Saturday, May 3, 2008

Art of Humyny

Hugo Myny was raised in Brussels but he has lived in Abbotsford longer than any other place. When he came to Canada, by boat in the 1960's he lived in Edmonton for a while then he moved to the west coast and it rained for fourteen days straight, and he thought "I don't need this!". So he looked on the map and saw big cities in the east, like London and Paris in Ontario, so he headed for Ontario and lived there for a long time. He had not planned to come to Canada he wanted to go to South America.
He had friends in Chile and in Argentina. Both of his friends wrote glowing letters about the beauty and the opportunities in South America compelling him to go. One day his mother said "Well you talk about it quite a bit now, where you going to go now?" He still didn't know but he was going to decide right then. So he took a coin out of his pocket flipped it on the kitchen table and it rolled off the table on to the tile floor where it stopped upright. He stomped on the floor close by and it wouldn't budge, so he picked it up to inspect for a flat side and he could not get it to stand up at all. His mother said "Someone was trying to tell you something." He said he wasn't really superstitious but it gave him a strange feeling, so he still didn't know where he was going.
Six weeks later his cousin from Canada came and said "Hugo why don't you come to Canada?" He was not interested. In fact when the Expo came to Brussels, Canada was one of the pavilions he had not gone to see. His mother told him they grew huge apples the size of a child's head, he had not seen an apple that big only heard of them. What did he know of Canada? Snow fields, Mounties that were chasing mad men in the woods, a Trans-Canada highway that looked like a driveway because it was so narrow.
He was convinced to come to Canada by his cousin who's brother would go only if someone would go with him. He figured it was closer to South America having no clue to the immensity of the country. I asked him how his English was when he came to Canada? He said it was better than now, they called him a "limy" thinking he was from England.
He has been painting since he was about twelve years old. He would paint when he was sick or had a toothache. One of his Doctors told him he needed to learn about perspective. "If you made me something and the perspective is right I will buy it from you." He didn't know what to do, so he copied a postcard he got in the mail of a village, figuring you had to get the perspective right that way. The Doctor bought the painting even though he thought something wasn't quite right, he liked the colors and hung it up in his office.
At twelve he was commissioned by a women to do a series of paintings on birch bark, from that he was able to take some courses in art. For a while they thought he might become a Tailor because he had a sample book of fabrics that he made collages with, he learned a lot with that fabric. He spent hours and hours at the beautiful Museum of Art in Brussels.
After the war, 1945 and on, when you could get bicycle tires he would go and visit other painters. Since he was a child they would let him sit and watch, thinking he would go away soon anyway. He was fortunate to see the problems they were having. One painter asked him "If I changed the direction of the brush stoke would it look better do you think?" He said "Lets try it!" as if he was also painting. There were many gifted artists to visit.
Oil is Hugo's medium of choice and he likes to mix his own colors. If he makes a mistake he can scrape it off. Painting on Board is good because you can cut it down if you need to, with canvas you can't change the shape without a lot of trouble. "Vernisage" is when a painting is finished and varnished, it could take three to four months or sometimes a year before a painting would be varnished. It was like a celebration.
Dreams are Hugo's inspirations, he is a lucid dreamer and can control is dreams, his dreams feel like past lives. When he is in the right state of mind he can see the picture on the white canvas, like a memory in the inner eye.
As a young man Hugo had a back injury and was in bed for eighteen months and had four months of rehabilitation. He suffered for a long time from these injuries and the muscle relaxants he took caused him to go partially blind. He still painted when he was blind, the paintings had a lot of white and the objects leaned to one side, as if they were leaning to him. Blindness gave him an insight into past painters works, he realized that the halo's around lights suggested they were losing their eye sight. Later an operation corrected Hugo's vision.
Hugo speaks Flemish, German, French and English. He lives with his wife Caroline in a small co-op housing complex. Not a wall in the place is empty, he takes up two small bedrooms with his art studio and art storage. He built an easel that moves up, down and side to side, very clever. I love the many stories of Humyny as painted and spoken. We could sit for hours talking and story-telling maybe I should watch him paint one day.
"If you do the best you can, thats all you can do"


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