Spotlight on 40 Years
Artworks from the Canada Council Art Bank
Art Bank director, Victoria Henry, shows His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, Jérôme Fortin’s artwork in the Spotlight on 40 Years exhibition.
From September 27 to 30, 2012, over 650 people came to see the special anniversary exhibition Spotlight on 40 Years: Artworks from the Canada Council Art Bank. Guests were given the opportunity to travel through 40 years of contemporary Canadian art, search through the Art Bank racks and ask staff questions.
We hope that you were able to attend our open house. If not, scroll down to see guest comments, photos of the 40th celebration and the online presentation of the special exhibition.
View our photo album on Flickr and our video on YouTube
Here's what our guests had to say about our special exhibition:
Wonderful opportunity to see and explore our Canadian talent.
Thank you for the visual feast. Another helping please. Very exciting to be viewing great Canadian works.
Thank you for allowing me to discover Canadian artists. The staff are wonderful and assisted in providing more enjoyment.
Superbly curated and exhibited. Thanks for your awesome efforts!!
I could spend hours here, probably even days. Really makes me want to paint! Thanks to my art teacher for suggesting I visit. Beautiful works.
Guests travel through the 1990s in contemporary Canadian art
Guests search the collection on the Art Bank database and through the many artwork racks
About the exhibition:
For 40 years, the Canada Council Art Bank has been collecting work by the best Canadian artists of our times. It has become the world's largest collection of contemporary Canadian art with over 17,000 works by some 3,000 artists.
In planning to celebrate 40 years of the Art Bank with this exhibition of 40 artworks, we were eager to discover how the works in the collection trace the history of Canadian art over the last four decades. How did Canadian art change and what were the influences? How do the artworks reflect the changes in Canadian society?
The common thread running through the exhibition is one of identity, as many of the artists reference the roots of their own experience. The works are a reflection of the human spirit, a fertile imagination, place as a metaphor for belonging, and a delicious sense of humour.
Each work challenges us to look beyond the surface of texture, colour, light and beautiful scenes and objects to discover the artist’s intent. We invite you to embark on this challenge as you tour through 40 years of contemporary Canadian art.
Representing 1972, 1973, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012:
Becoming Laura is an iconic work both in terms of Canada’s celebration of the War of 1812 and in terms of the level of ironic detail in this large-format giclée print. Meryl McMaster, herself of First Nations ancestry, personifies both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal sides of the allies as she marches through the night to warn of an impending assault. The shadow cutting of the Laura figure references the way portraits were created at the turn of the 19th century. The placement of the wildflowers and grasses and the overlay of words and gauze-like screen add to the theatrical drama of the struggle and the determination to succeed.
Meryl McMaster, a recent graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, lives and works in Ottawa.
New Canadian Cabin Series #2 was inspired by Aidan Urquhart’s participation in the North Bay art festival, Ice Follies 2010. In this work, he combines the cabin as a Canadian icon with other visually exciting references to landscape. “My work is a celebration of information overload and how to harness this energy for the good.” (Aidan Urquhart)
Aidan Urquhart was born in London, Ontario, where he continues to live and work.
Arrangement According to Nature is a digital print showing a bird’s-eye view of six distinct spaces. The clearly presented content in the images belies the fact that taking such a photograph is optically impossible. These fabricated images of interior spaces contain all of the information on the floor and four walls without a clearly defined perspective.
Alain Paiement was born and lives in Montréal. His work is in the collections of the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, and the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography, Ottawa.
River Styx is an oil-on-linen painting that depicts a permanent installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario of a ship model donated by philanthropist and collector Ken Thomson. The hovering vessel creates a sense of otherworldliness as it floats weightlessly in its vitrine. River Styx is from Joanne Tod’s Kingdom Come series which explores museums and the way in which they display objects.
Joanne Tod was born in Montréal and currently lives and works in Toronto where she teaches visual arts at the University of Toronto.
Eliza Griffiths’ Fast Runners is an oil painting on canvas of two figures – male and (probably) female – fleeing from some unknown peril. From the series Action Paintings, it “reflects on a spirit of hope and aspiration in conditions of adversity. The exaggerated forms of the female body in particular speak to both a radiation and a pull of energy beyond physical limits of the body.” (Eliza Griffiths)
Eliza Griffiths was born in London, England, and raised in Ottawa. She received wide acclaim for an early body of work, Stories of Girls, that examines issues of female socio-psycho-sexual identity. She has exhibited widely in Canada and internationally. She currently lives and works in Montréal and teaches at Concordia University.
Loadmaster records an exciting event in Nunavut’s community of Cape Dorset – the arrival of its newest garbage truck. The large scale of Timootie Pitsiulak’s drawing in coloured pencil and ink on paper reflects the actual size of the truck and its importance in the community. With these drawings, the artist is at the forefront of contemporary Inuit art.
Timootie Pitsiulak’s work has been featured on the cover of Inuit Art Quarterly and in an exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. He was born in Kimmirut (Lake Harbour), Nunavut and lives and works in Cape Dorset.
Of Woman Reading on the Bus, Tehran, Iran, Sanaz Mazinani has said, “I deliberately refuse to romanticize my culture, and try to strip away the prevailing image of the Other – the desert, the veiled woman.” This large-format colour photograph of a woman comfortably reading alone on a bus, wearing bright red lipstick, her uncovered face dappled by sunlight, challenges the Western belief that Iranian women have little personal freedom.
Sanaz Mazinani was born in Tehran, Iran. A graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, she currently lives and works in California.
The Chinoiserie toile pattern, a colonial interpretation of the Far East that was popular in 17th century Europe, is the cotton fabric background for the oil painting Citri Immaturi. In this complex, layered painting, JJ Lee juxtaposes an ancient Chinese acupuncture chart with an appropriated Western botanical diagram image of oranges. “I use fruit, roots and flower imagery as a metaphor for the body, where identity is located.”
JJ Lee was born and raised in Halifax, N.S. She currently lives and works in Toronto where she teaches at OCAD University.
What the Locals Make is a colour photograph on aluminum. According to the artist, “The two lunar lanterns are visitors from another place who have come to explore Toronto.” There they discover that they cannot engage with the public in any physical way because they have no hands. They can only observe; their faces fixed in an expression of wonder. “This physical disengagement underlines the isolation from the culture they are observing.”
Robert Fones is a recipient of the 2011 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. He was born in London, Ontario, and currently lives and works in Toronto.
Rebellion is an acrylic painting on canvas from the series Eros and Empire. Of this work, Kent Monkman has said, “I play with sexuality and gender to discuss power relations between First Nations people and Europeans. I appropriate 19th century landscape paintings and create fictional romantic narratives to challenge the subjectivity of the original artists.” Look for Miss Chief Share Eagle Testickle, Monkman’s alter ego, offering an apple to entice the retreating soldiers!
Kent Monkman was born in St. Mary’s, Ontario, was raised in Winnipeg, and currently lives and works in Toronto. Of Cree ancestry, he asserts an empowered expression of Aboriginal sexuality in major works that can be found in many important collections, including the Peabody Essex Museum, the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Solitude 1 is a diamond-shaped configuration of books with their pages uniformly folded to a point at their middle. The repetitive, compulsive, folding action suggests a meditative approach to the craft of art-making. According to gallerist Pierre-François Ouellette, “By repeatedly folding each page of paper, Jérôme Fortin achieves stunning effects of texture, form, line, groove and colour.”
Jérôme Fortin has been exhibiting nationally and internationally since 1996, including solo shows in Prague, Pretoria, Tokyo, Paris, Toronto and Montréal. He was born in Joliette, Quebec, and lives and works in Montréal.
Wei, comprised of 2,300 Canadian flag lapel pins and a child’s traditional oriental shirt, was Pao Quang Yeh’s submission to his graduating class exhibition at the University of Ottawa. The dichotomy in the surprising juxtaposition of the materials – delicate fabric and heavy metal pins – is balanced by their interrelationship, as one clearly supports the reality and symbolism of the other.
Pao Quang Yeh was born in Vietnam and immigrated to Canada as a child. He is currently a program officer at the Canada Council for the Arts.
Edward Burtynsky’s Shipbreaking #3 is an enigmatic photo of a partially deconstructed ship in glorious late evening or early morning sunshine. The single figure holding an umbrella against the sun’s rays belies the difficulty and danger of salvaging ship materials for resale. According to the artist, “These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear…”
Burtynsky has received major acclaim for two of his books, China (2005) and Quarries (2007), and the documentary film on his work, Manufactured Landscapes. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada. He was born in St. Catherines, Ontario and currently lives and works in Toronto.
Métis leader Louis Riel is often quoted as having said, “My people will sleep for one hundred years and when they awake it will be the artist that gives them their spirit back…” Rosalie Favell, also Métis, pays tribute to this quote with a tableau of herself as Dorothy awakening in her own home under the gaze of Louis Riel as the Wizard of Oz. She writes: “Riel as a prophet tells us that everything that we need is right inside of us, that all roads lead to home, that being true to our people is the way to recovering our pride, our self respect.”
Rosalie Favell was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba and lives and works in Ottawa.
Isabelle Hayeur creates her photographs from the perspective of an environmentalist concerned with the changes in the landscape that overwhelm what once existed. According to the artist, the digital manipulation in Décharge “reiterates the constant interference that human activity enacts upon urban, rural and wilderness terrain, creating startling and often disturbing possible new worlds.”
Isabelle Hayeur lives and works in Montréal.
Invisible Sightings (Taiwan) are silkscreen prints of drawings Ed Pien made after a four-month stay in Taiwan – his first visit since he immigrated to Canada 28 years earlier at age 11. In 2009, he wrote: “Using drawing, paper cuts and installation, I explore curiosity, wonder and enchantment with a particular focus on the strange and grotesque, deploying these as a means to challenge preconceptions and celebrate diversity…”
Ed Pien was born in Taiwan and currently lives and works in Toronto.
Red Dot is from the series Green Room, in which Wanda Koop boldly contrasts elements from two distinct histories of painting – the European landscape tradition and Modernism’s use of two dimensional geometric shapes. With Red Dot, the results are particularly compelling and serene.
Wanda Koop is a renowned filmmaker and painter who was born in Vancouver. When she’s not travelling extensively, she lives and works in Winnipeg. She is a Member of the Order of Canada (2006).
Sound is a silkscreen print on rag paper in the typical form line drawing motif of the Haida people of Canada’s Northwest Coast.
Jim Hart, a jeweler, sculptor, printmaker and designer, began his career as an apprentice to the legendary Bill Reid. After carving his first major totem pole in 1999 in honour of his family, he received his name as Haida hereditary chief, 7idansuu. He was born into the Eagle Clan at Old Massett, on Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). He now divides his time between Old Massett and Vancouver. In 2011, his cast bronze sculpture, The Three Watchmen, took a prominent place outside the National Gallery of Canada, on the ceremonial route in the Nation’s Capital.
Tony Scherman’s Macbeth Witch #1 is an example of the artist’s interest in producing “facescapes.” In this case he’s transformed a beauty from Vogue magazine with paint and encaustic (pigment mixed with hot wax). The asymmetrical cropping and framing of the face adds to the effect of dissolution and recreation, a commentary on the “aberrant conditions of experience.”
Tony Scherman has an international following. He works extensively in North America and Europe as an artist, critic and lecturer. He lives and works in Toronto.
Source: Karen Antaki, Tony Scherman: Banquo’s Funeral
Clarisse III is a painted laser-cut, stainless steel sculpture of a cow. “I can’t put a finger on what propels me to make these things, but I keep doing it anyway. Well, it is a good way to live and make a living. I am quite happy about it.” (Joe Fafard, 2008)
Joe Fafard was born in St. Marthe, Saskatchewan and currently lives and works near the town of Lumsden, Saskatchewan. Among his many honours, he was named an Officer of the Order of Canada (1981). His works grace a number of major buildings across Canada including the most recent installation of Running Horses in front of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.
Blues is a large-format colour photograph. It is typical of the artists’ work that “exploits an iconography of the body, expresses a questioning of identity, the difficulties of interpersonal communication, desire, loss and anguish.”
Geneviève Cadieux lives and works in Montréal. Among her many honours, she represented Canada at the Venice Biennale (1990) and was awarded a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2011).
Source: Celebrating Women’s Achievements, Library and Archives Canada
Burying the Ruler #1 is a photo-based work on canvas that uses a photo-emulsion process and acrylic paint. It continues a project that the artist began in the Dominican Republic in 1989, and was originally presented as the central image of a video that commented on the country’s disappeared Taíno peoples. This large-format work confirms the importance of self-portraiture to explore personal identity.
Carl Beam was the son of Barbara Migwans, an Ojibway from West Bay on Northern Ontario’s Manitoulin Island, and Edward Cooper, an American soldier who died as a prisoner of war in WWII. This renowned artist was the first Aboriginal artist to have his work purchased by the National Gallery of Canada. He received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2005, and died later that year in West Bay.
Though perhaps best known for her drawings, Betty Goodwin’s body of work included collage, sculpture, printmaking, painting, assemblage and etching. Il est interdit d’apprendre (Steel Chairs) is a three-dimensional steel sculpture composed of flat plates and elongated bars that reference the destabilized gesture and lines of her drawings and occupies a similar relationship to its surrounding space.
The artist represented Canada at a number of leading international events: the Tokyo International Print Biennial, 1974; the Ljubljana Biennial of Graphic Arts, 1975; the São Paulo Biennial, 1989; and the Venice Biennale, 1995. She was awarded both the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Order of Canada in 2003. Betty Goodwin lived and worked in Montréal until her death in 2008.
John Hartman’s The North Shore is a painting composed of expressive brush strokes: black/brown for the continent, blue/black for the dark waters of Lake Superior and pale turquoise for the river. These colours identify place; the symbolic drawings over painted on the coloured surfaces are less direct. It is hard to know if The North Shore represents a moment in time. What story do a crucifix, a graveyard, a fish, a factory spewing smoke, canvas tents and a cat suggest?
John Hartman was born in Midland, Ontario and lives and works in Penetanguishene, Ontario. His paintings are found in numerous museum and corporate collections.
This series of artworks from The Armoury of the Miss General Idea Pavilion: The Standards consists of 10 fibre-based badges. The badge, as a popular culture icon, is a testament to personal success in a given field of endeavour. General Idea’s play on the concept “provokes a discussion of sexuality and especially queer sexuality in the art world.” This was one of General Idea’s many works that challenged the politics of Canadian censorship at the time.
AA Bronson lived and worked as part of the artists' group General Idea from 1969 until the deaths of his two partners Jorge Zontal and Felix Partz. Since 1999, AA Bronson’s solo exhibitions have been under his own name. Among his many awards are the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2002) and Officer of the Order of Canada (2008). AA Bronson was born in Vancouver and currently resides in Toronto and New York.
*Twitter interview, AA Bronson, August 2, 2011
In the mid-1980s, the duo known as FASTWÜRMS created numerous linocuts on found tea towels. Chew or Die includes a volcanic eruption, a waterfall, a rootless tree and a beaver wearing a shoe. The FASTWÜRMS suggest that “the abundance of imagery gives the viewer endless opportunities for visual pleasure and personal aesthetic shopping. Our sensibility is an extension of the natural world that abhors a vacuum and revels in profusion.” With enough stuff viewers are bound to find something that speaks to them!*
FASTWÜRMS was formed in 1979 by artists Kim Kozzi and Dai Skuse. They have exhibited and created public commissions and installation performance, video and film projects across Canada and in the United States, Korea and Japan. They are based in Toronto and Creemore, Ontario.
Evergon’s portrait of the weaver Arachne surrounded by beautiful textiles, reminds us of her challenge to the goddess Athena, her death and subsequent rebirth as a spider. Arachne is a Polaroid photo enlarged to over 8 feet in height; a process that became available to him during the mid-1980s and that he pioneered as an artform.
Evergon has received many grants throughout his extensive career, including several from the Canada Council for the Arts. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including a major retrospective at the National Gallery of Canada. Evergon was born in Niagara Falls, Ontario and lives and works in Montréal.
Eleanor Bond’s challenge in creating a monumental work like IV Converting the Powell River Mill to a Recreation and Retirement Centre was to reduce the buildings to play structures within a large urban landscape, as if seen from an aerial view. Spanning over 11 feet, the size and scale of the work creates an intimate portrayal of the space while at the same time making a political statement about urban design in a post-industrial age.
Bond lives and works in Winnipeg.
Beaver Creek is an acrylic painting on canvas. The medium of acrylic with its ability to function with the fluidity of watercolour and the solidity of oil, suits the portrayal of quality of light in British Columbian landscapes for which David Alexander is well known.
Alexander was born in Vancouver and currently lives and works in the Lake Country, British Columbia.
Excerpt from Sleeping Places on Nine Islands, Scotland 1983
Marlene Creates’ Sleeping Places on Nine Islands consists of nine black-and-white photographs of lightly-disturbed grassy ground taken in remote areas of Scotland. The subtle indentations in the grass give the site meaning as a specific place where Creates slept outdoors overnight.
Creates’ work, which became part of a movement called land art, brought attention to the fragility of the natural environment.
Creates was born in Montréal and currently lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland.
Sounds of the Night Garden #4 is a drawing using black oil stick on paper. One of a series by Shelagh Keeley on the same theme, it is evocative of the stick drawings of a child and resonates with memories of childhood nightmares of scary creatures.
Keeley was born in Oakville and currently lives and works in New York and Toronto.
Photo: Martin Lipman
Close Knit is an installation of numerous tiny sweaters shrunk from their adult size by repeated washing. Aganetha Dyck arranges the miniature sweaters as overlapping objects that together resemble vertebrae. Concerned with women’s roles and practices, she is best known for her work with bees and beeswax – the activity and material that defined her work throughout the 1990s.
Aganetha Dyck was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2007. She lives and works in Winnipeg.
Rose et Jaune no.4 is a lush oil painting built up with layers of colour that simultaneously hide and reveal a formal structure of infinite space. McEwen’s work creates a sense of tension and confusion in the viewer – its hazy surface suggests a foreground and background that never quite solidifies.
McEwen, who died in 1999, worked in Montréal throughout his career. He was part of the group of artists in Quebec who brought abstract painting to prominence in the 1950s and 1960s.
Bees Behaving on Blue is a colour photograph of dead bees arranged in a circle on a blue ground. Snow found the collection of dead bees in his cabin in Newfoundland when he returned in the spring and created the arrangement reminiscent of a funeral wreath.
Snow sees his work as a sculptor, filmmaker, musician, photographer and painter as fundamentally inter-related art practices. His is a totally unique vision based on an inherent sense of investigation and play.
Snow has earned numerous national and international accomplishments, including a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2000. He lives and works in Toronto.
Claude Tousignant’s 1-78-102 consists of two circular canvases, each with three concentric circles in monochromatic colours that seem to move in and out of their own circular spaces, creating an optical vibration.
Tousignant was named an officer of the Order of Canada in 1976 and awarded the Governor General’s Award in Media and Visual Arts in 2010. He lives and works in Montréal.
Victor Cicansky’s Potted Cabbage is a larger-than-life ceramic cabbage in a red earthenware flower pot. Vibrant and sensuous, it breaks from the traditional use of clay as a medium for utilitarian household objects.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Cicansky and other Regina-based ceramic artists, inspired by the funk art movement in California, created humorous, irreverent clay sculptures based on their passion for their communities’ traditions and their love of the land.
Cicansky was awarded the Order of Canada in 2009. He lives and works in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Party is a charcoal and oil painting on canvas, created towards the end of Maxwell Bates’ life. It expresses the profoundly human experience of feeling alone in a group.
Bates, a WWII veteran, was a product of his times and its influences. He was a student of the eminent Max Beckman and was also influenced by the work of the French impressionists.
He was born in Calgary, studied in the U.K. and New York. He died in Victoria B.C. in 1980.
A Painting to Match the Couch consists of a rug, table, lamp and couch and a photograph of the rug, table and couch in an elaborate gold frame. The work challenges the perception of art as mere decoration.
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s many artists created installations that isolated a unique social or political concept using everyday or found materials.
Iain Baxter, one of the two artists of N.E. Thing Co., was born in the U.K., raised in Alberta, studied in the U.S. and Japan and currently lives in Kingsville, Ontario. He was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2004.
Suzy Lake as Bill Vazan is a grid of six black-and-white photographs that show the artist morphing into the image of fellow Canadian artist Bill Vazan, with the use of an applied moustache. Vazan is the celebrity in Lake’s Warhol-like use of multiple images.
This work represents the increase in self-awareness and issues of identity that became central to the work of many Canadian artists during the 1970s.
Lake was born in the U.S. and currently lives in Toronto.
Rita Letendre’s Méar, an acrylic painting on canvas that combines line, light and colour, is representative of the Quebec’s abstract colourist movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The artist embraced the principles of the Automatists and developed an abstract directional design that became the formal structure of her work for many years.
Letendre, whose work also included print-making, airbrushing and painting with a spatula, received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts in 2010. She has lived and worked in Montréal and is currently based in Toronto.
Joyce Wieland’s Maple Leaf Forever II is a most appropriate work to represent the Canada Council Art Bank’s very first year. Created in 1972, this renowned work by one of Canada’s most celebrated artists features lightly-coloured female lips mouthing a patriotic song, framed in a series that references film and animation, set against a quilted cotton background with intricately stitched maple leaves. It is quintessential Joyce Wieland and is quintessentially Canadian.
Wieland, whose career included painting, fibre art, collage and film, was awarded the Canada Council’s Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award in 1972. She lived in Toronto and New York, and died in 1998.
The Art Bank collection includes over 20 artworks by Joyce Wieland, from paintings to embroidery and fibre works.