Alex Colville at the Art Gallery of Ontario

And the award for the AGO’s most depressing show goes to…surprisingly…Alex Colville. Francis Bacon and Henry Moore, eat your hearts out.


ABOVE: Alex Colville, Pacific, 1967, acrylic polymer emulsion on hardboard, 21 × 21 inches, private collection, Canada © A.C. Fine Art Inc.

BELOW: Alex Colville, Horse and Train, 1954, glazed oil on hardboard, 16 × 21 inches, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Hamilton, gift of Dominion Foundries and Steel Limited (Dofasco), 1957 © A.C. Fine Art Inc.

This past weekend, I visited the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) to see the new Alex Colville exhibition. Being relatively unfamiliar with his work, I naively expected an airy, summer-like show. Boy, was I wrong. This guy is intense.

Let me be clear: Alex Colville is a brilliant artist. On the surface, his paintings are beautiful and his technique, flawless. Beneath the surface, he’s about as deep as you can get.

Several heavy themes are addressed, among them: love and loss, suicide, and the atrocities of war – almost every piece on display comes with a strong sense of foreboding.

With works taken from a wide variety of sources – both public and private – this is a very extensive exhibition; some might say, too expansive. Either way, bring comfortable shoes; you’re gonna need them.

All said and done, I loved this show. If you’re into intelligent, meticulously made artworks, you will too.

Alex Colville is at the AGO until January 4, 2015.

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