The interaction or cooperation of two or more organizations, substances, or other agents to produce a combined effect greater than the sum of their separate effects.
Essex County artist Ron Suchiu’s current project is a collaboration with hockey legend Bob Probert’s widow, Dani Probert. Ron talked about that collaboration and his newest passion, a series of artwork called Synergy Art.
I’ve created a new art form that’s just starting to launch and one of the reasons to work with Dani was to get her involved as well. I’m not only doing one painting with Dani Probert, I’m also doing a second painting. The synergy art is an art form that I created, it’s my claim to fame, I’m Sir Hillary as far as Mount Everest goes. I was working on a piece of art called The Magic Bus and I kept on hearing Jimmy Morrison’s face say put me in this painting, so I thought why can’t we create a piece of art that’s synergistic?
About five years ago, I was in Chicago with a doctor and we did a piece where I did the background and he did a bunch of stuff on it. I came back and finished it afterwards and that turned it into what I would classify as a world class piece of art, synergy art. We let that go because of all of the stuff I’ve been involved with over the years, major projects, and with George Lucas it took me over a year to do that project because Lucas Films gets involved with contracts and licensing.
We brought synergy out about two years ago now and with synergy art, I’m basically doing thirty paintings in a row and I want people from all walks of life in there and famous people or people you can relate to so I can prove synergy works. The very first painting I did was with Dan Aykroyd and that was painted on the same table he wrote Ghostbusters on at his house in Kingston. So I painted a green background then he painted a bit on top of it then I finished it off and Danny saw this and he just went nuts over it. He’s actually helping me campaign the whole project.
I was fascinated with the end result of that one. I saw him paint basically just some black line circles over your green background and didn’t expect what you did with it.
These things that were showing up, like the alien, these things actually did exist in the painting. This thing here, the head of that bird was just so obvious in the painting. The skull, there was actually two skulls and a robot like the one in The Day the Earth Stood Still, these things were just popping out at me. What I found was that by being near somebody and knowing a little bit about them, when I started to paint he was telling me stuff. When he did circles, he didn’t do circles, he said, “Do you mind if I do a few orbs”. Why did he say orbs? We’re sitting in this room in his home which is an old farm house that has been in his family since the 1800’s and next to us is a room which was the séance room when Dan was growing up, peaking around the corner watching séances.
You could feel one hundred years plus of his family’s presence in the house. You knew why Dan was so hooked on this whole thing, his grandfather and father were both experts in ghosts and the mystic. He actually had a photo of his grandfather with a group of people doing a séance and there was a person hanging over them in the back. It was like looking in the clouds but you could clearly make out a person.
I want to do 100 celebrities in my life but we’re going to start with thirty in a row and Dani’s (Dani Probert) is actually number seven. I’ve got two more that I’m painting right now and then the last two weeks of September, I’m actually doing a piece of art commemorating Bob Probert.
This one is pretty unique because when I took this on I didn’t know which way to go and then it wasn’t up to me because Dani was going to get involved with it and it’s to raise funds for her hospital project and most of the things we do have charities involved. I have a synergy piece that I’m doing with her and then I go straight into this tribute piece. It’s going to be unique because Dani asked if it was possible to not put his face in. I thought about it for a second and said it’s really a challenge for me not to do it. I asked Dani what was the most important thing in Bob’s life and she said family, absolutely family and playing with family. He was more a family guy than a hockey player, people don’t realize that. She said when he came home they didn’t talk hockey, rarely did they talk hockey, they got involved with family.
When I first met with Dani, her daughter was with her as well and she said he was the best father in the world, they just don’t get better because he was one of the kids. I said let’s go with that, let’s show people what Bob Probert was all about.
I asked Dani to tell me what is the most perfect place on earth for you guys as a family and she said, the Bruce Peninsula, Tobermory and I said, tell me your stories about Tobermory and she started to tell me about how they had a place up there and they were just lost to the world when they were there.
So I asked did you have stuff that was important there and she said if you knew Bob he collected stuff, his life was collections. He collected art, hockey memorabilia, he had Harleys and these were real collections, he studied what he collected. I did a Canada sesquicentennial painting with one hundred and fifty Canadiana pieces in it all hidden and Dani was aware of this painting. Knowing this about him led me to suggest this idea that they are at their cottage in Tobermory, looking out through their garage across the street at this beautiful scenery and he is walking off hand in hand with his whole family and the entire garage will have items relating to his life.
It’s hard to describe and what you might imagine from this is probably not exactly what the finished piece will look like.
You do this quite often in your art, these Easter eggs as they call them.
There are a couple pieces where my wife doesn’t even know what I put in. I’ve run contests based on finding these hidden puzzle pieces. I’ll probably go to my death bed with pieces missing.
What was your first Charity collaboration, was it David Suzuki?
I raised tens of thousands of dollars for him when we first worked together. He was in town and I left him a letter saying I would help as much as I can and his response was how do I help you help me? I told him I need you to “pass me on”. First off I needed to get him to trust me.
David really liked what I did with him and then he passed me on to Gordon Lightfoot and then Dan Aykroyd and Jane Goodall and actually had several that we couldn’t get attached to because of the distance and everything else. So we were passed on to a lot of people, I did work with Sting and it was nice because with these people I’m not just an artist, I’m a partner. I’m raising money with Sting for David Suzuki Foundation. With George Lucas, I’m raising funds for Jane Goodall Institute. In the Sting painting, there’s hidden pieces referring to the rebuilding of the rain forest, some of which haven’t been found.
You use a lot of surrealism in your art, I really love that.
I was raised in business in Toronto, I was always an artist but I knew you can’t be an artist without being a business person. You can, but you can starve to death, you can tell I’m not starving. So I thought the only way to do this is to learn how to sell and learn how to market. I always said if I can paint a perfect blade of grass, why can’t I paint anything that I want to paint?
I thought what would I be as an artist and I really didn’t know how to do that, how to find my signature look. So I wanted to find my signature and I chose my three favourite artists which were da Vinci, Dali and Norman Rockwell. It’s the weirdest mix, it’s a bizarre recipe for art. Rockwell was put in there because I enjoy the humour, I want my art to be story-telling. I want to be known as much as a story-teller even in the synergy pieces. Those are stories which if I told you my story, I don’t think that’s what it should only be. I think it should be that you go further into it because that synergy should be even the onlooker, the viewer should be part of the synergy.
About three or four years ago I thought, I need to make some better money because I work so damn hard. We’ve actually given over a million and a half dollars to charities in art and money and everything else over the years and I got to the point where I understood charity starts at home. The synergy art was in my mind and I was starting to work at it and what I did was I claimed to be one of the top equestrian artists in the world (chuckling).
My very first job was with one of the top equestrian families in the world, that’s this one here that’s never been finished. Her face isn’t finished, the horse turned out beautiful. I love horses, people that know me wouldn’t know that. So I was just waiting for better photos of her face and the family had a falling out and the painting wasn’t finished. I wasn’t going to do a five thousand dollar horse, I was going to start with a five hundred thousand dollar horse or a five million dollar horse so we went out and figured out how to get to the top family in the world.
Ford hired me to do the 2002 Thunderbird. I was the official artist for Ford to help raise a million dollars for breast cancer. It came out of the blue to me and Ford established it with I think Ken Knapp and somebody else and they actually sent some of my work to them, the C5 Corvette I did. They were going through North America, they had 14 artists that they classified as the best automotive artists in North America and they came to us and said send us a concept for the 2002 Thunderbird. Ford had said to offer hope with the car so I remembered David Suzuki and Jane Goodall saying if you want to see hope just look at your children’s faces. So I did that with the Thunderbird.
I did the new Thunderbird with the mother and little boy looking up and seeing the enjoyment in her face and a reflection in the water of the 1957 Thunderbird and the mother as a child with her own mother. So I got that project hands down, it was a big project. That was only the third car I had painted and they qualified me among the top automotive artists in North America.
You did a great painting of a motorcycle, another Dan Aykroyd painting, and I was told that it was your first time painting a motorcycle and you were feeling a slight trepidation about it. Is that how it always is painting something for the first time?
I think what it is, am I bullshitting myself or am I a fraud? Great writers always feel that somehow they’re going to be caught being a fraud. I always feel the same thing. When artists say I just do it for me, I do all my own stuff, well no you don’t because the brush that you’re using was created by someone, you know what I mean? We’re always frauds. I use da Vinci, I use Dali and Rockwell. I’m using their techniques, not mine, but the synergy of the four of us becomes Suchiu. It’s what’s in your soul that you’re trying to offer to the people and that’s why synergy is so good for me. Even surreal, I enjoy surreal because the earliest surreal artists, Dali being one of them that created that art form, if they didn’t dream it, it wasn’t surreal, if their subconscious wasn’t making it happen, it wasn’t surreal. What I did was the synergy art is very surreal and I have one that’s called Evolution of a Dream. Well the reason I called it that is I took the canvas and said, I’m just going to punch in the sky and I’m going to let the canvas tell me what to do, so that becomes the dream. As I’m painting, what is starting to show up, I don’t know, just let it do it and that’s what synergy is. I get giddy inside. George Harrison said we’re only in life to try and find our bliss and I actually believe synergy is my bliss.