The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.
There’s more to mining then meets the artistic eye. Below the surface and into the depths of darkness lies no ordinary workplace.
What artist Oryst Sawchuk sees is not only a space rich in metals, but also a scene as impressive as the Northern landscape captured by the Group of Seven.
His latest exhibition, MiningArt, is a tribute to the unsung heroes of Sudbury’s history and a memorial to those miners killed on the job. The series of acrylic paintings and pen and ink drawings, including four new works inspired by the recent deaths in Sudbury’s mining community, are on display in Gallery 2500, a new art space located in the United Steelworkers Local 2500.
“It’s mining that actually defines us as a community,” says Sawchuk. “If you talk to anybody anywhere in the country and you say ‘Sudbury’, they say ‘mining.’”
Sawchuk set out to capture the personality and historical significance of mining in his work. Art is more than something to beautify a living room, it should make a statement, he says, and what better place to do that than a union hall. “The miners are heroes,” says Sawchuk. “They go underground in a very alien environment.”
The silhouette of a man standing in a dark cavernous abyss in the acrylic painting, Dark Down There, is accompanied by the question “How dark is it down there in the mine? How could you tell night from day?”
“This is a very dangerous place and we take it for granted,” says Sawchuk.
Another one of his new works, a limited edition print that he donated to Gallery 6500, is called Rescue. Sawchuk was moved by the rock burst that occurred 30 years ago at Falconbridge Mine. The drawing of a miner towering above with a rescue drill is supposed to make the viewer feel like he or she is the one being rescued, he says.
At 10:12 a.m. on June 20, 1984, a rock burst at Falconbridge Mine killed four miners: Richard Chenier, Sulo Korpela, Daniel Lavallee and Wayne St. Michel. St. Michel was within minutes of being reached by rescuers about 27 hours later when he died.
Each year on the anniversary of the event, the Workers Day Memorial is held. Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of the event, which continues to impact the city.
Sadly, “in 30 years nothing has changed,” says Sawchuk. “It’s just as dangerous.”
In less than three years, six men have died underground in Sudbury mining operations. Just last, month Norm Bisaillon and Marc Methe, two experienced contract drillers were killed when the ground collapsed at First Nickel Inc.’s Lockerby Mine. In April, Paul Rochette died in Vale’s Sudbury smelter. In January 2012, Stephen Perry, 47, was killed at Vale’s Coleman Mine in Levack.
In June 2011, Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed when they were buried by wet mud and ore at the 3,000-foot level of Vale’s Stobie Mine.
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