Published, EAC Communiqué, July 1990
he President of the Elora Arts Council for 1990-91 is Tony Sepers, co-owner of the art supply and framing store Sun Art of Fergus and a fine artist with seven one-man shows behind him. As a boy, Tony lived in a small village at the edge of Leyden, Holland. At age 11, his family emigrated to Guelph. He has memories of pushing his scooter into Leyden and ambling by the old Rhine River. Holland, recovering from the war, was revitalizing itself with idealism. At 11, Tony had already read classics like Don Quixote, and the Romantic and the Ideal became forces in shaping his future. Despite a love of learning, he was continually in conflict with the education system, even as early as kindergarten when he fought his teacher with fisticuffs! This problem persisted throughout his high school years in Canada, when he felt himself, however subliminally, to be different and unadjusted to his new country.
During high school, art classes were a refuge where like-minded iconoclasts gathered. Tony read omnivorously about the lives of great artists, especially of Vincent Van Gogh. Before the end of Grade 12 he left school to work, sketching in every spare hour. Through Manpower he studied commercial art, grateful to his employer who encouraged his true interest in fine art.
Then followed the most intense,exhilarating and exhausting period of his life when he went to Montreal in 1967-68. He lived in the English art world, modelled for Arthur Lismer’s classes, waitered on weekends and lived with such intensity that he scarcely knew whether life was a dream or reality. This was reflected in the surrealistic quality of his paintings. He concluded from his experience that “Truth does not exist, everything lies”, but at the same time new and vitalizing perceptions ripened: “I could see the air, but I could also see between the air, I became aware of a binding energy. Van Gogh, I’m sure knew it, and many early socialists knew it.” After two years he came home, burnt out. “I had tried to live the image, then I became the image, then
it was time to give up the image.”
Returning to the Guelph area Tony lodged with the sculptor Joseph Drenters at Rockwood. Later Janke de Voss lent him a schoolhouse she owned near Belwood where Tony prepared for his first one-man art show, often walking 17 miles into Guelph. It was at the schoolhouse that he first came in touch with the Baha’i faith, through a summer farmhand. While studying that faith, Tony met his wife Karen in May of 1968. In December they married and moved to Salem.
Tony describes his paintings as linear, but they are also rich with a love of colour. For him, his own paintings must answer for their existence. They express ideas: “I see a painting as having a meditative function. The thing happening on the wall sits and meditates and its meditation strikes the viewer.” He expresses the total absorption of the artist: “When you paint you are a big, sensitive sponge, with nerves and tentacles that reach out into every corner of being.”
Finally, at the age of 29, with a wife and children, Tony gave in to formal education. He graduated with honours and a degree in Fine Arts at the University of Guelph. “Everything I knew was confirmed,” he says. “I grew immensely.” He also became a political activist, head of the Fine Arts Union in the turbulent ‘70s, and Chairperson of the student gallery. At this time Sun Art was started by Karen Sepers with partner Kate Phillips, to supply materials for local artists, and framing. Today Tony and Karen work together at Sun Art, always busy. Tony is President of the Business Improvement Association of Fergus, and his paintbrush waits beside an unfinished, unresolved canvas to which he will certainly return.
Concerning his priorities Tony says, “Being a Baha’i is first and foremost in my life”. Tony and Karen’s large stone house, Kirk Hall, built in 1842 as the Freechurch Manse, is the centre of the Baha’i group in Fergus. Tony is very positive about humanity, and its future. “Knowledge is becoming circular,” he says, “the world is becoming an interconnected whole.”
What does he hope for himself in the future? Tony says earnestly, “I hope to become a deep and sonorous person. I would like to resonate with the richness of a cello.”
by Beverley Cairns, July 1990
I see a painting as having a meditative function. The thing happening on the wall sits and meditates and its meditation strikes the viewer.
UPDATE – 1997
In 1997 Tony Sepers is Chair of the Elora Arts Council for the second time. During the intervening years since ‘91, his fine artistic taste has contributed to augment the aesthetics of the Town of Fergus through his work with initiatives of the Business Improvement Association (BIA). Sun Art, with its central location and owners who remain strongly committed, continues to be a focal point for the visual arts in the area.
Tony and Karen sold Sun Art and went to live in the Lake Of The Woods area of Ontario.
Free to return to creative art, Tony is working on an extensive new series of drawings and paintings. They are stacked between sheets of styrofoam, under the spare bed mattress. Needless to say the spare room bed is getting higher and higher. It seems you have to be
pretty tall to get into it these days!