Coffey has focused intensely on trying to capture the “swirling beauty” of the Canadian landscape with
 his sprawling, canvas oil paintings. During the same period of time, he’s pursued his interests in music with the same artistic conviction as a singer-songwriter leading his band the Lokels down many dirt roads, secondary highways into small town cafes, basement studios and barrooms.

Coffey says he’s often asked, “What came first: the painting, or the music?” It’s a question he doesn’t really have an answer for nor does he feel he needs to find one. In many ways, his art projects, making music and painting, dovetail into each other. And because of that genuine intersection and overlap, Coffey set out specifically to create a body of art that brings together his two mistresses.

Paint Songs is a CD-book that incorporates Coffey’s music, poetry and visual art. “Essentially what I’m trying to do,” explains Coffey, “is interpret my own lyrics in a paint form. It’s trying to expose the bridge between the two. Bridging that gap, bridging those two disciplines.”

Artwork: Steve Coffey

Artwork: Steve Coffey

When he finished his formal art training and graduated with an MFA from the University of Regina, the primary medium that Coffey worked in was metal sculpture. And when he moved from that to painting the canvas with oil, he cultivated bold, broad brush strokes and the thick layering of paint that’s a testament to the arcs, waves, movement and texturing found metal sculpturing.

Similarily his music with the Lokels is strong, rugged, lively rip-it-up roots rock. On Paint Songs he bumps it up a notch or two and lets loose. “We wanted to challenge ourselves this time out,” Coffey reveals. “Stretch it out a bit and do something different. For instance, we have Cleric Blary playing the clarinet doing some pretty cool stuff. The Lokels been playing together for a long time, we needed to shake it up a bit. That’s all it really is.”

Steve Coffey and the Lokels’ CD-book release for Paint Songs is at the Ironwood on Fri., Nov. 27. On Sat., Nov 28 an exhibition of his new paintings will take place at the Collector’s Gallery in Inglewood.

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