August 01, 2023
I have been chasing an interview with Steve R Coffey for well over a year now. If I am being truthful, I do little to research artists themselves before I speak with them, but instead focus on getting to know their art. That way, I approach the interview with little preconceived notions of the person themselves, a perspective often awarded by pleasant surprise.
I knew Coffey was going to be special, hence my pursuit, but what unfolded was beyond what I could have imagined.
Coffey lives in a small town completely surrounded by vast prairies, naturally enveloped in even vaster skies. If you know his work, you know that the sky is not the limit, but rather the muse.
His old house, in its ethereal location, is fitting and brimming with art and love and feeling.
He himself is a creation of carefully curated experience, bouncing from topic to topic with passion and enthusiasm.
He emanates the thirst for an interesting life, a life that he has been drinking in for longer than he is probably even aware.
“I don't have to leave my studio to travel.’ said Coffey,
“I can just travel.”
“ I love travelling the world but at the same time, I feel like there's this place I can go to.” (referring to his canvas)
This quality shows up in his work, as his paintings seek to transport the viewer through textured colour and dynamic skyscapes.
While you can tell he loves painting from a very deep place, the end viewer is always in mind.
“…without the viewer, there's nothing.”
“It has to be a collaborative effort here”
A brilliant musician to boot, Coffey applies the same notion to songwriting - always for the listener. This parallel creates an atmospheric intersection as he speaks buoyantly of the music that has influenced his own life, and how listening while painting presents the yolk to that collaboration.
Coffey’s start was in sculpting, but he realised quickly that painting was a medium that could lend itself more to storytelling. He could drop the technicalities of 3D crafting, and instead implement a 3D mindset to canvas.
“That's what I needed in my life more than anything, was that vehicle, to be able to maybe tell a little bit of a story or a mystery of something, you know?”
Now he strives to add, and preserve, that storytelling and mystery in everything he creates. And just like a musician putting together an album, his individual pieces contribute to a bigger picture.
“…it is one big piece…all my paintings aren’t individual. There are kinds of chapters, or they are sentences and paragraphs.
“…that is in many ways how I work. I springboard, you know, and that made me realise that I have to look at all of this creativity differently.
“That I’m not creating one show, I’m creating a portion of that moment of my life that is key to this next moment….that kept opening for me.”
Is it comforting to know that if you own a piece of Steve Coffey’s work that you, yourself, have become a part of something bigger? Like a relic that has been torn apart and the pieces scattered to different locations.
It is an incredible process to envision one day collecting all of his paintings to line up as the album of one man’s life - like a great concert of skies. One should be so lucky to be a part of that.
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Bluerock Gallery Inc. acknowledges the land in which it is is situated on as the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Siksika, Kainai, Piikani), the Tsuut’ina, the Îyâxe Nakoda Nations, the Métis Nation (Region 3), and all people who make their homes in the Treaty 7 region of Southern Alberta.