Although painting and sculpture lost their prominent position in Canadian art during the last decades of the 20th century, both mediums were invigorated by the changes that occurred in Canadian visual culture. Abstract painting, for example, gained from the influence of minimal art in its use of simplified form and color. The pared-down paintings of Gerald Ferguson, Ron Martin, Ron Shuebrook, and Leopold Plotek exemplify that influence. A parallel reduction in shapes occurs in the sculpture of Douglas Bentham and others in Edmonton, Alberta, as well as that of twin brothers David and Royden Rabinowitch in Ontario.
Contemporary representational painters have also reinvented landscape as subject matter. Paterson Ewen in London, Ontario, approaches nature through images on wood of rain and other weather phenomena but uses a router (gouging tool) as well as a brush. Many other painters find that an imaginary landscape describes nature in an industrialized world better than a replication of the rural environment does. John McEwen’s steel animal sculptures and John Greer’s marble gardens reflect these concerns about depicting nature in today’s world.
A number of contemporary Canadian painters seek to convey a sense of alienation in the city today. John Clark, John Scott, and Carol Wainio, for example, have chosen abstract urban images to suggest this alienation, whereas Tim Zuck, Eleanor Bond, and Shirley Wiitasalo portray the world through invented but realistic architectural objects.
The paintings and installations of First Nations artists reveal the ceremonies and spiritual values of native culture and the exploitation of native peoples in Canada. Prominent First Nations artists of the late 20th century and early 21st century include Alex Janvier, Jane Ash Poitras, Faye Heavysage, Robert Houle, Edward Poitras, and Gerald MacMaster.
The human figure remains a primary focus in Canadian sculpture and painting at the beginning of the 21st century.
Different sculptural means for portraying the human body include David Moore’s life-size, wooden totem-like figures, Colette Whiten’s full-body plaster casts and her needlepoint portraits of Canadian politicians, and Jana Sterbak’s mannequins wearing motorized wire crinolines or dresses made of flank steaks. Figure paintings that reveal new boldness and new narratives include Marian Wagschal’s stark portraits, Joanne Tod’s women staged in cinematic poses, and Attila Richard Lukacs’s male nudes. Tony Sherman’s portraits of parts of the body and Mary Scott’s constructions of body coverings straddle the boundary between figure painting and still-life imagery. The Canadian art scene is flourishing and adventurous as it moves into the 21st century.
Pluralism—multiple, diverse strands—continues to characterize it. Artists remain aware of the social and political context of art, employing imagery from the past and the present and creating works with multiple layers of meaning. In addressing society’s traditional concept of women, feminist artists are giving new and powerful imagery to female culture. Regardless of medium, contemporary art in Canada, like contemporary art elsewhere, is concerned with reality and ambiguity, with public and private meaning. "Canada" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia.
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