“Poitras, a pioneering First Nations artist is a painter to be reckoned with, equally at home with fine figure work and gestural; impressionism and abstraction; freely collaging a mix of styles and materials to give her work a mix of the historic and the thoroughly contemporary.” – Murray Whyte, Toronto Star
“I could draw anything I wanted, and no one seemed to mind. There I was in heaven, not knowing that someday that same little girl would grow up and still be drawing pictures, visions, shaman.” – Jane Ash Poitras
Available works range between $2,400 and $11,000
Dr. Jane Ash Poitras, C.M., B.Sc., B.F.A., M.F.A., B.A.(Hon), LL.D., D.Litt., RCA is a celebrated Canadian artist of Cree descent. Born in Fort Chipewyan, Alberta, Poitras has significantly influenced the development of a new visual vocabulary for Indigenous perspectives on contemporary art. Her unique style combines representational strategies of postmodern art—collage, layering, overpainting and incorporation of found objects—with a deep commitment to the politics and issues common to Indigenous peoples. Poitras’ art works are held by public galleries and museums across Canada including: The National Gallery of Canada (NGC) in Ottawa, the Canadian Museum of History (CMH) in Gatineau, Québec, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), and Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto as well as the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario.
Jane’s journey of discovery and creation has opened new doors to enlightenment as she combines her many diverse interests in pursuit of her distinctive artistic vision. Over the years, Jane has pursued many different routes of discovery, each reflected in the art she has produced. Those journeys of exploration have taken her not only into plumbing her Aboriginal roots (beginning by reconnecting with her birth family and her Mikisew Cree First Nation), but into such diverse topics as pharmacology, ethnobotany, Sanscrit and other linguistics, and literary creations supplementing the creation of visual works of art.
The range and diversity of the interests that inspire and inform her artistic creations have resulted in a number of distinctive series of artworks that, over time, reflect the paths she has taken on her journey of discovery. A survey of those series over the 30 years of her professional career could well serve as a map of that journey and a graphic record of her evolution as an artist.
For example, in 2009 she travelled to Japan with her son Eli, a student in Japanese language and culture, a tour that consisted primarily of visits to Buddhist monasteries and left a lasting impression on both of them. When she returned, while she continued to focus on Indigenous history, culture and spirituality that had informed and inspired her previous work, her new work subsequently began to incorporate Japanese elements and their placement according to Japanese art customs.
Edmonton Journal visual arts critic Janice Ryan previewed one of Poitras’s recent exhibitions, an ambitious collection of works layered with handwritten text, vintage photos, stamps and newspaper clippings placed over a background of thinned oil and acrylic pain. “The work is engaging for its beauty alone,” Ryan wrote, “but up close is where the cerebral journey begins, unravelling fragments of information, both subtle and in-your-face pronouncements, to reveal the story this imaginative artist is telling.”
One of the key aspects of her art that sets it apart from the work of other artists is her ability to combine and reconcile disparate themes and elements to create fully resolved works that convey information on different levels.
Commenting on her art, Poitras says, “Each blank canvas is an invitation to a journey of discovery. I may begin with an idea of what the final destination—the completed painting—may be, but I’m always open to the unexpected.” As Carl Beam said, the art of placement is a spiritual act. Each step in the creative process may reveal unexpected choices that require decisions.
“The final decision for each piece is to know when it is resolved, when it is finished.” – Jane Ash Poitras, 2014
Jane Ash Poitras stands beside her painting, “Changers” (2015) with Paul Robinson and his daughter Samantha. Photo taken during the artist’s gallery visit on 1 May 2019.
Government of Alberta; Alberta Foundation for the Arts; Alberta Indian Arts & Crafts Society Collection; Art Gallery of Ontario (Toronto, Ontario); Art Gallery of Peterborough (Peterborough, Ontario); Justice Department, Government of Alberta; Bank of Montréal; Bank of Nova Scotia; Brooklyn Museum (Brooklyn, New York); Canada Council Art Bank (Ottawa, Ontario); Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; Canadian Museum of History (Gatineau, Québec); Canadian Native Arts Foundation; Joan Chalmers Collection; City of Edmonton; Columbia University (New York City, New York); Confederation Centre for the Arts (Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island); Dunlop Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan); Edmonton Art Gallery (Edmonton, Alberta); Ernst Young Collection; Agnes Etherington Gallery, Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario); External Affairs Canada; Retired Madam Justice Nina Foster; Madame Justice Sheila Greckol; Robbie Davidson; Hewlett Packard Ltd Collection; Indigenous Art Centre (Gatineau, Quebec); Kelowna Art Gallery (Kelowna, British Columbia); Laurentian University Museum and Art Centre; Mackenzie Art Gallery (Regina, Saskatchewan); McMichael Canadian Collection (Kleinburg, Ontario); Remai Modern (formerly the Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan); Mikisew Cree Nation; Mississauga Art Gallery (Mississauga, Ontario); National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation; National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario); Nestles Canada Ltd Collection; Nova Scotia Art Gallery; Peace Hills Trust Company; Peguis First Nation; Alex Pringle; Robin Phillips Collection; Royal Bank of Canada; Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, Ontario); John Ralston Saul and Adrienne Clarkson; Senate of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario); Maurice and Hanne Strong, United States of America; Syncrude Canada Ltd Collection; Dr. Ronald Tasker; Thunder Bay Art Gallery (Thunder Bay, Ontario); University of Alberta Hospital (Edmonton, Alberta); University of Alberta Permanent Collection (Edmonton, Alberta); University of Toronto (Toronto, Ontario); University of Waterloo (Waterloo, Ontario); Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, British Columbia); Walter Phillips Gallery at Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity (Banff, Alberta); Windsor Art Gallery; Winnipeg Art Gallery (Winnipeg, Manitoba); Woodland Cultural Centre (Brantford, Ontario); Yale University.
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