Jack Shadbolt (1909 – 1998) was an influential Vancouver modernist whose experimentations with abstract painting resonated both within Canada and internationally. The body of work presented here was made in the post-war period when Shadbolt was developing his formal vocabulary as a painter. Shadbolt was one of several artists who returned to Canada after the war with a profound sense of uncertainty about the future, and whose practice looked to new imagery to express a sense of social disruption during the post-war years.
In relationship to The Ghost Universe are a selection of works by B.C. Binning, Gordon Smith, Molly Lamb Bobak, Bruno Bobak and Marion Nicoll. While stylistically diverse, these artists shared an awareness of the anxieties and uncertainties during the post-war era as well as an eagerness to explore abstraction as a means of expression.
Bertram Charles (BC) Binning was one of Canada’s foremost modern artists, architectural innovators, and educators. His early work from the 1940s was characterized by elegant, expressive yet controlled line drawings, often with nautical themes, using brilliant colour to express the painting’s flatness as a structural element and emphasizing a strong sense of order and composition. In 1941 Binning designed and built his flat-roofed, post-and-beam home in West Vancouver, which became the key example of West Coast modernist design, shaping the area’s architectural landscape for the next decade. His interest in architecture led to the design of large mosaic murals for public buildings, including the British Columbia Electric Building (1955). This interest also informed his paintings from the 1960s and 1970s which gradually evolved to purely abstract forms and explorations of clear colour and form.
Jack Shadbolt (1909 – 1998) is one of Canada’s most important artists. He is known for his paintings and murals that draw from his personal experiences and from the social and political conflicts that have taken place in British Columbia and world history, such as the struggles of First Nations, the Second World War, and the environmental movement.
Jack Shadbolt was born in England in 1909 and with his family, came to Victoria, British Columbia in 1921. He lived and taught in Victoria, Duncan, Vancouver and Burnaby. His work is represented in all the major galleries across Canada as well as in corporate and private collections. Shadbolt’s numerous awards include the Order of Canada in 1972, an Honorary Degree from the University of British Columbia, and in 1987 he and his wife, art historian and curator Doris Shadbolt, established VIVA, the Vancouver Institute for Visual Arts, which supports and recognizes the achievement of artists in British Columbia.
Gordon Smith (1919-2020) was a key figure in contemporary Canadian art. Since the 1950s, he worked continuously to expand the dialogue between abstraction and representation. In his tangled paintings, there is the insinuation of entire fields of colour below the surface. Over the course of his 75-year long career he has made paintings employing that procedure of looping and overlapping, the movement of line to line, texture into texture and colour into colour. His work has been an evolving search for balance between abstraction and his love of the land, which has given us insight into both the act of painting and the essence of the West Coast.