By Lindsay Shapka
One of Canada’s most significant artists and a renowned member of the Aboriginal Group of Seven, the prolific Alex Janvier has had an impressive 50-year artistic career. His creations are a mix of evocative swirling lines and vibrant colours inspired by the the challenges and celebrations of his past, the traditional bead-work and birch-bark ancestry of his mother, and his profound connection to nature.
Now on, at the Art Gallery of Alberta, is an exciting exhibition showcasing 90 of his diverse and imaginative works, including the artist’s favourite pieces and some never-before-exhibited drawings.
WHERE recently had the honour of sitting down with the artist to learn more about him and his work. The full interview, after the jump.
What is your favourite piece in the show?
Well, I think that my favourite piece is 8 of them. The ones down at the far end (of the exhibit) that are dedicated to the people that started to chance the art world for the Natives. There was a group of 8 of us who used to meet in Winnipeg in the late 60s and into the early 70s. They are a reflection of the individuals personality and how they interacted with the group.
The group is usually referred to as the Aboriginal Group of Seven. Were there actually eight of you?
Well, Bill Reid was part of the group, but for some reason no one ever counts him. I think that they wanted seven so that they could compare us to the famous Canadian Group of Seven. But, they did it in a mocking way. They figured that we would never measure up to the original Group of Seven. I think that we are starting to prove them wrong though, and gain more influence in the art world.
What brought the eight of you together?
We were all artists who wanted to change the situation for Natives in the art world. We didn’t know how to do it and we had no funding available from the government because we were not taxpayers. So we did what we could and just started working, paying for everything out of our own pockets.
What do you want viewers of your work to know about you?
It is not so much to know about me, but about the art itself. It is not only about representing culture or emotion but about the fact that we are the guardians of ourselves and our land. I try to send messages through my art to get people to think about the legacy that we are leaving behind for future generations. Life in not just about living fast, making money and taxing our resources.
All we really need is a good sleep, something good to eat, family and good schools for our children to that they too can learn how to make a living and preserve things for generations to come.
Exhibition runs through August 19. Art Gallery of Alberta, 2 Sir Winston Churchill Square, 99 St. & 102A Ave., 780-422-6223.