One of Canada’s greatest painters, whose work I’m a fan of, has passed away at 92. From CBC:
While Colville’s images seemed to be taken directly from reality, he drew them from multiple sketches and studies, planning a perfect composition before he began to paint. The painting process could take months — with layer upon layer of thinned paint painstakingly applied dot by dot to a primed wooden panel. “Behind his words, as behind his art, you can sense elaborate webs of thought. And, also like his paintings, he stands quite alone, beyond category. It’s impossible to speak with him for a few hours without feeling his powerful sense of self. He is, it seems, a free man.” Robert Fulford wrote in Toronto Life in 2000. The tranquil scenes are deceptive, because something about the relationship between figures or the nature of the landscape will convey loneliness, isolation, parting, work, leisure, estrangement, love.
“I see life as inherently dangerous. I have an essentially dark view of the world and human affairs .. Anxiety is the normality of our age,” Colville was quoted as saying.
I was born in 1967 on John A. MacDonald’s birthday and Colville designed a special run of coins to mark that auspicious occasion (some have incorrectly claimed the coins were issued to mark Canada’s 100th birthday). Also that year, Colville painted Pacific, an ominous work that Sask lit nerds will remember gracing the cover of Dave Margoshes 2007 short story collection Bix’s Trumpet And Other Stories.
I went to a Colville talk in Winnipeg in the early 1990s with my pal Chris Hlady. Colville was intelligent, warm and gave good slideshow. Someone asked him why his animals have faces and his people don’t. I can’t recall his answer. He might have dodged the question to let us figure that one out.
Also, he showed a small painting he’d done of a bat which obviously made me like him more.
Rest in peace, Alex Colville. Thank you for making my life richer.