Symbolism fills canvases

The engaging collection of “post-impressionism” art currently being presented at Concordia’s Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery displays a wonderful selection of Canadian modern paintings that vary on levels of depth and color.
Each unique in its depiction of nature, environment, and man, “Birth of the Modern” will be open to the public free of charge until March 30.
Almost entirely comprised of oil paintings they are striking in their rich coloration and thick brush strokes. The pieces were gathered from major collections across the country by curator Joan Murray.
Artists like Emily Carr, H. Mabel May, and James Wilson Morrice are among the 20 “pioneers” who made a contribution to post-impressionism in Canada. The variety in terms of the subject matter in each of the works is as diversified as the color palettes, and the attention to detail in many of the pieces is impressive. Each artist’s style is present throughout the collection.
The term “post-impressionism” was used by British art critic Roger Fry to describe the art world that consumed late 19th century Europe. Artists like Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh helped pave the way to a simplified form of painting, marked by the idea that color could evoke both emotional and aesthetic meaning. In works like “Snow,” with whites, periwinkles, and deep blues, creating an almost calming but intriguing sense, the prevalence of symbolism is evident in such pieces.
In Canada, artistic influences from Europe continued to prevail. However, they were applied in order to depict the artists’ attachments to his/her surroundings by means of nature and everyday experience. The rich grays and dimensions of “Winter 1920” is one such painting that demonstrates such an adaptation.
At the same time, David Milne’s “Icebox with kitchen shelves” in watercolor was especially vivid and unique in its representation. The lines and therefore the balance of images in the piece distinguished itself from the rest of the collection.
The gallery will be hosting an artists’ talk March 14 at 4 p.m. Members from Concordia’s Faculty of Fine Arts will help in exploring the role and relevance of modernism in current art and art production. For more information, please call 848-4750.
The Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery is open weekdays from 11-7, and Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. It is located on the main floor of the Library building. For information on “Birth of the Modern: Post-Impressionism in Canadian Art c. 1900-1920” or any other events at the gallery, visit their web site at


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