Paying tribute to Alex Colville
By Madalyn Hamman, Arts Contributor
In celebration of his 90th birthday, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is holding an exhibition of the works of Canadian artist Alex Colville. On display are paintings and prints that reveal his distinct take on the Maritime landscapes, as well as subjects of the people and animals in his life. Colville is recognized as a realist painter, but is even more so recognized for his talent to create remarkable scenes out of the ordinary aspects that one finds in daily life.
Colville was born in Toronto in 1920, but he is hailed as a great artist of Atlantic Canada. He moved to Amherst with his family in 1929, at the age of nine, where he grew up and eventually left to study at Mount Allison University. Upon graduation in 1942, he enlisted in the army and became a member of the War Art Program in Europe. He returned home to Canada in 1945 where he continued to work as a war artist by painting the sketches he made overseas.
His earliest commercial exhibits were offered from the National Gallery of Canada in the 1950s, as well as the Newville exhibit in New York. Since then, he has traveled worldwide to various art exhibitions to represent Canada, and has had many achievements for his work, which have included honors from the Order of Canada.
Overall, his works are not just representations of Canadian culture, but also representations of his experiences in life and his inspiration for what he sees around him.
In his works on display, Colville takes inspiration from the scenery around his home in Nova Scotia. His family members and animals he owns are also important subjects for him, often capturing them in moments of everyday life, including the personal ones.
To begin a painting for Colville sketches it out first. One of these sketches on display is Three Girls on a Wharf (1953); it demonstrates Colville’s process of experimentation with shape, space and levels before starting to paint.
Open space is an important factor in his scenic works, as there is often a solitary figure in the midst of a beautiful, but desolate landscape. Colville uses the space surrounding the figure to create a familiar yet lonesome atmosphere that can be as liberating as it can be unnerving for a viewer. The same can be said with his use of contrast between light and shade, as well as the muted colours that set the tone perfectly in each of his paintings.
The Alex Colville exhibit is on display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. It runs until January 2011.