Artwork by Alex Simeon Janvier,  Ancient Relics

Alex Janvier
Ancient Relics

oil on linen
signed upper right; titled on the bottom edge; titled and dated “circa 1980” on a label on the reverse; unframed
48 x 72 ins ( 121.9 x 182.9 cms )

Auction Estimate: $50,000.00$30,000.00 - $50,000.00

Price Realized $312,000.00
Sale date: December 6th 2023

Private Collection, Toronto
Greg A. Hill, “Alex Janvier”, Ottawa, 2016, page 18
Alex Janvier ranks among the most acclaimed contemporary artists in Canada. A residential school survivor, Janvier embraced art– making as a form of solace in childhood. Showing an early aptitude for art, he went on to study at the Southern Alberta Institute of Art and Technology in the 1950s. There he encountered the influence of European modernists including Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miró. Janvier’s practice also drew from the rich cultural and spiritual traditions of the Dene in northern Alberta. Always a highly–original artist, Janvier’s work has incorporated both representation and abstraction to explore personal, political and spiritual themes.

In “Ancient Relics”, Janvier’s lively painted forms radiate outwards from the centre of the picture, shimmering and dancing with boundless, restless energy. The colourful, painted shapes contrast with the bare linen of the background. Janvier’s abstractions possess an endless fluidity, while seeming on the verge of settling into recognizable images. Curator Greg Hill noted, “Spirituality is also evident in Janvier’s work in subtle ways, such as in his characteristic sinuous lines. The lines... are reminiscent of the graceful and ever–changing movement of tobacco smoke and steam intermixing in shafts of light, or the dance of the aurora borealis spanning an entire night sky, the movement and patterns transcribed to feelings, colour and paint.” Janvier’s distinctive paintings allude to nature, indigenous culture, and spirituality. With its descriptive title, “Ancient Relics” hints at mysterious, elemental forces.

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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