BY PAUL GESSELL
One man’s obsession opens Oct. 9 at the National Gallery of Canada. That man is Dennis Lanigan, a semi-retired Saskatoon dentist, who has spent much of his life collecting Pre-Raphaelite art, mainly drawings.
Some of his collection has been donated to the National Gallery of Canada; more will be donated in coming years. About 100 of those drawings form an exhibition called Beauty’s Awakening: Drawings by the Pre-Raphaelites and their Contemporaries. The exhibition runs from Oct. 9 to Jan. 3. An international tour may follow.
Lanigan’s obsession can be traced back to 1976 when he was doing some work in Britain. He was riding the London subway when he spotted an advertisement for a major retrospective of 19th century artist Edward Byrne-Jones at Hayward Gallery. Lanigan visited the exhibition and it was love art first sight.
“This was my first introduction to the Pre-Raphaelites and the first blockbuster exhibition I had ever attended,” says Lanigan. “If there is such a thing as ‘road to Damascus’ for a collector, then this exhibition surely was mine.”
Lanigan left that exhibition feeling that if he could own even one Byrne-Jones drawing, “I could die happy.” He now has a dozen, the “scholarship” involved in identifying just the right work to purchase as important as placing that drawing on his living room wall.
Much of Lanigan’s career as a dentist and university professor was spent in Saskatoon. From that base, Lanigan acquired his Pre-Raphaelite drawings, devoting much of his free time and income acquiring and researching art for his collection.
Sonia Del Re is the National Gallery curator in charge of the exhibition of Lanigan’s collection. She calls Lanigan’s gifts “transformational” for the gallery’s holdings.
Lanigan’s collection is unique, adds Christopher Newall, a British art historian and essayist in the National Gallery exhibition catalogue: “This is because Dennis has not put the collection together to gather ‘trophy’ pieces likely to impress people whose knowledge of the period amounts to the names of a handful of central figures, but to construct a fabric of interrelated images each of which complements and informs the larger entity.”
Nevertheless, there are some trophy names in the collection: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Frederic Leighton and, of course, Edward Byrne-Jones.
Ottawa artist Barry Ace was asked recently how long it took to create one of intricate beaded artworks.
“Thirty years,” he replied.
Ace’s dedication to his craft during the past three decades is paying off, with multiple exhibitions on the horizon and a new high-profile dealer, Kinsman-Robinson in Toronto, one of the leading commercial galleries in Canada specializing in aboriginal art.
Ace’s next Ottawa show, from Oct. 22 to Nov. 24, is at Trinity Gallery at the Shenkman Arts Centre in Orleans. The unwieldy title of the exhibition is Barry Ace: Aazhooningwa’igan “It is worn across the shoulder” – Bandoliers of the Great Lakes: Symbols of Anishinaabeg Cultural Continuity.
For the exhibition, Ace has created a series of Anishinaabeg-style bandolier bags incorporating “traditional floral motifs sourced from reclaimed electronic circuitry (capacitors and resistors), as metaphor for cultural continuity, bridging the past with the present and the future.”
Early next year, Ace will have a solo show at Karsh-Masson Gallery at Ottawa City Hall and in 2017, a solo show at Kinsman-Robinson in Toronto.
You heard it here first: Chris Cran is a veteran Calgary artist who comes closer than anyone to being Canada’s answer to Andy Warhol.
Like Warhol, Cran feeds off popular culture to create paintings and other works that reflect the trends and mores of the times, usually with a huge dollop of humour.
Luckily for Ottawa, a retrospective of Cran’s output, Sincerely Yours, is coming to the National Gallery of Canada in May (2016) for a summer-long run.
The exhibition of 120 works, mainly paintings, is currently at the Art Gallery of Alberta in Edmonton and was co-curated with the National Gallery’s Josee Drouin-Brisebois.
“Working within the familiar terrain of well-known artistic movements and styles such as Pop Art, Photorealism, Op Art and abstraction, Cran challenges the viewer’s understanding and experience of them by playfully combining tradition with borrowed scenes from popular culture, including images from cartoons, advertising, magazine illustrations and newspapers,” according to the Alberta gallery. “His recent work is a culmination of the tropes and techniques he has developed over his thirty year career, and at this stage in his practice, his work still defies expectations, while exploring perception and challenging our understanding of painting.”
Nancy Tousley, an Alberta-based art critic and essayist in the exhibition catalogue, says Cran is “enormously inventive” and very playful. “Play is a great part of what he does,” says Tousley, “because it’s play in the studio that produces the ideas he works with within that framework.”
Other exhibitions worth catching:
- The Ottawa Art Gallery opens Oct. 2 an exhibition titled Truth of the Matter, exploring the role fiction plays in coming to terms with traumatic events. See art from such familiar Ottawa names as Cindy Stelmackowich, Howie Tsui and Norman Takeuchi. Until Feb. 7, 2016.
- Reid McLachlan has a solo show, Remnants of Nostalgia, opening at Galerie Montcalm in Gatineau Oct. 15. The artist has created a series of drawings, evoking the carpentry tools of his grandfather. Until Nov. 22.
- Alberta’s Allan Harding MacKay is one of Canada’s most political artists and, this being an election campaign, he could hardly sit on the sidelines. He has created a series of cheeky collages involving Canada’s political Who’s Who. At Cube from Oct. 6-25.