Artwork by Alex Simeon Janvier,  Shoreline Existence

Alex Janvier
Shoreline Existence

acrylic on canvas
signed, dated 1973 and inscribed “287” lower right; titled on the stretcher
24 x 30 ins ( 61 x 76.2 cms )

Auction Estimate: $15,000.00$10,000.00 - $15,000.00

Price Realized $31,200.00
Sale date: December 3rd 2020

Galerie Woltjen Gallery, Edmonton
Private Collection, Edmonton
Don Hill, ‘Sky Talk: Alex Janvier’s paintings are clues to an extraordinary way of knowing’, “Alberta Views” [online], December 1, 2009
Murray Whyte, ‘Alex Janvier comes full circle with National Gallery retrospective’, “The Star” [online], November 27, 2016
A founding member of the Professional Native Indian Artists, established in 1973, Dene and Anishinaabe (Salteaux) artist Alex Janvier of Cold Lake, Alberta, is an integral component in the reformation of Indigenous Art in Canada. As a child, Janvier was a pupil of the Residential School system in St. Paul, Alberta at the Blue Quills Indian Residential School. It was this experience that drove the artist to escape through art, taking respite in Friday afternoon art classes. Janvier remarked, “I could think about home...about the lifestyle of my people.” For a brief period, Janvier could reconnect with his culture, family and bond with the Creator through his distinct intuitive drawing. Later, while studying at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and Art, he developed his artistic practice further: “He absorbed the early abstraction of artists like Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miro and began to filter it through his own view of the world. He would create Kandinsky-like organic wisps, tentacles of colour that would disintegrate, smoke-like, or coalesce in spots into recognizable forms.” Though acknowledging this inspiration from European abstract artists, it must also be recognized that Janvier was honouring the highly abstract visual vocabulary of his People and their traditions of bead and quillwork.

As testament to his political resistance to colonization and the erasure of Indigenous culture in the history of Canada, Janvier began signing his works with his People’s treaty number ‘287’ as an active rebellion against the mass production of Indigenous arts. Furthering this resistance, many of Janvier’s works are titled with a loaded connection to the land. “Shoreline Existence” is an example of the artist’s use of language to exemplify the continued tension between colonial expectations and Indigenous experience. The title reflects the marginality of the Indigenous experience within Canada while exploring the visually abstract depiction of territorial boundaries, contradictory to colonial maps. In an interview with Don Hill, Janvier discusses Cold Lake: “The lake doesn’t belong to us...but to tribes from all over...there’s energy in this landscape...especially if you go in the lake. There’s an awesome feeling when you’re right in the middle. It’s so powerful.” The connection Janvier has to the land is palpable in this work. The fluid arcs and precise segmentation of fresh colour offer a poetic narrative in the abstract tendrils converging and bursting to the edges of the canvas.

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Alex Simeon Janvier
(1935) RCA, Order of Canada

Born on Le Goff Reserve, Alberta, his talent was discovered by Reverend Father Bernet-Rolande at the Blue Quill Residential School. He later studied at the Southern Alberta College of Art, Calgary, under Illingworth Kerr, Stanford Perrot, Kenneth Sturdy, Ronald Spickett, Marion Nicoll, Robert Oldrich, W. Drohan and Stanford Blogett. Janvier won many awards during his study at the College and received a four year diploma in Fine Art and Craft. Afterwards, he taught art with the Extension Department of the University of Alberta at Edmonton; also at the Edmonton Art Gallery; Edmonton City Recreation Department (two years). His work entitled “Out Lady of Teepee” was chosen to represent Canadian Native Painting in the Vatican in 1950.

Averaging 8- at college, he still could not find anyone who would hire him in his chosen field and even had trouble finding a hotel room in which to stay during his job hunting in the city. Finally, he decided to return to the Reserve and raise cattle with his brother. But in 1964 through the assistance of a friend, he held his first one man show at the Jacox Gallery in Edmonton. Dorothy Bamhouse, “Edmonton Journal” art critis, noted of this show, “The cleanly patterned watercolours do not lean on the cliche symbolism of most Native art. Rather, they achieve a kind of 'nature mysticism” through simplification and near-abstraction of organic forms...colour plays a minor role. Sometimes it is limited to monochrome or earth colours or primaries subdued and steadied with black and brown. Occasionally, brilliant reds, yellows, blues, attain fluorescent proportions, as in 'City Lights'”.

By 1966, Janvier was working for the Department of Indian Affairs, as an arts and craft consultant, travelling throughout Alberta looking for promising talent and generally encouraging Indigenous People with artistic potential and arranging exhibitions of their works.

As a member of the commonly referred to “Indian Group of Seven”, Janvier is one of the significant pioneering Aboriginal artists in Canada, and as such has influenced many generations of aboriginal artists. Janvier was selected to represent Canada in a Canadian/Chinese Cultural Exchange in 1985 and at the Canadian Forum on Cultural Enterprise, in Paris, France, in 2004. He has completed several murals nationally, including “Morning Star” on the dome of the Canadian Museum of Civilization. Alex Janvier recently received three prestigious Lifetime Achievement Awards from the National Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, The Tribal Chiefs Institute, and Cold Lake First Nations. He is represented in a number of public and private collections.

Source: "A Dictionary of Canadian Artists, Volume I: A-F", compiled by Colin S. MacDonald, Canadian Paperbacks Publishing Ltd, Ottawa, 1977