Friends of mine recommended I go to see the exhibition if only for the colours. It is good to feast the eyes on colour in the depths of an Ottawa winter.
|Down and Across, 1967|
|Magazine illustration by Jack Bush|
His 1950s paintings were self-consciously trying to be abstracts, but he soon got the hang of it, and in the 1960s after seeing Chagall's Firebird ballet sets and then returning from a first visit to Europe he realised he had to aim for "a sterner intensification in colour and simplicity," as the notes put it. There followed a series of about 35 "sash" paintings where the same shapes were repeated––like a dress with horizontal stripes and a wasp waist against a background of some primary colour.
"It seems I have three worlds," the artist said in the 50s, meaning his commercial work, the refuge of his home life and the experimental painting he did for his own satisfaction. "I find it difficult to relate these three worlds. Maybe though, like the areas in a painting, they are all complete entitites in themselves––but related by the space separating them." The importance of spaces in between!––that was an idea he put into the paintings themselves, such as Culmination of 1955 (that has three areas of strong colour separated by empty canvas) and Split Circle of 1961.
Here's another, Down Sweep (1958):