Conrad Furey
The Persistence of Memory //
Story by Theresa Furey
Alternate View
Conrad Furey (1954-2008) was a self-taught artist, with his work bordering on a naïve art style. Originally from the fishing and mining town Baie Verte, Newfoundland, Furey left home when he was eighteen years old. In 1974, Furey decided to settle in Hamilton, Ontario.

A calling

Furey knew from an early age that he had an artistic destiny. While still in his teens in Newfoundland, he and his childhood friend John Lewis hitchhiked from Baie Verte to St. Pierre Miquelon. A priest stopped to give them a ride. Making conversation, the priest asked the pair what they wanted to do with their lives. John didn’t know, but Furey, with typical self-assurance, said, “I want to leave something behind to be remembered by”. He always knew he had to make a mark in the world. Furey’s focus, determination and sense of business are what made him the successful artist he was.

The Tiger Group

In 1974, the young artist arrived in Hamilton, Ontario, eager to leave his mark on the art world. Furey found work and a supportive mentor at Bill Powell’s Canvas Gallery on Augusta Street, where he was soon selecting shows and installing artwork. His first studio space was in Powell’s basement where Furey worked diligently at his craft. He also worked on the Festival of Friends for many years, serving on the judicial committee and choosing artisans to show their work at the festivals. These shows grew over the years to become travelling festivals and Furey worked as the art consultant. Festivals that he helped to assemble showed in Texas, New Orleans, Louisiana and Mexico.

These travelling festivals became so successful that he began an artist exchange program. Furey was a driving force in the creation of the Tiger Group, along with co-artists Rick Cook, Gunder Robez, Bill Powell and Wayne Allen. This group became the hub of the Hamilton art scene in the 1970s.

Conrad Furey. "Gone Camping". c.1970s. Oil on board. 20 x 28 in. Courtesy of Earls Court Gallery.
Conrad Furey. "Children by Numbers". 1978. Oil on board. 12 x 23 in. Courtesy of Earls Court Gallery.

“Living away [from Newfoundland] means that I can get to the essence of the memories more easily, there’s less distraction. The years I spent growing up in Newfoundland, that’s where all these images are from… It seems that Newfoundland defines me and my life growing up on an idyllic coast of this grudging isle. It seems I paint what I dreamt of doing with my life.”

– Conrad Furey