Artwork by Kenneth Campbell Lochhead,  Colour Rotation

Ken Lochhead
Colour Rotation

acrylic on canvas
signed, titled and dated 1964 on the reverse
80 x 67 ins ( 203.2 x 170.2 cms )

Sold for $54,280.00
Sale date: November 20th 2018

Provenance:
Marlborough Godard, Toronto
The Collection of TransCanada PipeLines Limited, Calgary
Literature:
Ted Fraser, Kenneth Lochhead: Garden of Light, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 2005, page 54
A founding member of the Regina Five painters, Kenneth Lochhead moved to Regina in 1950 to teach art at the University of Saskatchewan. Because of his art, teaching, as well as his active role in the contemporary art world, Lochhead helped to give the Regina arts scene national status and has inspired generations of artists across Canada in the second half of the twentieth century. The artist’s cubist path to abstraction resulted in a colourful geometric abstract style, with clean, straight lines and shapes, as well as a large scale, as exemplified in “Colour Rotation”.

Dating to 1964, this work was painted during the height of Lochhead’s career as an abstract artist. The early sixties were highly active and successful for the painter on a national and international level. Lochhead had been painting in a completely non-representational manner since the beginning of the decade, and exhibited at the National Gallery in 1961 as a member of the Regina Five, who were considered to be at the forefront of Canada’s modern art movement. He had been participating in the Emma Lake Professional Artists’ Workshops since 1955, with guest workshop leaders including Abstract Expressionist painters and critic Clement Greenberg. Lochhead’s abstract work of the 1960s and 1970s, such as “Colour Rotation”, bear resemblances to the Color-Field painting movement, which had recently established itself in New York. The rectangular blocks of muted orange, mustard yellow and blue-grey radiate from a red triangle in the centre of the composition, against a raw cream canvas. The geometric shapes appear to be perfectly straight at first glance, but upon closer inspection the rectangles are composed of slightly curved and irregular lines. Lochhead’s strategy of painting an image that bears only a hint of the artist’s gesture was a shared trait among artists affiliated with Color-Field painting. The movement placed less emphasis on brushstrokes and action in favour of an overall consistency of form, characterized by large fields of flat, solid colour and a flat picture plane.

Colour Rotation shows similarities to American artist Kenneth Noland’s concentric circle and chevron canvases. The two painters met and corresponded regularly, and Noland led an Emma Lake workshop in 1963 at Lochhead’s request. Author Ted Fraser writes that “[Noland’s] concentric circles and chevrons proved to Lochhead that hard-edged colour and deductive geometry could propel the eye in and out of space and across the surface. Colour could do the job without embellishment of line or shading, without extraneous subject matter.” Colour Rotation demonstrates that Lochhead was successful in applying Noland’s advice; the three rectangular blocks of colour appear to be radiating from the central triangle and leading the viewer’s eye in a spinning motion against the canvas.

The year 1964 was a significant one for Lochhead, as it marks shift in his work from gestural to hard-edge abstraction. Toward the end of 1963, he had abandoned using masonite as a support, in favour of adjustable rolls of cotton duck canvas. Lochhead also abandoned textural enamel paint for the new transparency of water-based acrylic, a preferred medium among Color-Field painters. The artist corresponded frequently with Clement Greenberg during 1963-64, discussing formalism, the international art scene, and exhibition opportunities. Lochhead and Noland were both featured in Clement Greenberg’s 1964 influential exhibition “Post-Painterly Abstraction”, curated for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and subsequently the Walker Art Center and the Art Gallery of Toronto.
Attracting feverish bidding, this artwork sold for more than double its opening bid, establishing a new auction record for Lochhead’s work during the Fall 2018 Live Auction of Important Canadian Art.

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Kenneth Campbell Lochhead
(1926 - 2006) Regina Five, Order of Canada

Ken Lochhead was born in Ottawa, in 1926. His interest in art began during his high school years. He was struggling in school, particularly with Latin. So, Lochhead and his grandmother persuaded his parents to enroll him in a summer studio course at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He earned a Matriculation Certificate from Glebe Collegiate in 1944, and took a commercial art course at the Ottawa Technical School of Fine Arts. Continuing his education, Lochhead attended a four-year undergraduate program at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art in Philadelphia where he studied illustration, painting, and watercolour. Due to generous scholarships, Lochhead was able to travel and study throughout Europe in 1948.

In 1950, Lochhead was invited to teach drawing and painting courses at Carleton University in Ottawa. In the same year Lochhead won a painting contest sponsored by O’Keefe Brewing Company for his oil painting titled Fishermen (1949). The art competition was for artists between the ages of eighteen and thirty. He won $1000 and gained significant publicity and was invited to be the Director of the School of Art at Regina College. At only twenty-four years old, Lochhead was employed to establish the school and facilitate the Norman MacKenzie art collection. Immediately, Lochhead was inspired by his new location and began to explore his new home through painting and sketching. Lochhead was most curious about the villages and farm homes near Regina and began depicting them in his work. In 1955, he established the Emma Lake Professional Artists’ Workshops, a summer artist program, at the University of Regina. His 1957 mural Flight and Its Allegories at the international airport terminal in Gander, Newfoundland, sparked Lochhead’s interest in depicting birds in his works. In 1964, Lochhead moved to Winnipeg to begin teaching at the School of Fine Art at the University of Manitoba. In 1960, Lochhead formed The Regina Five, a group of abstract painters who became an active artists community embracing the abstract expressionism movement in Saskatchewan.

While in Winnipeg, Lochhead’s paintings were still inspired by the natural world. By 1970, he began applying paint with a spray gun in a large downtown warehouse that had been converted into a studio. Lochhead continued to use this method during his time spent teaching at York University in Toronto, but eventually turned to other media upon his move to Ottawa to teach at the University of Ottawa in 1975. No longer using a spray gun, Lochhead began using oil, enamel, watercolor, and pastels to explore birds and the natural environment that surrounded him. Interested in the playful nature of birds he would often drive out of the city to draw natural landscapes. He also spent time exploring Ottawa’s gardens and the Arboretum at the Central Experimental Farm. Finally, Lochhead and his wife purchased a cottage adjacent to the Gatineau River in 1983. With help from his son, Lochhead built a studio in the woods near his house where he could observe the forest and incorporate it into his paintings.

In the early 1990s, Lochhead began to paint more figurative images based off of photographs. He painted portraits of random strangers, politicians, and eventually professional sports teams. Until his death in 2006, Lochhead painted the world around him in his studio in the forest or while on holiday in the Canadian Rockies and the Maritime Provinces. Lochhead has exhibited throughout Canada and the United States, including numerous solo exhibitions. He has been given the honour of the Order of Canada and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.

Literature Sources:
Joanne Lochhead, Colour is of the Senses. University of Regina, 2018
A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977

We extend our thanks to Danie Klein, York University graduate student in art history, for writing and contributing this artist biography.