Thursday, October 16, 2014

AGO: Alex Colville: Saturday, October 11 2014

Soldier and Girl at Station (1953)
This is fantastic exhibition of the work of Alex Colville, one of Canada's leading painters. As usual, it is presented by the AGO set into the biography of Colville. It helps such a lot to understand the work of an artist if we know something about his life. The AGO stage exhibitions so well.

Alex Colville was born in 1920, in Toronto, Canada, and died in 2013, in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, seven months after his wife of seventy years, Rhoda Wright.

During the Second World War, he was a war artist with the Canadian Forces. He was there for the liberation of Holland, and he also witnessed and recorded the atrocities of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. His paintings of this time are sensitive and I found them emotionally moving. I was especially affected by his painting of the farewell kiss between a soldier and his girl.

He returned to Canada, and lived the rest of his life in Nova Scotia. I found it interesting that he was a card-carrying member of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.

Horse and Train (1954)
His paintings are of ordinary subjects, sometimes in unusual juxtaposition. Probably his best known painting is Horse and Train which demonstrates this exactly. It also conveys the air of menace that so often fills the Colville paintings. This particular painting is surprisingly dark, as if created in the heavy, overcast atmosphere of an approaching storm. The original is not as large as I had expected, as were most of the paintings.

Colville is in a class of his own as an artist. A deep thinker, his work is realistic, but in a way like no other. Carefully planned and meticulously painted, his paintings convey so much more than a reproduction of his subjects. Almost metaphysical in atmosphere, they convey the underpinnings of life. Nothing is as simple as it seems. Everything has a story leading up to it: and where is it leading? This is art at its best, touching the viewer on so many different levels. Provoking emotion and further thought.

My daughter and her two sons accompanied me to view the exhibition. I found it interesting that each generation found the paintings equally fascinating and meaningful. Colville speaks of his world, and makes us think to ours.

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