Nfld. & Labrador

Painter Furey remembered as 'complete original'

Conrad Furey, a painter best-known for recasting his rural Newfoundland childhood into rollicking and vibrant paintings, has died following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Conrad Furey, a painter best-known for recasting his rural Newfoundland childhood into rollicking and vibrant paintings, has died following a lengthy battle with cancer.

Furey, who was born in the fishing and mining town of Baie Verte in 1954, died in his sleep on Wednesday at his home in Hamilton.

Although he spent most of his adult life in Ontario, Furey built his career largely around characters and scenes from his childhood as part of a family with 11 children.

Although he went on to paint many other things — from landscapes to baseball players — returned continually to Newfoundland themes, almost always with wildly colourful settings. He also extended the theme to sculpture.

"There tends to be a humour in the imagery, or the feeling of it, but not necessarily in the faces of the people," Furey told CBC News in a 2000 interview, describing brightly coloured canvases that often featured wide-eyed men and women at work and at play.

He painted fishermen working in dories, villagers dancing at parties, men building boats out of wood.

"I guess boats were my passion," said Furey.

St. John's painter Gerry Squires, who knew Furey for decades, said Furey had a unique approach to painting, and that — even at the beginning of his career — Furey knew precisely how he wanted to express himself, even though he was untrained.

"I believe that he actually received a vision early in his life," Squires told CBC News on Wednesday. "I always thought of him as an original. A complete original.… His vision was true and honest and complete."

Squires said the self-taught Furey was considered only as a primitive artist, which he said was not at all accurate. Squires said Furey's work grew "more tender … and definitely more refined" over time.

Furey, who had been living with cancer for several years, had been receiving palliative care since last fall at his home.

His friends were told three years ago that he had just one year to live. Furey, though, outlived those predictions. A final show was held in Hamilton in Christmas.

Furey is survived by his wife, Theresa Furey, and their daughter, Leah.

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