Art & Artists in Exhibition: Vancouver 1890 - 1950
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JACK SHADBOLT

CHRONOLOGY OF CONCEPTUAL CONCERNS


1926-29 Victoria College and Normal School. Met Max Maynard. First outdoor sketching trips. Met Emily Carr. Exposure to Group of Seven. Drawing rolling arabesques of Sooke Hills. Serious exposure to poetry: Wordsworth, Shelley, W.H. Davies, Yeates, etc.

1929-31 First teaching job at Duncan. Elementary stylization and formal design. Studied Arthur M. Dow's book on Composition: Concept of Notan. Pattern started of returning to Victoria in summer. Exposure to Cezanne. Drawing houses at rural edge of landscape. Introduced to Eliot's "Wastelands".

1931-32 Appointed to teach at Kitsilano High School, Vancouver: exposure to Child Art concepts. Worked in colour crayon. Still life with Rennaissance modelling of volumes. Met Varley. First Art School Camp at Hornby Island with Jock McDonald. First oil paintings. First portrait drawing. Exposure to American Realist authors: Wolfe's "Look Homeward Angel", Dreiser, dos Passos, Sinclair Lewis, Upton Sinclair. Impressed by Coast mountains.

1932-33 Travelled across U.S.A. by car to Chicago World's Fair. Saw Diego Rivera and Thomas Benton murals. Chicago Art Institute: Stunned by Cezanne exhibition and early Italian Altar Pieces. First look at Gaugin. On to Toronto and Commercial art. First published drawings in Canadian Forum. On to eight months in New York: music and poetry education: Pound's Cantos; intense museum study. Saw Mile of American Art at Rockefeller Centre: Impact of Sheeler, Blume, Demuth, Cezanne, and Max Weber. Met Steiglitz. Responded to Marin and Georgia O'Keefe. Surrealist impact of Dali and Lurcat. Strongest push towards Burchfield and Hopper. Moving impact of Depression, labour movement, strikes, social violence. W.P.A. and Mexican agrarian mural concepts appealed. Interest in architecture gained momentum.

1934-35 Return to Vancouver: reacted to "dark, satanic mills" of industrial landscape under Granville Bridge. Cezannesque handling. Read Blake. Commenced writing poetry. Interest in Little Theatre movement - acting, writing, stage design.

1935-37 Again teaching at Kitsilano High School: met Marion Richardson and Eric Newton. Produced Coast Indian and Pirandello-like plays with students. Also school murals. Launch trip around Coastal inlets. Decided to study in London. Overseas in September.

1937-38 Euston Road School: exposure to refined circle of literary and art critics. Roger Fry's critical concepts important. General atmosphere of school too rarified for my needs. Moved on to Paris. Paris Exhibition: Picasso's Guernica and Munch exhibition. Attended Andre L'hotes' school: warm and cool colour concept; alternating curve and straight contours: rhythm Carre: modelling by "passage". Returned to teach at Vancouver School of Art in September.

1937-38 Cezannesque watercolours: "Passage" becomes a reality. Old houses, still life and portrait figure. First encounter with B.C. Interior Country. "Discovered" Gerard Manley Hopkins.

1939-40 Teaching life drawing. Signorelli influence: Direction of volume to space. Landscape drawing of spacial (sic) arabesque of trees and rocks. Interest in Mantegna and Giotto: "agony in stony places". Murals for H. Mortimer-Lamb house: Emperor Lamb and the Lions, still life mural, Cezanne broken colour modelling carries into oil painting. Simple monumentality a goal, "Form not effect".

1941 Did Occupation of Point Grey series. Interested in Bosch and Pisanello. Detailed documentary drawing. Figure drawing in line. Field drawing with Eric Friefeld and Molly Bobak.

1942-43 Watercolours of street scene. Passion for El Greco. Entered Army Training. Little Mountain Camp documentary drawing: caricature and portrait. Assigned to mural for War Services Centre: street scene in wartime: Pierro della Francesca colour influence and clarity of contour. Assigned to Camouflage Workshop, Point Grey. Documentary series: drawings and watercolours.

1943-44 Transferred to Kingston, then to Ottawa War History Section: documentary series of P.O.W. Camp at Pettawawa. First encounter with Sutherland war paintings. Assigned to war artists administration, London. Bombed ruins. Encounter Occupation Army photos of Concentration Camps.

1945 Watercolours of bombed buildings reduced to more abstract elements. Handling of medium more assured. Returned to Vancouver to teach at Vancouver School of Art. Sea Island house. Romantic period of watercolours begins. Moved to West End studio. Coal Harbour, street scene and old houses.

1946-48 First romantic reaction wears off. Disillusion with social values. Need for social comment. Emaciated figures from life drawing combine with battered buildings of West End reconstruction. Buccaneer Bay in summer. Wilderness beach oil on paper and board panels. Re-visit Victoria museum to study animal and bird anatomy and Indian masks. Painted Red Knight and Dogs series. To Art Students League in September.

1948-49 New York again. Abstraction of human image. Picasso and influence of psychological abstraction. Interested in Gorky and early Rothko. Course in mythology. Colour as expression design agent. Replaced anatomical articulation by conceptual dislocation re-articulated by design. Oil painting. Return to teaching at Vancouver Art School. Did mural for Alcazar Hotel, digesting influence of Miro.

1949 Serious grappling with anatomical structure. Also interested in African fetish sculpture and its stylized use of anatomy. Gradually found my own synthesis, i.e. "Explansion of Seed". Abstracted "Insects in the Grass" series in brown, black, white. Designed for Medieval Beaux-Arts Ball: Arms and armour forms; Heraldic banners. Residue of pure colour and opened-out emblematic forms, i.e. "Emblems After Fire". Involved with history of films and photography.

1950-52 Began to build house: eyes at earth-level while digging septic tank starts idea for cross-sectional view of under-earth and growth above. Above-Below division or horizon line appears. Nature cycle becomes continuing theme. Firmer declaration of negative shapes interacting with positives.

1952-54 Mythological interest in "demonic presences". Forms as "familiars". Life among the grass stems. Renewed interest in Coast Indian imagery. "World of the picture" gains strength. Forms generate their own meanings out of their own organic interactions within the spell of their own world. Art creating its independent reality. "Follow the canvas" becomes attitude.

1954 Toronto exhibitions: Picasso and African influence, i.e. "Trophies": idea implanted of "barbaric" decorative surface making deep psychological impact underneath. Birds in grass cycle. Brown, black, white "earth colours" continue. i.e. "Transformations along a Hedge"; "Autumn Facade"; "Birds in Rockface". Watercolour more fluent. Calligraphic marking elements more abstracted. i.e. "Summer Bouquet".

1955-57 Treatment loosens: marking elements freer, i.e. "Swamp Grasses"; "Calligraphy of Winter Grasses" series. Represented Canada at Venice Biennale (sic?). Exhibited Toronto, Montreal and Brooklyn international watercolour show. Colour hunger becomes more assertive: colour "mood" grows: "In Golden Grasses" etc. Pictorial structure concern also grows: "Mosaic" grid first imposed on "grasses" theme. Oil and watercolour. Left in September on Canada Council Fellowship to Mediterranean.

1957 France: direct sensuous appeal of colour and surface. Impasto increases, paint applied with knife and cardboard tabs. Pastel colour studies. Ice and fire colour concept appears. Evocative poetic asbstaction of romantic themes. "Facade" image. The painting as a "wall". Idea of one colour dominant. New colour vocabulary: pink, ochre, white, orange; still life and gardens. First Colliours beach series.

1958 Return to B.C. Nostalgia for sensuous, luminous, Mediterranean colour generates psychological "mood" colour. Mosaic "facade" takes over. "Medieval Town" series. Pigment becomes "actual". "Ember" concept of colour: "Slow Burn"; "Deep Smoulder". Passionate, poetic metaphors in the mind - "and the fire that shall break from thee then....". "One colour" canvases.

1959-60 Queen Elizabeth Theatre Restaurant mural: design re-asserts itself. Coast Indian images re-appear. Colour goes somber with flashes of fire. Deep browns predominate. "Night Harbour" series. Black, grey, violet harmonic gradually emerges. Marine theme. White on black exciting. Light-dark drama.

1960-61 To Mediterranean again: Greece. Dry, caked surfaces with high-intensity colour imbedded. Acrylic on paper. Blinding white. Blue becomes a reality again after years of abstinance. Mention once more: field of canvas with protagonists forces in tension across it. August heat splintering seed pods. Radiant light from "fire within". Passionate lyricism turning to expressionist intensity. "Angry pink". "Terrible force" of growth.

Collioure again: drawings of beach life. Small oil panels heavily pigmented. Blazing, enigmatic images out of paint itself.

Return to B.C.: "Winter Theme" canvas. "Night Garden" theme over Christmas holiday. Scripts begin from Queen Elizabeth mural space rhythm sketch.

1961-62 Depressed Period: Abstract expressionist impact: scale and "gesture" increase. "Action" idea appeals: getting "lost" in the work. Space-spanning calligraphy grows in ink drawings. Chain-link sequence idea grows. Structure-as-image idea grows. Meaning of "configurating a theme" becomes a reality. Italian town drawings. Black and white stimulation contiues. Lateral stretch of "processional" format. Foreground-background interaction. Script rhythms: "just take it oozy."

1963 Link rhythm notion grown. Script paintings gain momentum. "Inner rhythm" becomes more urgent. "Cross-section" notion asserts itself. Edmonton Airport mural project: large-scale emblematic clarity needed. Ucello and early Renaissance icons recalled. Epic architectural structure to hold space firm and fit into architecture. Heroic spatial arabesque. Symbolic "theme" colour. Renewed identification with deep space and long horizon but now held to picture plane. Blue re-confirmed as one of my colours.

Period of schizophrenic indecision over demands of "design" of dominating structure or "giving" to rhythm of life force. Both alternating necessities can be resolved by "break" and "contain" counterplay. Cultural anxiety also resolved: let the work itself dictate whether it shall be "contemporary" or "traditional". Get the "will" out of the way of the imagination: full realization of the power of the theme. A theme takes care of "subject" interests, elevating it to "content". "Theme" includes concept of structure. "Object" anxieties removed: each element is unique yet each is linked into large "configurations".

1964 Charlottetown "flag" mural: "pure" design structure. Flat, intense colour, hard edge. Quality of "edge" through character and vibrancy of meeting colours now a necessity. Collage of coloured-paper cut-out starts in earnest. Artists for Billboards mural: "Harbour at Night". Pure abstract concept. Paper cut-out influence. Colour intensity factor with minimal texture now dominant. Interests in post-painterly abstraction. The "Painting as object" in itself becomes a reality.

Period of joyful relief: letting it flow. Ecstatic acrylic watercolour style evolves. Opulence. Verve, i.e. "Summer Triptych." Emergence of "flow of energy" concept. Spate of further "rhythm of script" paintings. Muskeg country prairie horizon series. Calligraphic emphasis.

Then period of reconciling "flow" with the "design section", i.e. "Apple and Fertility Amulets". Enamel paintings on masonite. "Stripe" series first appears leading to "Northern Emblems" later. Op intensity of colour. In drawings: "serial image" notion appears.

1965 Drawing in ink and brush continues. "Organic" rhythm takes over as "growth energy" concept. New, convulsive "energy field" vibration sets in. Multiple section extension of energy into continuum results in mural notions: "Creation of World" and Charlottetown "organic" mural. "The world is charged with the grandeur of god..." Ovoids begin. Greek experience re-appears with "Space Between Colums" series. "Theme" idea now firmly established. Structural. Calm. Emblematic. Cross-sectional. Resolves deep and flat space. Serene colour. Static geometry and "breaking" rhythm resolved. Image of structure becomes image of content. "Space Compression" a reality. Series of big, improvised canvases using many elements in spontaneous integration, i.e. "Italian Town from the Air". Realization that my form is neither wholly architectonic, intellectual, structured, controlled or freely rhythmic, organically improvised "action" but in realizing the dialogue that is opened up between the two. The "reconciliation of opposites" is the true meaning. Strength is in "going with" poetic vision which alone can bring about "fusion". The "trained" intuition. "Format" replaces architectonic compositional structure. "Content must penetrate life" re-affirmed. Cultural anxiety about "what content?" removed. First "owl" discoveries from free dissolving of spattered inks. Interest in owls awakenend to owl drawings.

1966 Larger canvases with band of colour theme inserted, i.e. "Summer Theme". Acrylics of Tubers, i.e., "Tubers" triptych. Work on book "In Search of Form". Posters begin for Playhouse Theatre. Theatre banner re-activiates script cluster concept.

1967 Theatre posters continue monthly. Cut-out coloured paper designing continues. Oil painting: "Northern Emblem" series commences. "Stripe" theme uppermost. Script canvases continue, i.e. "Signatories". Modular variation acrylic series begins. Landscape ink series begins leading to "Land Section" series. Opulence of colour and texture. "Perforated Section" ink drawings series.

1968 "Northern Emblem" series continues. Poster series continues with cut-out colour designs. "Reflected Landscape" series begins. Publication of "In Search of Form".

1969 "Reflected Landscape" continues. Ovoids and looser formations continue - calligraphic elements in richly sensuous context of texture and colour. "Prairie Owl" series. Small collage compositions. Larger abstract canvases. Thirty Year Retrospective at Vancouver Art Gallery and later on tour. "Hornby Suite: Homage to Emily Carr" charcoal drawing cycle. Summer in Spain - impact of walled cities and cathedrals.

1970 First Bau-Xi exhibition: Beginning of "fetish" series and "bride" series. First large triptychs on "Miracle of Birds" theme. Composite drawing formats on "Spring Garden" theme. Composite drawing format on "Calligraphic Nature" forms. "Owls are the Fashion" series of altered reproductions. "Hockey Owl", series of altered reproductions.

Re-visited France and Italy, especially Venice.

1971 Fetish series continues: "Adjustable Venus". "Articulated Fetish". "Man of Symbol". "Blue Bride". "Incubus". "Africana". "Night Fears". "Architecture of a Winter Garden" series. Triptych: "Architecture of a Swamp".

Beginning of horizontal band series with owls, i.e. "25 Birds of Good Omen for Doris". "Owl House" triptych. Leading to National Arts Centre mural, "A Given Number of Owls". "Row of Owls" series by fold-over. Maximum opulence. "Hornby Suite" exhibited. Commenced work on poems and pen drawings. Rid my mind of burden of "unfinished affairs" with poetry.

1972 Poems and pen drawings continue. Fetishes continue in icon triptych formats evoking ritual: i.e. "Ritual of the Arrow". "Little Bride". "Little Wolfe". "Daughter of Chiefs". "Guardian". Triptychs also on nature themes: "Place". "Sun Trap". "To Old Gardens". "World Behind".

Row series continues: "Humanoids". "Queens Have Died Young and Fair". Reflected landscapes continue, leading to 30 panel epic "Chilkoot Experience". Charcoal drawings of Hornby forest continue, i.e., triptych "The Way In".

1973 Triptychs continue: "Totemic Head". "Mountain Summer" (first appearance of large butterfly images). "Summer Threnody". "Seasonfall". "Habitat". "Spring Green". "Desert Morning": large charcoal triptychs of Hornby Island forest, finally exorcising ghost of Emily Carr. Publication of "Mind's I". Commenced two year involvement with problems of urban development of Vancouver.

1974 Triptychs continue: "Transformations" series begins on larvae into pupa into butterfly theme. Galaxy (six sections). "Mystery of Flower". "Lost World". "The Visitor". Side panels added to "Bride". "Pansies". "Toward Emblem". Altered reproduction series continues: football series leading to "Sinbad and the Demons of the Deep". Large charcoal drawings at Hornby: "Helliwell Park" triptych. "Forest Undertow" triptych, etc.

1975 Charcoal drawings continue: "Edge of the Forest". "Guardians", etc. Triptychs continue: six panel mural for C.B.C. building. Switch back to oil painting: finished "African Dream" series. "Islamic Memories" series of scripts. Five panel "Dog in an Empty Room". To India in October.

1976 Return in January: 20 panel "India Suite" in charcoal: extended epic rhythm. Triptychs continue on "Transformation" theme: icon format. "Dark Pupa". "Summer Icon". Charcoal and colour triptych: "Lost Garden". Collage of butterfly cut-out from fashion magazine: "For Vladimir".

Hornby summer: "Coast Indian Suite" (20 panels). Charcoal with colour.

1977 Ink drawing: 16 part "Variations on a Night Garden Theme".

Toronto Show: triptychs on "Mountain Summer" theme. "Primavera". "End Flight". "Home Flight". "Evening Flight". "Parasite". "Leopard Moth". "Transformations". Crayon triptych "Night Garden".

Hornby summer: landscape "Events" series. Triptych series: "Event on the Rocks". "High Country Event". "Events of a Morning". "Summer Icons". "Sea Edge Nocturne". "Blue Breaking". "Morning East". etc.

Further cut-out butterflies leading to book project on altered reproductions. Completion of exorcising of "exotic" influence. Street banners for Vancouver City: pure colour variation experience.



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