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Finding his Dene family brought colour into John Rombough’s art

“Everybody wants color of their life,” says Chipewyan artist, John Rombough. 

For the 49-year-old up to date Woodlands painter the color got here into his work in his early 20s after reconnecting together with his delivery father and his Dene roots within the N.W.T. 

Rombough’s most up-to-date piece is a big acrylic on canvas he completed only a few days in the past.

“So it is a spring portray with the 2 ancestors welcoming the bear again on the land, surrounded by grandfather rocks, and every part has a spirit,” Rombough stated. 

John Rombough sits subsequent to his most up-to-date portray. “I often go by the seasons,” he stated. “So, I paint totally different work associated to the 4 seasons.” (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

“And the colors simply symbolize new development … within the spring every part’s melting and every part is turning into one once more from the winter.” 

An early curiosity in artwork

Rombough traces his ardour for artwork all the best way again to his early childhood.

He was born within the distant group of Sioux Lookout, Ont.  At three-years-old, he and his two older sisters have been adopted by Lyall and Carol Rombough, and he quickly moved to Breadalbane, a small rural city situated in central Prince Edward Island.

“My mother could not have children. Their pals have been adopting three Aboriginal children, in order that they type of have been following the identical thought of adopting children,” Rombough stated. 

John Rombough as a toddler, holding a fish that he caught within the creek close to his home in rural P.E.I. (John Rombough/Submitted)

“And it was actually like a constructive feeling, and my mom was so excited to have three of us.” 

Rombough and his two sisters have been a part of the Sixties Scoop, from roughly the early 60s to early 80s when 1000’s of Indigenous youngsters have been faraway from their houses and adopted by non-Indigenous households. 

“Some folks went via the worst. Mine no less than has a superb, constructive ending … rising up within the south and coming as much as the North actually formed me to who I turned and who I’m now.”

John Rombough together with his two sisters, Rose and Bernadette, within the Eighties. (John Rombough/Submitted)

Rombough attributes his pure inclination for the humanities to having been raised in an inventive and inspiring setting.

“My dad and mom have been actually supportive of me doing artwork … I type of grew up in P.E.I. surrounded by artwork, creative folks, and folks doing pottery.”

His adoptive dad and mom additionally stored paintings that was reflective of their youngsters’s heritage all through the home.

“Rising up with Native artwork round me, I used to be drawn to it at an early age.”

The journey to re-discovering his roots

After highschool, Rombough studied graphic design however discovered it unfulfilling. He spent most of his time in school engaged on his up to date Woodlands model drawings and creating his private artwork model — black ink drawings.

Considered one of John Rombough’s work, accomplished a number of years in the past. (John Rombough/Submitted)

Throughout that point, Rombough found that his delivery mom had handed away resulting from well being points. It sparked an curiosity in reconnecting together with his delivery father.

“I knew I needed to attain out to my delivery dad’s household.”

When he turned 18, his dad and mom had sat him down and proven him his adoption papers, so Rombough already knew that his delivery father was from Łutselkʼe, N.W.T.

Rombough did not wish to simply name him up, so he determined to put in writing a letter to the chief in Łutselkʼe. 

He remembers feeling overwhelmed when he learn the letter he obtained in reply.  

“It was a letter from my stepmom. She was like, ‘your delivery dad is up right here, and we’re so glad that you just reconnected. And we have been ready so that you can come again.'”

John Rombough in a latest picture together with his delivery father, Alfred, and half-sister, Lisa. (John Rombough/Submitted)

Rombough says he “dropped every part” and went to Łutselkʼe to fulfill his delivery dad. 

Assembly his delivery father 

Rombough’s delivery father, Alfred Catholique, is Dënësųłinë́ (Chipewyan) and reconnecting with him in 1993 was Rombough’s first actual publicity to Dene traditions and tradition.

“It was a tradition shock for me … I felt like just a bit child, however in an grownup physique,” he stated. “My dad was actually affected person and taught me the Dene roots and, you recognize, how you can survive and hunt … It was actually, actually enjoyable.”

John Rombough’s father, Alfred Catholique. (John Rombough/Submitted )

Assembly and connecting with Dene tradition via his dad impressed Rombough to develop on his black ink drawings and convey color to them via portray. 

“As soon as I moved up north, I used to be simply, you recognize, with the tradition and the gorgeous land — I wished so as to add color to my artwork.”

A ‘great and distinctive’ Woodland model

Rombough cites Norval Morriseau as an early inspiration. Morriseau was an Anishinaabe artist who helped discovered the Indian Group of Seven, an Indigenous-led artwork motion, within the early ’70s. 

Rombough found him via one in all his dad or mum’s books as a toddler. The model is characterised by vivid and daring imagery containing symbolism that’s typically reflective of Indigenous tales and myths.

John Rombough paints within the up to date Woodlands model, popularized by Norval Morrisseau within the late Sixties. He sometimes paints landscapes, wildlife, ancestral spirits, and Indigenous myths utilizing black supporting strains, vibrant colors, and positive particulars. (John Rombough/Submitted)

Sarah Swan, an artwork critic who additionally runs a Yellowknife-based cellular artwork gallery, describes Rombough’s work as “a very nice extension” of the Indian Group of Seven’s work. 

However Swan says that Rombough has additionally made the model his personal. 

“It is extra up to date. It has sturdy northern themes. After which, the best way he is integrated geometrical shapes is great and distinctive to him. Additionally, his color use is de facto type of full of life and joyful.”

Transition to skilled artist 

Rombough lived full-time in Łutselkʼe for seven years. He began promoting his work within the early 2000’s

“I began with a gallery in Yellowknife referred to as Nor-ArtworkI did not know the proprietor and I simply type of went in and confirmed them my work and so they have been very involved in taking me on as an artist … it simply type of developed from there,” he stated. 

John Rombough holds up one in all his lately accomplished work. (Emma Grunwald/CBC)

Rombough says portray is now a full time job. He is produced over 4,300 work within the final 27 years and he would not plan on slowing down anytime quickly. 

“I am simply going to maintain busy and quick producing, increase my stock, working with three or 4 totally different galleries throughout Canada and promoting on social media, simply getting new work on the market.” 

Rombough at the moment lives in Yellowknife, and the North has develop into his house.

“I’ve discovered a lot over the previous few years, and I am actually linked with the land.”

He stays shut with each of his adoptive dad and mom, whereas additionally feeling linked to his delivery father and Chipewyan heritage. Regardless that he by no means met her, he says his artwork additionally displays his delivery mom’s Ukrainian roots. 

John Rombough’s adoptive dad and mom, Lyall and Carol Rombough, taken round 2017. (John Rombough/Submitted)

“I feel I’ve somewhat little bit of the Ukrainian in my artwork as effectively, which is the actually positive element, vibrant colors … It is a ravishing artwork that they make.”

Recommendation for different artists 

Rombough additionally holds workshops to assist assist younger artists.

He encourages them to develop a strong drawing basis earlier than even choosing up a paint brush. 

“There are some upcoming artists that simply want somewhat push, and thru these workshops that helps to actually break them out of their shells … I am grateful to be part of that and be a mentor to the subsequent era of artists.”

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