The Alex Janvier retrospective is a major exhibition that's been going on for the last few months at the National Gallery of Canada. Janvier, an Aboriginal artist from Dene Suline and Saulteaux roots, is still around today, working from his studio in Cold Lake, Alberta, where a gallery bearing his name can be found. He was a member of the so-called Indian Group of Seven, a small group of Aboriginal artists who exhibited together in the 1970s. His style ranges from abstract to representational, with vivid colours and First Nations influences.
This is English Bay West, an acrylic painted in 1979. It reflects his love of the land surrounding him- English Bay is at Cold Lake.
Many Shades Of Pierre is the title of this acrylic painting from 1979. It refers to the late Pierre Trudeau, father of our current PM. Janvier admired the elder Trudeau during his tenure in office, and got to know him years later while on a trip to China on a cultural exchange program.
As you can see, circles are a common motif for the artist as canvases.
Before going into the main part of the exhibit, I paused by the large video screen. Morning Star is the massive mural Janvier painted in the Canadian Museum of History over across the river. While it was simply not possible to bring that over here, the painting is present in the form of a video montage- the full painting right down to fine details.
Janvier's talent was first noticed in his residential school days, and encouraged. Early canvases, often in the conventional rectangular style, show the mix of his Aboriginal heritage and religious schooling. This is Our Lady Of The Teepee, a 1950 oil painting done when the artist was just fifteen.
Sacred Heart also shows the mixture of influences between religion and heritage. It is a 1952 oil painting commissioned for the residential school's chapel.
The Indian Residential School is a more recent painting, dating back to 2007. An acrylic, it evokes the artist's time at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School, and was commissioned by a Metis advocate just prior to the Truth & Reconciliation commission getting started. That was meant to address the legacy of residential schools, and this painting is filled with imagery of the difficulties of that era.
These paintings show more of his visual style, colourful but abstract. I have more from this exhibit over the next couple of days.