ARCA CGP CSGA CSPWC OSA P11
1909 - 1977
acrylic on canvas
on verso signed, titled, dated September 1970 and inscribed "Acrylic polymer W.B." and indistinctly "Mrs B…"
51 1/2 x 25 1/2 in 130.8 x 64.8 cm
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
Sold for: $169,250
Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave
Collection of the Artist, September – October 1970
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto, October 1970
Private Collection, Ontario
Private Collection, Toronto
Gallery One, Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto, 2014
Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto, June 2014
Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto, June 2014 - 2017
Sold sale of Post-War & Contemporary Art, BYDealers, November 6, 2017, lot 22
Miriam Shiell Fine Art, Toronto, 2017 - 2018
Private Collection, Quebec
The year 1970 in the career of Jack Bush cannot be characterized by one style. Perhaps more than any other year after 1960, once Bush painted strictly in an abstract manner, 1970 had the most variety in terms of style. In this year, key “types” of Bush paintings emerged discretely and, in some cases, intersected. The Spasm paintings, Series “D” paintings, Road Mark paintings and Loop paintings are all represented in Bush’s work from 1970. Furthermore, in that year that the early mottled ground paintings took off, the first paintings with unpainted borders came about, and the largest canvas ever painted by the artist, Rising (166 x 517 cm), was completed in June. Amid this cresting wave of painterly innovation and experiment, Bush painted Green Pink.
Green Pink incorporates aspects of the Spasm paintings and the Series “D” paintings, but with its solid teal background appears strikingly distinct. Without any mottling and with its attention to flatness, Green Pink conveys a sense of velvety colour, held in positive tension within the parameters of the picture plane, yet not touching these edges. Sharp-edged shapes and soft-edged ground colour combine in a careful composition that hints at a kind of aesthetic syntax – green next to pink, blue pointed at this pair, and a soft-topped square in golden yellow accenting the conversation between colour and shape.
Bush often used the term “ad lib” when describing the way in which he selected his colours. Known for his unexpected colour combinations that seem meant to be, he did, rather paradoxically, orchestrate an impromptu approach. In an interview with Wendy Brunelle, Bush explained:
I just let it go as it feels inside, and I think I might illustrate it.….I’ll put on yellow to start with. I am safe with that one. “Well now, Mr. Yellow, what would you like next door?” (I am just thinking to myself) If the answer isn’t sure, I will put a piece of colour over here. Let it take care of itself. It starts to almost tell me sort of what to put next. So if you just let this flow, at least, that’s the way I do, just let it flow, and you are often very very surprised at the crazy results.
The fact is, as even Brunelle pointed out in response to the artist’s description of his process, the “flow” was premeditated. Bush almost always made small sketches in felt-tipped markers, or pencil crayon, to work out successful layouts (his term) before painting. Some choreography preceded the impassioned dance with paint on the canvas. However, a review of the largest collection of abstract sketches by the artist, which is held at the University of Guelph, suggests that there is no preliminary sketch related to Green Pink.
In terms of spontaneity, Bush likened his approach to painting to the nature of jazz music, but even the surprising riffs in jazz are often practised and imitated. In a study on the perception of musical spontaneity in jazz performance, music cognition experts have asserted:
Fluid melodic invention during improvisation is typically achieved through a mixture of spontaneous decision-making and skills honed through deliberate practice. Improvisers invest effort into developing vocabularies of musical patterns (including pitch and rhythmic sequences), which they then, during performance, freely combine and vary in a manner that is sensitive to the prevailing musical form and stylistic context.
In 1970, Bush’s visual vocabulary was rich and his spirit of free will allowed him to combine shapes, colour and a sense of rhythm like no other abstract painter of his time in Canada. As the artist recalled to Brunelle during his interview – which was his last ever before passing in late January 1977 – he often remarked to his studio assistant: “What a crazy way to make a living doing this jazz.”
We thank Dr. Sarah Stanners, director of the Jack Bush Catalogue Raisonné, contributor to the Bush retrospective originating at the National Gallery of Canada in 2014, and assistant professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Art History, for contributing the above essay.
This work will be included in Stanners’s forthcoming Jack Bush Paintings: A Catalogue Raisonné.
1. Quoted in “Wendy Brunelle Talks with Jack Bush (January 1977),” in Jack Bush, ed. Karen Wilkin (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1984), 195.
2. Annerose Engel and Peter Keller, “The Perception of Musical Spontaneity in Improvised and Imitated Jazz Performance,” Frontiers in Psychology (May 3, 2011): para. 4, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00083.
Estimate: $125,000 - $175,000
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