Regional Modernism

January- March 2019
A special exhibition at the Union Club of B.C.

This collection of paintings explores the unique aesthetics of West Coast Modern art. Artists such as Jack Shadbolt (1909-1998), Takao Tanabe (1926-), Maxwell Bates (1906-1980), Toni Onley (1928-2004), Don Jarvis (1923 - 2001) and Flemming Jorgensen (1934-2009) all contributed to bringing new ideas to visual arts in this region.

West Coast Modernism is a response to the rise of Abstract art in the 1940s and 50s in other regions.  Each of these artists had the opportunity to experience these changes first hand. Takao Tanabe and Don Jarvis each studied in New York under Hans Hoffman in the 1950’s. This would place them in the centre of Abstract Expressionism at an important moment in history. Maxwell Bates, Canada’s foremost expressionist painter, was also in New York studying with Max Beckmann in 1949. Additionally in the 1930’s while based in England he was associated with leading modern artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Victor Pasmore. Jack Shadbolt had experience studying at Art Students league in New York as well as experience in Europe.

Taking these experiences and applying them to a rapidly changing province in Post World War II Canada; a new form of expression needed to develop in order to express a changing society. Each of these artists were able to take their experience with other regions and synthesize it into something specifically of this place.

Often this style includes a combination between the action of abstract expressionism of the 1950’s and the restraint of 1960’s hard-edge abstraction in the same painting. An example of this can be seen in Jack Shadbolt’s Trellis 1962. Here we see many loose, spontaneous forms juxtaposed against the angular T and L forms above and the Striped pattern on the upper right. One other marker of this modern regionalism is artists holding on to some influence of landscape. Takao Tanabe’s Landscape V 1966 is an example of this. Not only is the reference in the title but this otherwise purely abstract work has a clear horizon line across the painting.

Unlike other areas like New York or Paris, in B.C. the landscape dominates our lives. It hems us in with mountains on one side and the ocean on the other. We also see many international influences, both European and Asian start to come through. Through references to Japanese sumi-e ink painting, European expressionism and Minimalism.

What much of this work represents is a new freedom of expression in the region. Before this time few artists such as, Lawren Harris, B.C. Binning and Jock MacDonald, were able to push the boundaries of representational art in this region. Through their dedication and hard work they were able to set the stage for this generation of artists to develop and popularize a uniquely regional vision of modern art that continues to inspire generations of artists and collectors around the country. It also contributed to all of the artists in this exhibition becoming internationally recognized for their contributions to the arts.

All works in this exhibition are available for sale.

To view works in person please contact Madrona Gallery for an appointment.