Peter Aspell, a gentle giant, tall and gaunt, often in attendance at Vancouver art show openings along with his wife, Joy, also a painter.
It was at one of art openings that I met him. In fact, it was an opening of his own show. But I had no idea who he was and what he did for a living.
I was looking at one of his paintings with great interest when he popped by and said, “ what do you think?” My response – “it is an amazing piece, I love the bright colours and the influence African art had on his art.”
He responded something to the effect of, I can’t remember exactly, “interesting” and moved on.
I, on the other hand, was obsessed by the painting.
The next day I went back to the gallery, to look at it again.
After asking the gallery owner a few questions about the artist, I bought it.
The name of the painting, Green Niger.
A few weeks later, another art opening at the same gallery.
There he was again with his wife.
At one point the gallery owner took me over to the two of them and said, “Peter, this is George Froehlich, he is the one who bought your Green Niger painting,” we shook hands and then he introduced me to his wife, and said, “I remember you, I hope you enjoy it.”
Aspell was born in Vancouver in 1918. He was graduated from the Vancouver School of Art. He also studied at the Academies de Ghent in Belgium and taught at the University of British Columbia.
Early in his career he started painting figures but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that his style changed dramatically, heavily influenced by Surrealism, African mythology, bright, bold, colours, a trademark.
The new style resulted in shows in Paris, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Toronto.
But despite those accolades and recognition – his art greatly admired by a small group – it never went beyond that.