Alex Colville: Return by Tom Smart

Alex Colville: Return by Tom Smart

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Alex Colville: Return offers fresh insight into the art of Alex Colville, focussing on paintings from the last ten years reflected in the context of his life's work and its broad themes of survival, longing and mortality.

In 1945, Alex Colville, a young Canadian war artist from Amherst, Nova Scotia, was one of three painters admitted to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as it was being liberated. He would later become one of Canada's most celebrated artists. In Alex Colville: Return, curator and writer Tom Smart suggests that, metaphorically and artistically, Colville has never stopped going back to the horrors that he witnessed in Germany. Designed to accompany a major exhibition of Colville's recent paintings, prints, and drawings organized by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Alex Colville: Return places Colville's recent work in the broader context of the artist's œuvre.

Beginning with his formation as an artist, author Tom Smart suggests that the exacting naturalism and underlying sense of foreboding in Colville's renderings of everyday life result, in part, from his experience of the Holocaust. Using recent paintings such as Embarkation and Dressing Room, Smart traces the evolution of Colville's contemporary work back to his earlier pieces, including the now famous Horse and Train and Ocean Limited.

In this insightful and provocative book, featuring over 40 colour reproductions, Smart demonstrates that Colville's images are more than superbly crafted depictions of a somewhat mythical world. These complexly coded works command the disorder and chaos of trauma into order, coherence, and closure. Today, the world is disrupted once again by the atrocities of war, and Smart's assessment of the wounds behind Colville's unique works of art resonates with special potency. In a subliminal way, art lovers have always understood that Colville's images are not benign, comforting representations of the real world.

For the first time, in Alex Colville: Return, Tom Smart gets to the bottom of this understanding, revealing the pentimento of Colville's astonishing and gripping vision.

Tom Smart is Director of Museum Programs at the Frick Art & Historical Center in Pittsburgh where he organizes and presents exhibitions drawn from the collections of European museums. He has coordinated numerous shows, including "Art in the Age of Van Gogh" for the Winnipeg Art Gallery and several exhibitions of historical and contemporary art for the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton. He is also the author of the award-winning titles The Art of Mary Pratt: The Substance of Light, The Art of Fred Ross: A Timeless Humanism and The World of John Hooper.

  • Douglas & McIntyre Ltd, 2004
  • 144 pages, hardcover
  • 7.5”x12”

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