'It's life here': Memory, familiarity showcased by Winnipeg painter Roman Swiderek

For many Winnipeggers, the scenes Roman Swiderek paints are familiar: a busy, rain-soaked Osborne Village, cars navigating a snowy street, Portage and Main during rush hour.

'Everyone in Winnipeg is part of this story that he's creating, and it's us,' says Woodlands Gallery director

Roman Swiderek stands with one of his paintings in the Woodlands Gallery in Winnipeg. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC)

For many Winnipeggers, the scenes Roman Swiderek paints are familiar: a busy, rain-soaked Osborne Village, cars navigating a snowy street or Portage and Main during rush hour.

Seen through his lens, the edges are softer and the details are looser, but the landscapes are unmistakable.

"It's life here. Life is very easy to capture," Swiderek said.

You may have already seen reproductions of his paintings for sale in gift shops and frame stores throughout the city. But starting Saturday, you can see the originals at a new exhibit at Winnipeg's Woodlands Gallery on Academy Road.

Now in his 80s, Swiderek has dedicated much of his career to depicting Winnipeg in his art, since getting started painting while working at Rainbow Stage.

"It's necessary to do it. I like painting because, you know, [it's] easy to express myself. Especially old buildings … old structures," which Swiderek said remind him of his home in Poland, before he arrived in Winnipeg almost 60 years ago.

"They tear it down, all the buildings, all the stuff that's memory. It's no damn good."

Swiderek's work will be on display at Woodlands Gallery starting Saturday. (Nadia Kidwai/CBC)

Memory is what "makes us," Swiderek said, and he knows many Winnipeggers recognize the scenes he paints.

"That's very important, [to paint things Winnipeggers] pass all the time," he said.

Many of his paintings are sentimental to him personally, too. One shows his dog, attached to his dog sled. Another shows his son with the St. Boniface Cathedral in the background.

"It's truthful. It's Winnipeg. It's just there," he said.

'It's all of us'

Jennifer DeLury, director of the Woodlands Gallery, said you don't need to know anything about art to be moved by Swiderek's work.

"You feel like you belong. You feel like you're part of that story, and you are. Everyone in Winnipeg is part of this story that he's creating, and it's us," she said.

"It's all of us in these paintings, because we've all been there and participated in these activities."

Even if you've seen reproductions of his work, DeLury said seeing the texture and the original, much-larger scale makes for a different experience.

"You know, he's leaving this legacy, and for us to appreciate our city," she said. "I think, you know, it's a reminder of where we've come from and where we're headed and to be in the present and to appreciate the present."

The exhibit begins Saturday at Woodlands Gallery at 535 Academy Rd.

With files from CBC Manitoba's Weekend Morning Show