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Contemporary artist Alex Janvier celebrated in major retrospective at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery
Installation view of the exhibition Alex Janvier, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, shown at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

FREDERICTON.- The Beaverbrook Art Gallery welcomes the touring version of one of the National Gallery of Canada’s most popular winter exhibitions, Alex Janvier. Janvier is one of Canada’s most respected living Indigenous artists. The exhibition opened February 15, 2018, and will run through May 21, 2018.

The eponymous exhibition Alex Janvier, organized by the National Gallery of Canada, is curated by Greg Hill, the Gallery’s Audain Senior Curator of Indigenous Art and features nearly 100 works of art from public and private collections from across Canada, including both a selection of well-known masterpieces from the artist’s seven-decade-long career, along with paintings that are on tour for the very first time.

“The Beaverbrook Art Gallery is devoted to celebrating the visual arts, both in sharing the best our collection has to offer, and in presenting the best the world has to share,” said Beaverbrook Art Gallery Director/CEO Tom Smart. “This exhibition showcases a tremendous selection of work by this preeminent Indigenous artist. I invite all New Brunswickers to join us in viewing and celebrating his artistic vision.”

Alex Janvier’s artistic universe is a rich visual language marked by colour, symbols and calligraphic features. The artist’s unique paintings combine Denesuline iconography with Western art styles and techniques. Exploring the geocultural landscape of Janvier’s northern Alberta home, his works reference Indigenous culture and history, including his own experience of the effects of colonization and residential schools, within a personal aesthetic that is universal in its appeal.

Born of Denesuline and Saulteaux descent, Janvier has paved the way for many Aboriginal artists by putting forward beliefs, aesthetics and Indigenous issues. Having lived most of his life on the traditional Denesuline territory of the Cold Lake First Nation, he attaches great importance to his native roots and to the idea of a close relationship with particular places and physical landmarks.

Alex Janvier began painting while a pupil at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta. He received formal art training from the Alberta Institute of Technology and Art in Calgary (now the Alberta College of Art and Design) where he graduated, with honours, in 1960.

“The Alex Janvier exhibition recounts the story of a life devoted to art and the re-empowerment of Indigenous cultures,” said NGC Director and CEO Marc Mayer. “Alex Janvier is among the most important figures in the development of modern Indigenous art in Canada and the National Gallery has long envisioned a major solo exhibition dedicated to him.”

Organized chronologically, with some rooms devoted to thematic groupings, the exhibition presents 95 paintings and drawings at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, including an installation of 34 circular paintings of varied sizes and styles created since the 1970s.The works featured in the exhibition are drawn from public and private collections across Canada, including five from the National Gallery of Canada’s national collection.

Known for his brightly coloured murals with their Dene iconography and forms that evoke land, sky, galaxies, microscopic life and calligraphic lines, Alex Janvier has created public art that can be admired in 25 locations across Canada. His largest mural – Morning Star–Gambeh Then’ –, painted on a domed ceiling in the Canadian Museum of History in 1993, has been captured on video and is projected in the exhibition.

The Alex Janvier exhibition also features a room that pays homage to the so-called Indian Group of Seven, officially known as Professional Native Indian Artists Inc., cofounded by Janvier in 1973 to heighten the profile of Indigenous artists. This section of the exhibition comprises paintings that Janvier created in 2011 in tribute to artists Jackson Beardy, Eddy Cobiness, Daphne Odjig, Norval Morrisseau, Carl Ray, Bill Reid, and Joseph M. Sanchez.

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