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Canadian Painting in Edmonton

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Alex Janvier, High Hopes of a Liberal, 1974, acrylic on canvas, 90.5 x 122.5 cm. Courtesy of Janvier Gallery. © Alex Janvier. Photo credit: Don Hall.

If you were asked to picture “Canadian Art”, what would come to mind? For most of us, it would be either a traditionally carved and painted Haida mask, or a wilderness piece by one of the members of the Group of Seven. There is no denying the impact that both historic Aboriginal art and the more modern paintings by the famous seven have had, and continue to have, on Canada’s art scene. But there is a lot more to Canadian art than these stereotypes, and this spring the Art Gallery of Alberta is celebrating just that in two unique exhibitions.

Running through April 17, Out of the Woods: Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven will be showcasing the works of not only Franklin Carmichael, Lawren Harris, A.Y. Jackson, Franz Johnston, Arthur Lismer, J.E.H. MacDonald and Frederick Varley, but also the man who was thought to have been a major inspiration to them all: Tom Thomson. Thomson tragically died by drowning before he was able to become a member of the group, which formed in 1920. Together, with the use of glowing colours, luminous backgrounds, and thick brushwork, they shared their post-impressionist view of the Canadian wilderness.

Unlike most Group of Seven exhibits, however, this show will not be displaying favourite landscapes of the northern wilderness. Instead, visitors will get a chance to view both rarely seen and familiar works that take you “out of the woods” to the Caribbean, cities, cottages, and the prairies.

Running at the same time, through July 3, is the exhibit 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. A groundbreaking cultural and political artist alliance, the seven Aboriginal artists showcased in this exhibit were dubbed the “Indian Group of Seven” by Winnipeg Free Press reporter Gary Scherbain when the group formed in 1973. Its members included Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Alex Janvier, Norval Morrisseau, Daphne Odjig, Carl Ray, and Joseph Sanchez.

All professional, contemporary artists, this group stimulated a new way of thinking about contemporary First Nations peoples, their lives, and their art. This exhibition has drawn from both private and public collections to bring together more than 80 paintings and drawings from the 1970s that show how experimental and groundbreaking these artists really were. —Lindsay Shapka

Want more Group Of Seven?

The Alberta Legislature is hosting the exhibit Alberta and the Group of Seven: Teachers, Students and Colleagues through May 23. This free show features works by the Group, as well as works from Alberta’s first generation of professional artists.

Bearclaw Gallery has an exhibit, called Group of Seven (PNIA), featuring new and old collectible works by the pioneers of the “Native Art” movement who make up the Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., including Alex Janvier, Joseph Sanchez, Daphne Odjig, and more until March 15!

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