Saturday, October 13, 2018

Norval Morrisseau Exhibition @ AGH

What: An exhibition of 16 paintings by Norval Morrisseau from the Art Gallery of Hamilton's permanent collection.

Where:  Art Gallery of Hamilton, 123 King St. E., Hamilton ONT

When: Official opening is Friday, Oct. 12, 6 to 10 p.m., in conjunction with the opening party for the tenth annual AGH World Film Festival. The exhibition runs through March 17, 2019.

Admission: Free


"Shaman and Apprentice",  © 1985 Norval Morrisseau
Donated by Nicholas Pustina, Robert Zelinski & Kenny Whent, 1985;

The following copyrighted online article from “The Hamilton Spectator” is published for Nonprofit purposes & for purposes of informing the Public without permission from the author Graham Rockingham.

The AGH Norval Morrisseau collection finally gets its day

The AGH is home to one of the largest collections of the art of Woodlands artist Norval Morrisseau ... but it’s never reached the walls of the gallery until now

Oct 11, 2018 by Graham Rockingham The Hamilton Spectator 

The paintings of Norval Morrisseau are probably the most recognizable of all Canadian Indigenous artists.

You don't have to be an expert to recognize his style — the neonlike brilliance of the colours, the black outlines behind the characters and the mystical stories they represent.

When you see one, you know it is a Morrisseau. The style is that distinct. It's like a surreal stained glass window on canvas. He has been called the "Picasso of the North" and the founder of the Woodlands School of Canadian art.

For more than 30 years, the Art Gallery of Hamilton has been home to one of the nation's largest collections of the late Anishinaabe artist's work, 117 paintings in all, most of them dating back to the early '80s.

And most are never put on public display. About three dozen have been loaned out to other galleries in as part of Morrisseau exhibitions in Ottawa and Waterloo, but, by and large, the collection has remained hidden from public view, unstretched canvases in the gallery's second-floor vault.

On Friday, 16 of these Morrisseau paintings, all acrylic on canvas, will finally be hung on the walls of two rooms on the AGH's second floor as part of a new exhibition entitled simply "Norval Morrisseau," which runs until March 17. Admission is free.

Nine of the paintings have never been displayed publicly before. Experts from the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa came to assess the collection and stretch the canvasses for display.

For the seven others, the exhibition represents their first viewing in Hamilton (their only other showing was at the University of Waterloo in 1998).

The exhibition is the work of a Tara Ng, a young art historian and curator based in Toronto, with the help of an Ontario Arts Council "culturally diverse curatorial project" grant. Ng was invited by AGH senior curator Tobi Bruce to explore the 10,000 works of art in the AGH and develop an exhibition. 

Ng quickly focused on the 117 items in the Morrisseau collection. The more she studied it, the more she became intrigued. The only comparable collections, she discovered, were at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., with more than 130 works, and the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, with more than 100.

All but three of the AGH's Morrisseau paintings came as a gift were donated to the gallery in 1985 by a Thunder Bay law firm. One of the partners in the firm — Nicholas John Pustina — was a Hamilton native and a friend of Morrisseau, who was raised on the Sand Point Ojibwa reservation near Lake Nipigon in northwestern Ontario.

Although the paintings were undated, Ng's research determined that the works in the AGH collection were painted from 1980 to 1985.

"It was a particularly interesting period in Morrisseau's career because, in 1979, he officially announced himself as a shaman artist whose work represented his visions," Ng, 31, explains.

Morrisseau, who died in 2007 at the age of 76, was also involved at the time with the New Age religious movement called Eckankar, which practises "soul travel," a notion that tied in well with the astral projections of shamanism.

"I contacted several institutions across Canada and they don't have very many works by Morrisseau from this period," Ng says. "It's an overlooked period in Morrisseau's career, I suppose partly because so many of them are in the Art Gallery of Hamilton's permanent collection and few people have seen them."

Ng said she found stylistic elements in these paintings that render them distinct from Morrisseau's work from other periods.

"In some of these paintings, like 'Children with Tree of Life,' Morrisseau has used blue form lines whereas typically he used black," Ng says. "The blue form lines give a totally different effect. I think it goes with the fact that he was projecting visions from the astral plane. His black form lines have a much more solid, concrete appearance."

"At night, Morrisseau would say that his soul would travel to the astral plane and bring back images for him to paint," Ng says. "His paintings are also steeped in traditional knowledge. He focuses on the interconnectedness of all creation."

905-526-3331 | @RockatTheSpec

The above copyrighted online article from “The Hamilton Spectator” is published for Nonprofit purposes & for purposes of informing the Public without permission from the author Graham Rockingham.

1 comment:

Turtlette said...

Blessings Spirit Walker for posting this article sharing details of the Exhibition of Norval Morrisseau’s Art at the AGH. So sad to read his collection has remained hidden from public view for so long....Kudos to the keen eye of Tara Ng for resurrecting and showcasing this hidden art Gem....Appreciate her research where else Norval Morrisseau’s art is displayed in Canada. My next trip this Fall after the AGH in Hamilton will be the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec. Next Summer, I will plan a trip to the Thunder Bay Art Gallery. I strongly believe that Norval Morrisseau’s Art should be show cased throughout Canada at Galleries, Universities, Colleges, Schools, Churches, Iconic Buildings Across every Provinces in Canada: the Pride of Canada.