Alex Colville exhibition opens in Toronto

The artist's first show since 2015 focuses on the painter’s studies and screen prints


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Colville's 1965 painting 'To Prince Edward Island' is one of his more iconic pieces

Alex Colville, one of the most prominent artists in Canadian art history, has a new exhibit opening in Toronto. It'll be the first large Colville show since the celebrated AGO exhibition in 2015 and will be held at the Mira Godard Gallery in Yorkville from Sept. 15 to Oct. 6. 

The owner and director of the Mira Godard Gallery, Gisella Giacalone, had this anecdote to share about famed Canadian painter Alex Colville, who was known equally for his geometrically precise style of pointillist painting and his quietly stirring and cinematic portraits of everyday 20th century Canadian life:

“Somebody once asked Rhoda [Colville, who was married to the painter for 70 years] what Colville was working on, and she said something like, ‘I don’t know, but I saw him measuring the dog’,” said Giacalone.

In the upcoming exhibition of Colville ​at the Yorkville gallery, Colville: Drawings and Prints, the focus is less on the finished paintings for which he became famous, but the painstaking processes that went into them.

“Some artists don’t actually work with studies before they make a painting or a print,” said Giacalone. “Whereas Colville would, generally speaking, make dozens of preparatory sketches for each painting and print. So it was a real process for him.”


This piece, called the Berlin Bus, will be featured as part of the exhibit
 

These studies include meticulously drawn lines and measurements, mathematical equations, and even, in some cases, like with the one for his 1987 Golden Dog screen print, include even a small legend of all the colours he would use for the print.

“I always called them his thoughts on paper,” she said. “You kind of see his progress, where he’s made changes before he gets to the final painting or the screen print. It’s this sort of journey on paper where he’s thinking and analysing how the finished print or painting will be.”

This exhibition will also allow Colville fans to see his prominent painting, Berlin Bus, which was completed in 1978 and originally sold through the Mira Godard Gallery.

The gallery has had a nearly 45-year-long relationship with Alex Colville, and later, the Alex Colville Estate, which recently released these new pieces. Giacalone, who worked with the late Mira Godard since 1982 and took over the gallery following Godard’s passing in 2010, remembers the days when they would receive an unexpected fax from Colville saying that he’d FedExed over a painting.

“He was not prolific… he only painted one painting a year, every year, or year and a half. And what was great was that you always knew he was working on something, but he’d never tell us exactly what the image would look like,” she said. “It was always very exciting and quite thrilling, because just knew that whatever he was going to do was going to be major and interesting.”

Works exhibited in Colville: Drawings and Prints will include Berlin BusMorning (1981), a studies for Soldier and girl at Station (1953), and Raven (1990).

Mira Godard Gallery, 22 Hazelton Ave., 416-964-8197

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Jessica Wei is an associate editor for Post City. She has lived and worked as a journalist in Montreal, Hong Kong and, now, Toronto. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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