The History of Manitoba art, past and present, is rich. Winnipeg has been a hub of the visual arts over many decades, the home and centre of many new visual experiments, new forms of creation and the visual articulation of contemporary societal issues. The creative energy of the province has been strong in every decade, before and after Manitoba joined Confederation in 1870. Individually and collectively, emerging and established Indigenous and Manitoba-born artists, and those who came to Manitoba from other parts of Canada and the world, have made significant contributions to Canada’s visual legacy. The resulting tapestry of visual innovation includes all media and work from multiple perspectives.
From my work over the decades I have concluded that the first oil paintings completed outdoors in Canada, for instance, were by William Hind, in Manitoba, in 1862. Further, in 1927, Bertram Brooker, who started his career in Neepawa, Manitoba, did the first abstract painting in Canada, Sounds Assembling. The 1950s witnessed the exceptional first graduating class after the 1951 union of the University of Manitoba and the Winnipeg School of Art, originally established in 1913. Those young artists became major figures on the Canadian art scene, and include Ivan Eyre, Bruce Head, Winston Leathers, Tony Tascona and Don Reichert, each with work in this office installation. Experimenting with new compositional approaches, techniques and subject matter, they created work which took Canada’s visual arts to new dimensions. That dynamism continues. Manitoba artists are celebrated across Canada as they present their work at home and abroad, and are represented globally in significant public, private and corporate collections.
As a senator representing Manitoba, my goal is to celebrate the province’s artists working in every field — visual art, music, writing, performance and film. My office installation and this publication pay tribute to them all, recognizing that it is impossible to delve into the full scope of Manitoba’s visual richness in one installation. This presentation represents Manitoba-born artists, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and immigrants who have chosen the province as home. Various media are included — painting, printmaking, drawing, photography, ceramics and sculpture.
It is an honour to present work showcasing at least a small part of Manitoba’s creativity by some of our heralded artists. The reproductions are of works included in this installation which were created between 2008 and 2017. I thank the artists and their families, as well musicians and composers, John K. Samson and Christine Fellows, who have allowed me to present their musical reflections of their home province, Manitoba.