Viewpoints

A Matter of Interpretation

 

1 A Matter of Interpretation

There are several common, reoccurring themes in Glenbow’s print collection. Among them: landscapes, cityscapes and portraits. But each artist approaches these subjects from a unique point of view, based on his or her past experiences and choice of technique and style. This gallery compares images of the same subjects by different artists to highlight dramatically different ways to investigate common themes. Biography Johanna Plant studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design, the University of Calgary and at University College London in England, specializing in art history. Her current area of interest is in twentieth century Canadian prints.

2 Winter Nights

People who live on the Canadian prairies are exposed to periods of frigid weather every winter. John K. Esler and Ernest Lindner both expressed these experiences in their prints, although in two very different ways. While Lindner creates a peaceful, cozy looking aquatint, Esler attempts to capture the feeling of a winter night with abstracted imagery.

3 Boreas

Boreas
Boreas,
John Kenneth Esler

Esler wrote that “[t]he persistent and sometimes fierce north wind is endemic to the vast prairies and I have very often attempted to capture forces which cannot be controlled by man in my work.” Although this print is primarily abstract, Esler seems to make references to the natural world, especially in the foreground of this image, where sharp, geometric lines are reminiscent of crackling ice. The name of this print, Boreas, refers to the Greek god of the north wind.

4 Winter Night on the Prairie

Winter Night on the Prairie
Winter Night on the Prairie,
Ernest Lindner

This print is an excellent example of when the subject matter of a print and the technique used to express it are in close harmony. Here, Lindner takes advantage of the grain of the aquatint to create the illusion of snowflakes. Printed in a dark blue, he creates a comforting scene of a warm village on a cold, wintry night.

5 Farms

Farmlands are an integral part of Alberta’s landscape. Marion Nicoll takes the colours and shapes of a farm scene and expresses them abstractly, while her student, Clifford Robinson, takes a literal approach in black and white.

6 Prairie Farm

Prairie Farm
Prairie Farm,
Marion Nicoll

Although abstract, Nicoll’s work was rooted firmly in observation of the real world. She would begin her works with a real object or scene, and then “…struggle with the thing, drawing it, trying to find the skeleton that is there….” From this skeleton she would create a non-representational work. Here she evokes the idea of vast stretches of prairie land by using horizontal rectangles and muted, natural colours.

7 Small Farm

Small Farm
Small Farm, no date
Clifford Foard Robinson

Robinson’s Small Farm, a linocut, shows a pre-1950 farm on the prairies. A naturalistic interpretation of the landscape, Robinson shows us a house, shed with weather vane, a car and some electricity poles. In the foreground, he uses horizontal lines to give the impression of grass and emphasize the relative flatness of the land.

8 Cities

A city is made of architecture and infrastructure, including houses, buildings, roads and bridges. But a city is also made of the people within it and of their experiences within the space. While George Weber looks at the built components of a city, John Will records a series of events he experienced while in Calgary and Halifax. Both produce intriguing portraits of a city.

9 Halihourse and Halifeather

Halihourse
Halihourse,
John Will
Halifeather
Halifeather,
John Will

Will captures his experiences in Halifax in a suite of eight etchings called Halitosis. A visiting lecturer from Calgary, Will travelled to Halifax on several different occasions. The titles of each print are derived from the “Hali” of Halifax combined with another word. Two of the eight prints are shown here. Halihourse contrasts a bucking horse – a symbol frequently associated with Calgary and its western heritage – with a group of perplexed looking Maritimers. Playing off stereotypes, this image comments upon the cultural differences between the two cities. Halifeather, in contrast, seems to be simply an image of a feather, most likely one found in Halifax.

10 The Palliser, Calgary

The Palliser, Calgary
The Palliser, Calgary,
George Weber

Weber’s image of the Palliser Hotel in Calgary simplifies the forms of downtown buildings into a pattern of squares and rectangles. Made in 1950, this image now serves as a historical document of the city. Numerous office towers have now obscured this particular view of the Palliser.

11 North of 60

Canada’s northern regions, encompassing the areas today known as the Yukon Territory, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and part of northern Quebec, have inspired many different artists. For Niviaksiak, who was born and raised in the North, the landscape around him was part of his traditional life, which he records in his print, Bear Hunter on Seal Ice. In contrast, Montreal-born artist Rene Derouin records the impressions he had of the northern regions while touring above it in a plane.

12 Latitude Nord 60

Latitude Nord 60
Latitude Nord 60,
René Derouin

In 1979 Derouin toured parts of northern Quebec with a university and government team. The aerial view of the landscape was striking, and inspired several different prints, including this one. Derouin superimposes grid lines over an image evocative of an overhead view of lakes, rivers and tundra. His use of bright, non-naturalistic colours adds energy to the print.

13 Bear Hunter on Sea Ice

Bear Hunter on Sea Ice
Bear Hunter on Sea Ice,
Niviaksie (Niviaksiak)

Niviaksiak combines two different perspectives in what is nevertheless a very clear depiction of a hunting scene. The hunter, seen as a silhouette from the side, is set onto ice. The ice floes at the top of the print, shown from an aerial view, provide a clear map to the bear’s location.

14 Portraits

Although seemingly disparate at first glace, these two images actually have much in common. Both self-portraits and wood engravings, these prints go beyond the literal depiction of oneself and, in doing so, suggest a great deal of psychological depth.

15 Self Portrait

Self Portrait
Self Portrait,
Cecil Tremayne Buller

In this detailed wood engraving, Buller creates forms though a series of short, energetic lines. These lines create a slightly agitated mood in the image, and in spite of her calm expression, suggest a feeling of unrest. In the background are visible images from her earlier prints, making reference to her career as a wood engraver and evoking the symbolic expressions of those prints. The dark figure in the corner, for example, comes from Buller’s print, Duality, which seems to explore the nature of human beings. The leafy fronds near her cheek on the right side of the print are similar to those seen in Man and Woman, part of Cantiques des cantiques, a book illustrating the Old Testament Song of Solomon.

16 Gillian Tyler [Self Portrait]

Gillian Tyler [Self Portrait]
Gillian Tyler [Self Portrait],
Gillian Tyler

Tyler appears twice in this self-portrait: once as a nude riding a horse in the river and again in a view of the upper portion of her face. Both selves are in the Connecticut River, a body of water of great significance in Tyler’s life. According to the artist, the river “lures me with its secret power and its unhurried inevitability.” The river is also symbolic for the artist, reminding her to calm down and “be a river” in times of difficulty.