Beginnings, endings and birth of a new style for Victoria artist

What: Duncan Regehr: Everlast

Where: Winchester Galleries, 2260 Oak Bay Ave.

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When: Opening reception 2 to 4 p.m. today (with artist in attendance), continues to Jan. 30

 

For Victoria artist Duncan Regehr, it has been a tumultuous time of late. Yet it has also been a period of tremendous creativity.

His marriage of 35 years recently broke up. Meanwhile, he found a new romantic partner and reconnected with a long-estranged son.

Regehr says these dramatic events are the context for Everlast, his new exhibition at Winchester Galleries.

Best known over the past four decades as a figurative painter, the 63-year-old is making a marked departure with these works. A dozen-plus paintings portray mysterious, uninhabited landscapes with suns or moons. The colours — greens, oranges, purples, blues, yellows — are intense, glowing in a jewel-like manner reminiscent of stained glass.

They were painted over the past year. The scenes emanate from Regehr’s imagination, although he took inspiration from the bird’s-eye view at his downtown flat.

“It’s a very tall tower,” said the artist, interviewed at Winchester Galleries. “It’s a very solitary kind of place, so there’s a lot of contemplation.”

He says a quotation from T.S. Eliot’s poem East Coker — “In my beginning is my end, in my end is my beginning” — was much on his mind while creating the Everlast series.

“I have a new partner,” he said. “And I have a son. My son from years ago come back into my life very recently. We have a new start.”

Regehr’s new love interest is a woman named Sofia. He first met her years ago in Spain. At the time, Regehr, who is also an actor, was starring in the TV series Zorro, which ran on the Family Channel from 1990 to 1993.

“She was 17 years old at the time. There was definitely a very strong connection. It was a very light attraction. We wanted to be in each other’s company all the time. But nothing was ever going to come of it,” he said.

One of the new paintings is titled Opus Sofia. Cast in rich oranges and greens, it portrays a sun either setting or beginning to rise.

“This,” said Regehr of Opus Sofia, “is my woman here. This is how I see her.”

Following their initial meeting, he and Sofia kept in touch over the years. She married and had a child. In recent years, they reconnected.

Regehr divides his time between Victoria and a flat in London. He’s in the process of getting divorced from his wife, Catherine.

“It’s been very painful and all of that. It’s really been very difficult,” he said.

The artist also reconnected with an estranged son, now 45 years old, from his first common-law marriage. The reunion has been an unexpected boon; the pair spent New Year’s Day together.

Regehr said he never intended to exhibit the Everlast series. It was his sister who encouraged him to contact Winchester Galleries (which has often presented Regehr’s work) about displaying them.

“I said: ‘Really? They’d actually be interested in this stuff? They’re so personal,’ ” Regehr said.

Born in Lethbridge, Alta., Regehr was raised in Victoria. His father, the artist Peter Regehr, encouraged his creative pursuits. He studied painting with Dutch surrealist Henry Poesiat. His works are found in the Smithsonian Institution and other international collections. He has an honorary doctorate of fine arts from the University of Victoria.

Regehr has also had success as an actor and writer. Aside from the Zorro series, his film roles include Errol Flynn in My Wicked, Wicked Ways and Pat Garrett in Gore Vidal’s Billy the Kid. His books, combining prose, poetry and artwork, include The Dragon’s Eye, Corvus Rex, Chrysalid and Scarecrow.

Regehr is working on a series of figurative paintings, to be collectively titled Pilgrim, as well as a new book to be published by Victoria’s Ekstasis Editions.

He said the past four years of his life have been “pretty much rife with beginnings and endings.” Despite personal ups and downs, Regehr seems pleased with the new style he has explored for the Everlast paintings.

“It’s like growing a third arm. I’m not changing into something else, I can tell that. But this is like another branch of the tree that’s come out.”

achamberlain@timescolonist.com

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