Retro urban meets unspoiled wilderness in the works of The West Fine Art Show co-organizers Brian Croft (left) and Murray Phillips.

West Fine Art Show coming to Surrey

Exhibit to feature the work from 18 different artists.

It’s all about a touch of celebrity and breathtaking interpretations of the Canadian west  – ranging from the untamed wilderness to more urban scenes.

Those will be the features of the third The West Fine Art Show, a three-day free art show and sale, Sept. 7-9 at the Indian Springs Land and Cattle Company, 19339 8 Ave. in South Surrey.

The ranch of Senator Gerry St. Germain and his wife Margaret has become known as an unparalleled annual venue for western Canadian artists, thanks to the hosts and event co-organizers Murray Phillips, who has been capturing some of the country’s most isolated areas on canvas for the past 40 years, and Brian Croft, who has made a specialty of evocative, detailed and thoroughly-researched land and cityscapes that re-imagine Lower Mainland landmarks as they must have looked in decades gone by.

This year, 18 well-known  artists are contributing work, including Doug Levitt, creator of the 2008 Calgary Stampede poster, and Mark Hobson, whose many accolades include recognition as 2006 Artist of the Year by International Artist Magazine.

As in previous years – at the suggestion of St. Germain – the exhibition supports Indspire, which raises funds to help young indigenous people achieve their potential.

“Both Gerry and I feel strongly about the importance of education, so we decided that 25 per cent of the money raised at The West Fine Art Show will go to Indspire,” Phillips said.

“It’s a wonderful organization that is doing great things and we’re happy to show our support.”

The touch of celebrity is courtesy of guest artist and M.C. of Friday’s opening reception, celebrated pioneer DJ Red Robinson, who is showing 16 sketches he pencilled years ago when it looked as though his career path might be as an illustrator.

Robinson, whose fund of knowledge about the Vancouver scene in the 1950s and ’60s has been of great help to Croft for several of his recent paintings, had kept his artistic light under a bushel for many years.

“I remember one time visiting with Red, when he suddenly brought out a series of sketches he did as a kid,” Croft said. “I said, ‘would you mind if we framed your sketches and showed them?’ So he’s agreed to come out again and be our celebrity artist – it’s become a great draw.”

His connection with Robinson came about several years ago, Croft said.

“He emailed me out of the blue, saying he really loved my work, and he’s become a great booster for me.”

Croft said his friendship with Phillips started on an equally casual basis, shortly after he first started painting his historical scenes upon retirement from his career as a fighter pilot in the RCAF.

“The first watercolour I painted I took into Murray’s Westwind Gallery, and he didn’t kick me out – which I took as a good sign. We’ve been friends ever since.”

In contrast to the rugged mountains and valleys and coastal scenes offered by Phillips and other artists, Croft will show one of his latest paintings, a symphony of old school neon vintage cars and rainy streets titled Chinatown 1960.

“It started with snapshot I found on the Internet – I’ve since got a good copy – which was taken looking down East Pender to the West End. You can see the Sun building in the background, but it also has all the old restaurants that people remember, like Ming’s and the Bamboo Terrace.”

Croft said he may also give a preview of a work in progress at the show – Danceland 1963 – for which Robinson’s memory of the times has also been very helpful.

The depiction of the once-lively but long-gone venue includes a marquee for an authentic appearance by the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.

“Red was able to introduce me to a lot of people who knew the venue or used to work there,” Croft said. “I found out it’s not the musicians who remember everything – they’re usually pretty vague about the details – but the bouncers.”

Admission to the exhibition is free and opening hours are 7-10 p.m. Friday (opening reception), 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Sunday.

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