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Alex Janvier, Lubicon, 1988, Acrylic on canvas. Collection of the Art Gallery of Alberta
Alex Janvier, Suckerville, 1993, Acrylic on linen. Collection of the Art Gallery of Alberta
This exhibition surveys the 50 year artistic career of Alberta artist Alex Janvier.
Featuring over 90 works drawn from public collections across Canada and from the artist’s personal collection, the exhibition includes works on paper and canvases that date from the early 1960s to a selection of Janvier’s most recent work, produced in 2012.
Born of Dene Suline and Saulteaux descent in 1935, Alex Janvier was sent to the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta at the age of eight. Janvier then attended the Alberta Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary (now the Alberta College of Art and Design), graduating with honours in 1960. As a member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporation (PNIAI), better known as the Aboriginal Group of Seven, Janvier is a leading contemporary artist of Aboriginal descent or heritage in Canada, and has influenced generations of young artists. In recognition of his contribution to the arts in Canada, Janvier received a Governor General’s Award in 2008 and life-time achievement awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, The Tribal Chiefs Institute and Cold Lake First Nations in 2011.
The exhibition opens with a number of drawings and paintings that date from the 1960s, which have never been exhibited before. These works trace the development of Janvier’s signature, curvilinear style, which can be seen in his work starting in the early 1970s. The imagery of this work combines traditional native decorative motifs: medicine wheels, floral patterns and symbolic colour arrangements in complex, abstract compositions. These works are both graphic and evocative, swirling lines of bright colour moving across the surface of the canvas.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s however, Janvier’s work became more representational, incorporating figurative elements and pictorial narratives that speak to the oppressive history of colonization, the residential schools and the ongoing struggle for aboriginal nationhood. These works also reflect Janvier’s involvement with the Primrose Lake land claim, which has brought renewed awareness of the potential for human devastation of nature and a new view of a familiar landscape. Janvier has spent several hours on aerial surveys of Northern Alberta and the work from this period reflects this change in perspective and the radiating force of explosion.
This exhibition concludes with paintings and drawings produced in the last few years, the latest being a series of canvases created in 2011 and 2012 in homage to the members of the Aboriginal Group of Seven.