The renowned Canadian artist Alex Colville has died at home in Wolfville, N.S., on Tuesday. He was 92.
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His wife, Rhoda, who is often shown in his paintings -—as the woman looking through binoculars in To Prince Edward Island or nude in the light of the fridge in Refrigerator 1977 — died in December 2012.
Colville's work often displays commonplace moments from his own life — himself and his wife walking on a beach or himself standing with his car. But there is something sombre or even ominous about the images.
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While Colville's images seemed to be taken directly from reality, he drew them from multiple sketches and studies, planning a perfect composition before he began to paint.
The painting process could take months — with layer upon layer of thinned paint painstakingly applied dot by dot to a primed wooden panel.
"Behind his words, as behind his art, you can sense elaborate webs of thought. And, also like his paintings, he stands quite alone, beyond category. It's impossible to speak with him for a few hours without feeling his powerful sense of self. He is, it seems, a free man." Robert Fulford wrote in Toronto Life in 2000.
The tranquil scenes are deceptive, because something about the relationship between figures or the nature of the landscape will convey loneliness, isolation, parting, work, leisure, estrangement, love.
"I see life as inherently dangerous. I have an essentially dark view of the world and human affairs .. Anxiety is the normality of our age," Colville was quoted as saying.
My favourite painting of his is his 1965 To Prince Edward Island. The National Gallery of Canada's page touches upon the mystery lurking behind the image. Who is the woman? What is she looking at, in what direction? Is everything as it seems? I'm quite used to the ferries of Prince Edward Island, having ridden them from an early age, but Colville's problematization of the simple ferry ride caught my attention at a very early age.