ARCA OC OSA
1927 - 1977
techniques mixtes sur panneau
signé et daté
5 1/4 x 13 1/2 po, 13.3 x 34.3 cm
Estimation : 25 000 $ - 35 000 $ CAD
Vendu pour : $37,250
Exposition à :
Acquired directly from the Artist by the present Private Collection, Toronto
William Kurelek’s best known works are his depictions of life on the Prairies. Informed variously by morality, religion and everyday experience, Kurelek drew on his own memories of growing up to produce images that are immediate and recognizable. This sense of immediacy is readily seen in Winter Path. In this work, a straight road recedes into the distance through a snowy field. On the horizon is a thin cropping of trees beneath a narrowed, cloudless sky of clear blue. Spindly fence posts line the road, half-buried in the snow. Wind-blown snow skitters across the surface of the road in scant trailing drifts, half burying the dirt track as it piles on the left side. In the centre of the work we see a figure walking down the path - coat flapping in the wind, head down against the cold - this would be a position anyone who has experienced Prairie winters would understand. We can feel the bite of the blowing snow, hear the crackling of the cold air.
The lone figure in an unpopulated landscape is a repeating motif in Kurelek’s work. The artist frequently employed empty, rural "deserts" offset by angular interventions of human creation (paths, furrowed fields, roadside benches and felled trees), as well as lonesome farmer figures to highlight both the vastness of the Prairies and the nature of the immigrant experience. Winter Path is an outstanding example of how Kurelek used the ideas of flatness and isolation to great effect. The use of one-point perspective clarifies the sense of distance with its simplicity, structuring the work through geometric purity. Though a small work, the openness of the field is accentuated by the horizontal orientation, the compressed sky serving to expand the sweep of the Prairie landscape. The artist’s frame serves to further dramatize this widened view. Often, for Kurelek the sense of the infinite is often grounded in the simplicity - and the vulnerabilities - of the everyday.
While living in Europe, Kurelek studied and drew inspiration from the Northern Renaissance painters. The highly constructed and dense scenes of Pieter Breugel the Elder and Heironymus Bosch swarmed with imagery drawn from memory, didactic allegory or metaphorical vignettes, but nonetheless were rooted in a sense of the localized, everyday experience of farmers and peasants - something Kurelek would have felt an immediate affinity for. This work represents a more subdued, personal vision, relying on absence rather than excess to build atmosphere, yet it is immediately recognizable in its Flemish inheritance. In particular, we can recognize Brueghel here, not only in its harsh yet sympathetic view of humanity within nature, but also in its formal structure. The receding composition recalls Brueghel’s Hunters in the Snow, with its dizzying winter horizon and sparse spindles of trees, as well as its palette of ice-blues, pure whites and deep earth tones.
For Kurelek, the impersonal beauty of nature serves as an ambivalent foundation for the hardships and desires of his isolated figures. In this work, the big sky horizon of the frozen prairies serves to clarify the agrarian subject’s sense of hardship, desire and balance within the natural world. Memory, place and experience intersect to create an arresting, tangible image rooted in Kurelek’s deep connections to the landscapes of his youth.
This work is in the original frame made by Kurelek.
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