Contemporary artist Alex Janvier was influenced by painters Wassily Kandinsky (Russian) and Paul Klee (Swiss) but his ultimate style is a unique Canadian combination of Indigenous and modern art. A retrospective of his career is on exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada. (Above: Untitled, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 165.1 × 266.7 cm)
Janvier is also a master of circle art, in his paintings and most recently in this remarkable mosaic called Tsa Tsa Ke K’e (Iron Foot Place). Installed in the floor of Edmonton’s Rogers Place, it is 45 feet in diameter and made of nearly one million glass tiles. (Below: Unveiling ceremony)
Of Denesuline and Saulteaux descent, Alexandre Simeon Janvier was born in 1935 on the Le Goff Reserve in Alberta, where he had a traditional upbringing in the Dene language. At 8, he went to Blue Quills Indian Residential School, where he was given art materials for the first time. He is often referred to as the first Aboriginal modernist artist in Canada.
A 2008 winner of the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Arts, Janvier was a founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated Inc., also known as the Indian Group of Seven, a collective established in 1973 to highlight contemporary Indigenous artists.
In 1966, the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs commissioned Janvier to create 80 paintings. He helped bring together Aboriginal artists such as Norval Morrisseau and Bill Reid for the Indians of Canada Pavilion at Expo 67, where he contributed a mural. Janvier is renowned as a muralist for works such as Morning Star, 62 feet in diameter in the domed ceiling of the Canadian Museum of History.
Janvier has a deep connection with the land. As a lifelong resident of the Denesuline traditional territory in the Cold Lake First Nation, Janvier attaches great importance to its Indigenous roots and to the idea of a long time relation to places and physical landmarks.
Alex Janvier website, here.
National Gallery Exhibition site, here.