colville-to-prince-edward-island
Alex Colville, To Prince Edward Island, Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario

Truthfully, there aren’t that many Canadian painters that spring immediately to mind when the topic of iconic Canadian art comes up. The Group of Seven always gets a shout out, and Emily Carr often represents, but every Canadian knows (or at least, should know) the distinctive work of Alex Colville. It’s hard to believe the artist passed away just last year. In celebration of his life and work, the Art Gallery of Ontario is currently showing “Alex Colville” at the gallery, the largest exhibition of Colville’s work ever, complete with examinations of Colville’s influence on modern pop culture, from Hollywood films to literature.

Although many Canucks sometimes roll their eyes at the thought of our country’s roster of distinguished artists, Colville is definitely one who stands in stark contrast to the cliches of Canadiana that so many of us have in our heads. This exhibit explores the artist’s unique style and its evolution over his over 90-year career, thanks to curator Andrew Hunter’s painstaking work putting the exhibit together. The AGO’s curator of Canadian art scoured the country in search of the artist’s most famous works and little-known masterpieces – borrowing works from museums to private collections from coast to coast, some of which have never been shown in a public sphere before – to put together the exhibit. Covering all of Colville’s career, the exhibit takes the viewer on a journey through the artist’s evolution as a painter and thinker.

Known for his precise images of everyday modern life, Colville captured moments that seem to be filled with a sense of arrested movement and sometimes urgency. From railroads to horses and cows, Colville’s unique signature style made the Canada he captures in his paintings feel epic despite the sometimes lonely subjects and empty fields he painted. “It’s the ordinary things that seem extraordinary to me,” he famously once said. Some of the painter’s most famous works are there, like “Horse and Train” (1953),” To Prince Edward Island” (1965), “Woman in Bathtub” (1973), and “Target Pistol and Man” (1980). That said, seeing the impeccably curated exhibit in its entirety will give you a whole new appreciation for Colville.

The exhibit will be on display until January 4, 2015.

Who’s your favourite Canadian artist? Comment below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe!