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World-Renowned Artist Settles Down in Niverville

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Ludolf Grolle Crop1
Ludolf Grollé, renowned artist. Sara Beth Dacombe

He has lived in Luxembourg, Holland, France, and Wales. He has lived in the Far East, Sumatra, and Egypt—during the 1956 Suez Crisis. He has lived in Chicago, Palm Desert, Anaheim Hills, and Sonora at the end of the Gold Rush Trail.

And now businessman-turned-fine-artist Ludolf Grollé has chosen to make Niverville his home.

Grollé began painting at the age of three and went on to study art in the United Kingdom. He has taught art to adults in Europe and the U.K. and was an extramural lecturer for the University of Wales. He has lived in Winnipeg since 2002 and turned professional artist in 2006.

After establishing Grollé Fine Art in Winnipeg, he began collaborating with local, national, and international artists.

In 2021, Grollé was inspired to move his gallery and studio from Fort Garry Place in Winnipeg to his home in Niverville. He and his wife Diane chose Niverville because of its rural setting as well as its proximity to a major urban centre.

The Businessman

In contrast to his lifelong interest in art, there was a significant period of time when Grollé found himself flying high in the world of big business. As an investment banker and financial consultant, he travelled the world conducting marketing, acquisitions, and mergers for major clients in finance as well as high-pressure industries such as oil, electronics, and technology.

Looking at his abstract paintings, one wonders where the ability to reconcile facts and figures with creativity and art comes from.

“Is it a left brain-right brain sort of thing? I don’t know,” says Grollé. “I suppose if you look at the spectrum of some disorders, it’s not autism that I have, but it’s a sort of ability to see how things work together from a variety of different angles at the same time. I sort of realized that I was good with art, but I was also good with numbers and could see how they worked. If you work one angle of a business, it affects another angle. I realized I could help businesses grow because I could see how everything worked together and would just end up working to create the growth the business would need.”

Grollé found that he was also highly adept at understanding and communicating financial information through graphic representations and colour—for example, bar graphs. He realized early in his career that he could help non-numerically-inclined people better understand numbers through visualization.

“It was well-received, so I started doing analysis and found I was good at that,” he says. “Because I was innovative, maybe, I could look at the bottom right corner of a spreadsheet and extrapoloate its multidimensional matrices. Somehow it worked.”

Grollé says it’s really not any different with art. Mixing prime colours in different proportions changes their representation, and this can be looked at in a way that is almost similar to mathematics.

“When you look at my art, even though it flows, there’s a lot of linear work in it. I use three prime colours, and I don’t use other colours. So every painting, whether it’s orange or has greens, it’s just mixed from those three basic colours, and then shades of grey.”

Though his wife has seen both sides of Grollé’s personality—the businessman and the artist—she says he is better at being the artist.

“They’re kind of two very different people,” she says. “When he tries to go into business mode, he does lose that creativity and he’s very focused on the linear,” says Diane.

Grollé agrees that having the two skillsets can bring out the best or the worst in him. He says he used to be extremely rigid and unforgiving in the corporate world, but he’s done with that now.

“Canada has mellowed me a lot,” he says.

The Artist

Grollé is an established contemporary painter focusing on both abstract expressionism and impressionism. His work has been accepted into a variety of private and corporate collections, including esteemed art galleries around the world. His pieces have been displayed at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Manitoba Legislature, Inn at the Forks and other hotels, and in the homes of various private collectors and politicians.

His paintings demonstrate influences of Kandinsky and Pollock and are noteworthy for their imagination, simple colour palette, and textures. He has a reputation for selling his work as originals only, not as prints, because he wants everyone to be able to own a piece of original fine art.

Grollé’s work also draws inspiration from music and the sights and smells around him. He says it’s especially the meaningful moments which stick in our memories that are rich for inspiring art, such as a mother’s perfume or Grandma baking cookies.

He incorporates passion and his love of the arts into everything he does, including when it comes to engaging with other artists. He’s committed to creating a positive and nurturing environment for all artists at his gallery so they can succeed in their respective genres by striving for and promoting excellence.

“People, especially I’ve found in Winnipeg… don’t know how to sell fine art,” says Grollé. “What I do is, I take a shy artist… and I network. I’ve talked to other local businesspeople about renting out wall space, which is a common enough strategy. I say, ‘Why don’t you rent out to artists and give them a space?’ And then both the artist and the business make out well.”

It’s not just businesses and artists where Grollé wants to see synergy. He wants to see humans grow in connection to each other.

Though he made the decision to close the studio in Winnipeg right before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Grollé has re-established Grollé Fine Art out of his home in Niverville and hopes to create an initiative called the Prairie Creative where local artists can network as well as find support and opportunities to advance their art.

He has long been passionate about assisting local charities and has made a personal commitment to donate approximately one in four of his works. He is especially committed to dedicating a substantial percentage of time and effort to the local community and has donated works which have been auctioned off in support of St. Boniface Hospital and the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, among other organizations.

On Niverville

Grollé has lived and travelled all over the world. His favourite places are London (for his mother), Canada (for his wife), The Hague (for his daughter), and Chicago (for himself).

However, Grollé says that there’s nowhere quite like Manitoba, with its grain elevators, wheat fields, sunsets, and patches of green forests.

The decision to move to Manitoba, as well as the shift from businessman to artist, was largely made in order to facilitate his life with Diane, whose own career and children were located in Canada and Manitoba specifically.

And although Grollé had been operating a successful art studio in Winnipeg, the appeal of living in a smaller town eventually won out.

“Give me a bear, a squirrel, a moose, or anything. Give me some space for my dogs,” he says, referencing the couple’s two small canine companions, Hunter and Marshall. “I want for nothing. I’m lucky, I know, because I’ve made some money and my art, it does okay. And now I’m here, in Manitoba, and I look around and I’ve found, truly, I want for nothing.”

The couple live in a modest bungalow with a small yard. Their street is full of families with young children, so it’s safe to say they make up the older demographic, but the couple welcomes the neighbourhood’s noisy energy.

“Everyone on this side of the street has a smoker and everyone on the other has a swimming pool, and we all get along. They all have young kids and we’re the oldest and they know I had a heart attack some time ago so we haven’t had to mow the grass or snow clear in the two years we’ve lived here. This is the people who live here. It’s phenomenal.”

Grollé has organized neighbourhood art classes and held one for the children in the area, which he says was just as rewarding for him as it was for the kids.

“We worked on family portraits with the kids and one boy, he worked on it at home, and he comes back to me to show it to me. The look of accomplishment on his face, there’s nothing like it. He completed his work and he showed it to me because he was proud of it and I’m lucky to be a part of that. That’s community.”

When COVID-19 hit and public health restrictions and social distancing were put in place, Grollé’s world changed dramatically. His life of frequent travel and working in-studio with other artists came to a halt.

But instead of feeling constrained by the changes, Grollé found a new freedom to enjoy life right where he was.

“We found we truly loved where we live and I thought, why would I miss travel when I can invest in my own space here?” he says. “I can build a new deck or change up my space to make it what I want and what I need. Now everyone who comes to my home says, ‘This atmosphere is really nice. It’s very calm, it’s very peaceful.’”

Grollé’s public persona is confident and in control. He can be organized and get things done, seeing massive projects through to fruition. But the persona he reserves for family and friends exudes congeniality.

“When you see the world, when you’ve lived in big cities, you realize eventually, that the charm is over,” Grollé says. “And then living in Niverville, you can enjoy the city if you want to, but you don’t have to live with all that goes on there. That’s how I feel about Canada, too. We live in the best country, or one of the best, in the world.”

Developing Art Locally

One could say that any professional artist would struggle, however, living in a rural town in a province like Manitoba where fine art isn’t necessarily as valued as it is in larger centres.

But Grollé says this doesn’t concern him.

“That’s part of the settling, I’d say,” he says. “I love Niverville and I want to give back to it, maybe even help put it on the map for art, if I can be so bold. People can be part of developing that part of Niverville’s future legacy in this area, in these disciplines.”

Grollé adds he has been utterly captivated by prairie culture and he would love to see the town become a portal for artistic development.

“Everyone has a culture and every culture brings a legacy, so wherever your ancestors are from—Germany, Ireland, Holland, Mexico—there’s this fusion of culture here now that’s been handed down over a couple of centuries… Just as Mennonites settled here a hundred years ago, which brought new culture, there’s new blood here now again.”

The more he gets to know Niverville, and the more people become comfortable gathering again, the more he would like to be able to offer the community opportunities to get to know him.

Aside from inviting residents to come and visit his home studio, this fall Grollé and his work will be introduced at a community event at Negash Coffee where he looks forward to meeting anyone interested in local art.

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