Artwork by Gershon Iskowitz,  Painting A

Gershon Iskowitz
Painting A

oil on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1982 on the reverse
45 x 39 ins ( 114.3 x 99.1 cms )

Sold for $20,700.00
Sale date: November 22nd 2016

Private Collection, Calgary
Dennis Reid, “A Concise History of Canadian Painting”, third edition, Toronto, 2012, page 375
Peter Mellen, “Landmarks of Canadian Art”, Toronto, 1978, page 240
Roald Nasgaard, “Abstract Painting in Canada”, Toronto/Vancouver, 2007, page 244
David Burnett, “Iskowitz”, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, 1982, page 72
Iskowitz’s paintings of the 1970s and 80s are comprised of magnificent vivid shapes in contrasting tones, scattered upon laboriously painted surfaces. Dennis Reid describes the artist’s process: “Iskowitz worked only at night under artificial light, in oils...He would build up a picture slowly, applying a colour, then when it had dried, applying another over it, leaving only parts of the previous layers exposed, thinly veiling others, or obscuring some parts entirely...”

Iskowitz drew on his personal recollections of experiences with landscape for his work, explaining that he would take “...the experience, out in the field, of looking up in the trees or in the sky, of looking down from the height of a helicopter. So what you try to do is make a composition of all those things, make some kind of reality... That’s painting.” The Canadian landscape provided him with striking patterns and vistas which emerged through tiers of scattered clouds below.

Nasgaard writes that, by the 1980s, Iskowitz had “upped the ante by electrifying his colours, intensifying their contrasts and hardening the contours of his forms.” “Painting A” exemplifies the artist’s unique manipulation of colour harmonies, textures and patterns, revealing the moment when “the landscape, the imagination, and the memory of experiences are united...”

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Gershon Iskowitz
(1920/21 - 1988) RCA

Gershon Iskowitz was born in Kielce, Poland, in 1920/21 (art historian Ihor Holubizky notes that there are no legal documents which confirm a birth date of 1921 for the artist). Although he demonstrated a keen interest in the visual arts at a very young age, he received no formal training during his youth. With the outbreak of World War II, his dreams of studying fine art at the Warsaw Academy were never realized. After surviving nearly six years of internment, during which he continued to sketch secretly, his youthful vision bears witness to the brutality of daily life in the concentration camps and the horrors of the Holocaust.

Following the war Iskowitz went on to study at at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts where he won a scholarship in 1948 for a years study in France and Italy. In 1949, Iskowitz immigrated to Toronto. Over the next decade, his artistic vision would evolve from the depiction of bleak images of horrific wartime memories into a new and optimistic expression of his experience in the country. Gradually, the artist’s description of the painful events of his past was transformed into a dynamic representation of the present through landscape. Iskowitz’s unique and personal perception of the Canadian landscape found its expression in an exuberant and joyful use of colour and light.

On the subject of Iskowitz’s drawings, Luba Eleen noted in 1963, ”the artist covers the surface of the paper with little marks, seemingly distributed at random, like strewn leaves – now concentrated, now spread out. These marks gradually coalesce into the time-honoured elements of the Canadian country-side – fields with ploughed furrows, conical pine trees, and on on… one cannot help wondering whether he will continue his successful preoccupation with landscape or, as one or two examples of his present work seem to hint, he will carry forward and assimilate an earlier interest in the human figure and the expression of strong emotions.”

Beginning in 1964, Iskowitz exhibited his work regularly at Toronto’s Gallery Moos. From 1967-70, he taught at the New School in Toronto, during which time his Spadina Avenue studio was a popular place to visit amongst young artists. The artist received national recognition in 1972, when he was one of two artists chosen to represent Canada at the XXXVI Venice Biennial. An Iskowitz retrospective was held in 1982 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, which travelled throughout Canada, as well as to Canada House in London, England. Each year, the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, established by the artist in 1985 in association with the Canada Council, awards the Gershon Iskowitz Prize – one of the most important visual arts awards in Canada.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume II”, compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1979