Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Regional Art in Our Backyard: A Look at Greg Curnoe

Self-Portrait - 1992
We have travelled the world, unearthing Master Artists from all corners of it, but today we look no further than our own back yard for the next installment of our Budding Artists Children's Art Workshops. Our featured Master Artist for Saturday May 12th, 2012 will be none other than London, Ontario's very own Greg Curnoe. At 10:30am and 1pm at the London Farmer's Market, Budding Artists will gather children round to explore this local artist, who made his community and its influence on his art, a priority in his life. This lesson, as well as a few other artistic ones, will be explored in 90 minutes of fun and games, art technique, and a little local history as well.

Have you heard of Greg Curnoe? Keep reading to learn a little more about this interesting, local artist!

Greg Curnoe was born in London, Ontario on November 19, 1936. Local Londoners won't find it surprising to hear that he attended Beal High School, which is well known across Canada for its Arts Department. Curnoe followed this up with a short session at Doon School of Art in Kitchener, ON. He then attended the Ontario College of Art in Toronto, ON from 1957-1960, before returning to his hometown.

View of Victoria Hospital,
Second Series - 1969-1971
After leaving the OCA behind, Curnoe moved back to London. He had a passion for art, but this passion was rooted in what he termed Regionalism; which is the belief that Art can and should be found at a local level. He did not believe that it was necessary to move to a big city centre in order to achieve a measure of fame. And he consequently set about to prove that. Along with Tony Urquhart, Murray Favro and Jack Chambers, they established a local art scene that began to turn some heads. This was highlighted by his co-founding of the magazine "Region" in 1961, which ran for nine years, followed  by the establishment of the "Region Gallery" in 1962. By 1973, he had helped to establish the Forest City Gallery as well, which still serves the London and area arts scene. Curnoe even had a voice in the creating of Canadian Artists' Representation (CARFAC) in 1968.

Nice Day, Bad News - 1986
Along with his conviction that art need not be based on a movement, Curnoe also believed that it did not have to fall into a set perimeter of style. He painted the everyday objects that inhabited his world, whether it be the written word, a portrait of his wife or one of his hand-built bicycles. As Curnoe was an avid cyclist, this last object repeated itself frequently amongst his artwork.

Yellow Mariposa
Sadly, his love of bicycles also signalled his demise. While on a group ride in St. Thomas in 1992, a distracted driver plowed into the pack of cyclists.  Several riders were knocked down, with Curnoe numbering one of them. He subsequently died of his injuries, leaving the London area with one less local artist. Even worse was the loss of his strident voice for the artistic community. This week, Budding Artists remembers Greg Curnoe and celebrates all that he did for Canadian art and the Canadian art scene.

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