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John Gould (1929-2010)

John Gould (1929-2010)


"What a piece of Work is man" 1980


24.25" x 18.75" sight


Provenance: Roberts Gallery, Toronto

*Please forgive the reflections in the piece, as it is behind glass


John Gould was born in Toronto on August 14th, 1929 and was the rare artist that committed his entire artistic career to the art of drawing. Attending the Ontario College of Art from 1948 to 1952, his early style was to be directly impacted by instructors such as Jack Nichols, and the viewing of mid-century abstract paintings at Albright-Knox Gallery in Buffalo, NY, and in particular the work of Willem de Kooning. He took part in his first group exhibition Greenwich (Isaacs) Gallery in Toronto and, in 1960, won the Elizabeth T. Greenshield’s Fellowship for figurative painting. The fellowship helped fund a voyage to Spain (the first of many international travels), and his first one-man show at the famed Dorothy Cameron Gallery in 1961 was comprised largely of work done during that trip. Championed early on by Alan Jarvis (director of the National Gallery of Canada from 195-1960), Jarivs said, “Gould’s major work goes far beyond drawing as we commonly understand it.” (Canadian Art Magazine, 1961). During the early 1960’s he would participate in large exhibitions at University of Toronto’s Hart House and a group exhibition at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario) in 1965. It was also during this period that he began another important element of his practice, guided visual tours of his work eventually know as “Drawn Films”. The first of these films, “Little Monday”, would be screened at the 33rd Venice Biennale in 1966 representing Canada in the category “Films About Art”. That same year, he began exhibiting at Roberts Gallery of Toronto where he would go on to be represented for more than 40 years. Drawings displayed at Roberts Gallery produced on a 1969 trip to Japan were viewed by famed mime Marcel Marceau, resulting in Marceau’s commissioning of Gould to draw him during his performances in New York in the spring of 1970. Around that time Gould moved to a cottage in the small community of Waubaushene in Northern Ontario, where he began to undertake the most complex and ambitious drawings of his career. The “Ancestor Series” — large-scale, densely crosshatched drawings made up of autobiographical elements, dream imagery and references from film history and literature were to be some of the most expressive and technically masterful work he was to produce. Four of these compositions and his films based on them were to be included in a group exhibition entitled “The Work of Art” in November of 1978 at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Central to his work was his need for spontaneity and improvisation, and his drawings from the 80’s and 90’s incorporated greater elements of collage and “ink-blotting” to provide a randomness he felt important to the vitality of his work. In 1996 Gould suffered a stroke that affected the right side of his body, and his skills as a draughtsman had to be re-learned (although, surprisingly, his abilities as a jazz clarinetist were unaffected), resulting in a technically simplified but expressively intense final period to his work. He passed away in Barrie, Ontario in January of 2010.

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