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NORVAL MORRISSEAU: At The MacKenzie’s “Miskwaabik Animiiki Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau”

“Norval Morrisseau (1931–2007) continues to be a leading figure in Canadian contemporary art discourse.”
– MacKenzie Art Gallery

Opening this past November at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan, Miskwaabik Animiiki Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau builds on the enduring legacy of Norval Morrisseau’s compelling oeuvre and his ongoing influence on new generations of Indigenous artists. His distinctive style, sometimes referred to as Legend painting, but more widely known as the Woodland School of Art, is one of the most recognizable in Canadian art, yet as the Mackenzie states, “[l]ike Bill Reid’s Spirit of Haida Gwaii (1994), Morrisseau’s groundbreaking work is often co-opted and reproduced as a part of Canadian iconography.” For Morrisseau, “his work reflected a worldview that spoke through stories and relationality” while providing the visual representation of his Anishinaabe culture.

The exhibition “features a survey of paintings, drawings, audio recordings, and ephemera from various stages of his career as a visual artist.” It also features Androgyny (1983), one of Morrisseau’s most well known and loved works. Morrisseau presented the painting to the Government of Canada with the intent that “the acceptance of the gift to be a symbol of Canada’s commitment to better treatment of Indgienous peoples.” Massive in size, its vibrant partnering of hot and cool tones illustrates Anishinaabe cosmology: the sky world, the domain of the Thunderbirds, the powerful manitous or spirits, and the world below where earth and water provide the stage for the diversity of life – human, animal, insect and plant. In the immersive painting, the “length of a small school bus,” all life emanates from the red ochre half dome while connected by means of Morrisseau’s signature bold black line around each being, from the tiny butterflies to the giant Thunderbird that governs the centre. His way of doing the line work was influenced by the “Anishinaabe paintings Morrisseau saw on rock surfaces (rock paintings are called pictographs) and in birchbark scrolls that held sacred stories.”

“Morrisseau is truly a grandfather of Indigenous art practice.”

The exhibition includes many more stunning works, view more on the Mackenzie’s website.

Miskwaabik Animiiki Power Lines: The Work of Norval Morrisseau
 continues until April 3, 2022.

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