McMichael - Canadian Art | Collection d'art Canadien

Current Exhibitions

Jack Bush: In Studio

Needles and Pins: Colleen Heslin

Wounds of War: Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson

Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson
Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival

A Foundation for Fifty Years: McMichael Masterworks

Reframing the Art of Canada: Jessie Oonark

Reframing the Art of Canada: The Collection

Reframing the Art of Canada: Norval Morrisseau


In Studio: Jack Bush
(Galleries 6 and 7)

June 4, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Curator: Sarah Stanners
Presented in Partnership with Esker Foundation, Calgary

The Ontario premiere of Jack Bush: In Studio at the McMichael will be the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in a major public gallery in the vicinity of Toronto since the early 1980s. In the most classic sense, the word studio is defined as “room for study.” This exhibition was conceived as an opportunity to gather 20 select paintings in a new space with the aim to spark study.

Fifteen of the paintings in show were made in a small one-room studio in Bush’s family home in North Toronto. In 1968, after 41 years of working in commercial art studios, and nearly a lifetime of painting at home, a fellow artist offered Bush studio space in downtown Toronto. The remaining five works in the exhibition were painted there, where he would execute most of his very large paintings from 1968 until his death in January 1977.

The most intimate conversations held in the studio were between Jack and his primary subject: colour. The studio was a sounding board for the artist; a place to face dead ends and challenges; a place to test colour and make it sing; a place to both putter and make grand statements; and, most of all, a place to be absorbed in art.

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Needles and Pins: Colleen Heslin
(Galleries 4 and 5)

June 4, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Organized and circulated by Esker Foundation, Calgary
Curator: Naomi Potter

Colleen Heslin’s paintings resonate with the tension of material and gestural complexity. The artist hand-dyes cotton and linen in small batches, and hangs them to dry, which develops residual surface textures. The stained fabric is then cut and pieced together – similar to quilt-making construction. Colour is in constant dialogue; the pure simplicity of isolated colour is central to every painting. Considering formal abstraction and craft-based methods of mark making, Heslin’s work thoroughly explores colour, shape, and texture, while acknowledging the histories of photography and textiles, and finding connections with the Colour Field painters of the 1960s and 1970s. Aspects of her process – specifically dyeing and sewing – are also inextricably linked to domestic labour, feminism, and craft.

These paintings do not immediately reveal how they are made or what they are about, yet each advocates for close and sustained reading. The work seeks the space of open interpretation, positioned between the unfamiliar and the familiar. Chromatic expanses and complex shapes play off each other to create paintings that are narratively ambiguous, yet intensely evocative and poignant.

The McMichael’s presentation of Colleen Heslin: Needles and Pins includes nearly a dozen new works created specifically for our site.

The artist would like to thank the Canada Council for the Arts and the City of Vancouver for supporting the development of this work.

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Wounds of War: Tom Thomson and A.Y. Jackson
(Galleries 2 and 3)

June 4, 2016 – January 8, 2017
Curator: Laura Brandon

On 3 June 1916, a massive explosion wounded A. Y. Jackson during the Battle of Mount Sorrel, one of the toughest and most tragic of the Canadian First World War battles. The event changed Jackson’s life and transformed his art.

On 4 June 2016, marking 100 years and 1 day from the time of Jackson’s wounding, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection will open an innovative new exhibition about A.Y. Jackson and Tom Thomson. Visitors will see Jackson’s only three known original drawings from his time as a soldier, on view for the first time since they were drawn in the heat of battle.

Drawing on the McMichael’s extensive holdings of both artists’ wartime art and on loans from important public and private collections, this exhibition focuses on the year in which Jackson and Thomson painted together and shared a studio, their different responses to war, their wartime art, Jackson’s work as an official war artist, and his post-war commemorative paintings. Although Jackson and Thomson never saw each other again after 1914, each reflects the art and influence of the other over the course of the following years. After Thomson’s death in 1917, Jackson had seen hundreds of Thomson’s paintings and this influence, as well as the impact of the loss of his friend, comes through in Jackson’s work completed after 1918.

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Tom Thomson (1877-1917), Ragged Pine, 1916, oil on paperboard, 21.5 x 26.7 cm, Purchase with funds donated by Mr. R.A. Laidlaw, McMichael Canadian Art Collection


Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson, Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival
(Galleries 8 and 9)

March 5 – Extended to September 5, 2016

As a Primary Exhibition partner with the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival, the McMichael’s exhibition Field Trip: Sarah Anne Johnson shows the artist’s latest project about Canada’s outdoor music festivals. Johnson sees these festivals as a forum for a community of people coming together to create a modern day Dionysian celebration through a connection to nature, music and dance, and the rejection of social norms.

Canadian artist Sarah Anne Johnson (born in 1976) lives and works in Winnipeg. While her work is primarily photo-based, she also employs a full range of media including painting, sculpture and performance where she addresses issues that are environmental, social and personal. Johnson received her MFA from Yale University and a BFA from the University of Manitoba. Her work is featured in numerous public collections including the Guggenheim Museum in New York, The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Ontario, each of which has extensive holdings of her work. She has also received recent commissions from Louis Vuitton, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and the Bank of Montreal, and was a finalist for the Sobey Art Award in 2015.

Read more about this exhibition

Sarah Anne Johnson, Pink Forest, 2015, photoshopped chromogenic print, 28 x 42
Courtesy Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto; Galerie Division, Montreal; Julie Saul Gallery, New York


A Foundation for Fifty Years: McMichael Masterworks

(Gallery 1)

Curated by Sarah Stanners

The McMichael owes its existence and collection to the generosity of donors. A Foundation for Fifty Years will present some of the most significant donations made for the McMichael gallery’s founding year, 1966, by Signe and Robert McMichael, as well as their peers, who were all excited to make Canadian masterworks a gift to the public of Ontario. Installed in the McMichael’s principle gallery on the ground floor, this collection of masterworks celebrates our core artists - the Group of Seven and their contemporaries. Artists on show include Tom Thomson, Lawren Harris, David Milne, and Emily Carr, to name just a few. The exhibition space has been restored to its 1960s modernist style, in a manner that the McMichaels intended: traditional materials with modern lines. This special exhibition kicks off the 50th anniversary of the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.

Exhibition Micro-site

Arthur Lismer (1885-1969), Canadian Jungle, 1946, oil on canvas, 44.8 x 53.7 cm (17 5/8 x 21 1/8 in.), Gift of the Founders, Robert and Signe McMichael, McMichael Canadian Art Collection
1966.16.107



Reframing the Art of Canada: Jessie Oonark

(Gallery 12)

Renowned artist Jessie Oonark (1906–1985) was born in the Back River area north of Qamani’tuaq (Baker Lake). Oonark and her family led a nomadic existence as did other Inuit who depended on hunting and fishing for survival. After moving into the developing community of Qamani’tuaq in the 1950s, Oonark was encouraged to make drawings which were at times playful reinterpretations of life in the North. Her earliest works attracted the attention of James Houston, founder of the print program at Cape Dorset on Baffin Island. Prints made from Oonark’s drawings were included in the second and third annual print releases from the Cape Dorset workshop. Oonark achieved international recognition for her drawings, prints and wall hangings.

Following their recent major gift of contemporary Northwest Coast artworks to the McMichael, Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt have donated 189 Baker Lake drawings, collages and prints from their extensive collection of Inuit art. This generous gift effectively allows the McMichael to reframe the work of Jessie Oonark – as no fewer than 50 works by the artist stem from this new gift, providing an extensive new context for the wall hangings and other works on paper from our existing collection.

Image: Jessie Oonark (1906 - 1985), wall hanging, Untitled, c. 1972, felt with embroidery thread, thread, 203 x 152 cm, Gift of Vincent Tovell, Object number: 1990.4


Reframing the Art of Canada: The Collection

(Gallery 11)

Every art gallery, and every exhibition within it, is a frame upon a work of art. You, the viewer, will impose your own frame of mind upon each artwork that you encounter – bringing with you your own subjective likes and dislikes, understandings and personal insights.

Art collections initiate conversations that recontextualize the individual works either by re-examining socio-cultural issues, revisiting art history or the aesthetics of the work, or addressing aspects of popular culture. Artwork is not static, in other words: its meaning can change according to its context.

Work in this gallery has been curated by Chris Finn to provoke and stimulate these conversations.

Exhibition Micro-site


Reframing the Art of Canada: Norval Morrisseau

(Gallery 14)


Shaman and Disciples by Norval MorrisseauNorval Morrisseau’s passion for visual storytelling led him to develop a pictorial vocabulary, which transformed the traditional readings of the teachings and stories of the Anishinaabe people, and enabled him to express his own spiritual voice.

The artist’s imagery drew inspiration from renderings transcribed on rock as petroglyphs and pictographs, or hand-drawn on birch bark scrolls by ancestors. Morrisseau sought to reinterpret the cultural and spiritual narratives of his heritage by exploring various means of invoking a state of transcendence. The artist’s work also presents references to Christianity as well as Eckankar, a contemporary belief system.

The use of acrylic paint, canvas and paper marked a shift towards European-influenced art traditions. Morrisseau’s acrylic paintings demonstrate an intuitive use of bright, pure colour, where dark lines delineate figures within figures. Some of Morrisseau’s symbolic representations are suggestive of an inner power, while others express an inherent spirituality. These vibrantly coloured images offer compelling chronicles of an individual connected to a broad-based cultural core.

Morrisseau’s paintings have traditionally been shown in the far, long gallery (#8) here at the McMichael. With this reinstallation, we aim to reframe the way we see even the most familiar works from our permanent collection. Display space can act as a frame and therefore influences the way in which we look at art.

Image: Norval Morrisseau (1931-2007), Shaman and Disciples, 1979, acrylic on canvas
180.5 x 211.5 cm, Purchase 1979, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 1979.34.7


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