Hammock pairs up with Fredericton painter for unique exhibition

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Collaborative project brings together former Mount Allison arts professor, student

Fredericton painter Stephen Scott works on a portrait of area resident Virgil Hammock. Scott is a former student of Hammock, a retired fine arts professor.

SACKVILLE, N.B. – A chance meeting last summer between a former Mount Allison fine arts grad and his professor has led to the opening of a unique exhibition at one of New Brunswick’s most prestigious art galleries.

Fredericton painter Stephen Scott is the artist being spotlighted in the exhibition, which features a number of artworks he completed while spending several months in Sackville last summer, including a series of oil paintings and drawings of Virgil Hammock, retired arts professor and former head of the fine arts department at Mount A.

Entitled Stephen Paints A Picture, the show at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in the provincial capital kicked off last Thursday and will run through until June 8.

“I think it’s a really neat show,” said Hammock, who is serving as curator for the exhibition. “Stephen’s an amazing painter.”

The collaboration between former student and teacher was initiated last July when Scott was visiting Sackville (the artist takes annual summer getaways at different locations and spends the time painting). He had decided to return to his roots and spend time in Sackville, where he had studied art from 1974 to ’78 and where he knew the owners of a local downtown gallery for whom he was hoping to do some pieces.

He soon came across Hammock and they went for drinks at the local pub to reminisce and catch up. Among their conversations, Hammock said he told Scott about a book he had read, written by British art critic Martin Gayford, of sitting for a portrait by Lucian Freud, and how interesting it was to follow their conversation over the very long time it took Freud to complete the painting.

“So we started talking about how we could repeat the idea, with me as the subject,” said Hammock.

The sittings began in July and Hammock said he was excited about the prospect of this collaborative project, where “he was going to paint me from life and I was going to write about our conversations.”

“I think it’s a really interesting idea,” he said. “We’re both very interested in traditional painting . . . and this is as far away from post-modern art as you can get.”

With a palette in Scott’s hand and a notebook in Hammock’s, the pair spent a lot of time together over the next two months – talking, painting, and basically putting a strong focus on the relationship between artist and model.

Hammock would take notes during those 21 sittings in his kitchen, with those entries later posted weekly on his blog. Those blog entries, which ran from mid-July to early September, are included in the Beaverbrook show in a pdf book format.

It wasn’t long before officials at Beaverbrook, where Hammock works as an adjunct curator, had heard about what the two were working on and soon came calling to put Scott’s work on display.

Intending to also include a large portrait painting of Hammock in his exhibit, Scott began sketching out the drawing at the end of the summer but was forced to put that piece on hold when he learned in September he was suffering from cancer. A major operation and radiation followed, but Hammock said preparing for the exhibition kept Scott going and helped his recovery along.

Although he wasn’t able to complete the last picture he was working on, Hammock said it will still end up becoming a significant part of Scott’s exhibition

“We’re going to complete the picture during the show and invite people to come and watch him paint and us talk.”

A studio has been set up as part of the exhibit, where the two will come together for a final sitting this coming May to finish it up.

“We think it’s going to be pretty neat,” said Hammock.

Hammock’s blog entries are available for viewing at http://virgilhammock.com

Organizations: Beaverbrook Art Gallery

Geographic location: SACKVILLE, Fredericton, New Brunswick Beaverbrook

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