The first three-panel landscape measures 25 feet long, and the second five-panel work measures 27 feet. Of course, in the vault space it was impossible to see more than one panel at a time, hence the impetus to get them out of the vault and into the gallery. Once out and assembled, it was difficult to let them go back to storage; these epic works had to be seen again and shared.
This exhibition is much more than these two paintings; however, it celebrates the experience of rediscovery with Ivan Eyre’s landscapes, underlining the feeling that with each encounter, the same work offers something new, something unexpected. The show brings together a group of paintings spanning fifty years of artistic production. While the drawing is the source of much of the visual vocabulary that informs Eyre’s figurative works, this is not the case with the landscapes. They are their own – his own – genre: compositions created largely from the artist’s imagination and his countless encounters with nature.
This is the artist’s world. And in the artist’s words: “Something less than a full understanding of a work is desirable in that it allows the painting to keep giving. Some mystery should remain, compelling viewers back to the paintings possibly to reaffirm themselves.”
Ivan Eyre was born in Tullymet, Saskatchewan, northeast of Regina in 1935. Growing up, he moved with his parents Thomas and Katie Eyre and two siblings to rural communities in Alberta and Saskatchewan before settling in Saskatoon, where his father took a job as an Air Force electrician. As a teenager, Eyre enrolled in after-school art classes at the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate, studying under Ernest Lindner. His early art instruction was followed by evening classes at the University of Saskatchewan where he studied under Eli Bornstein. Upon graduation from high school in 1953, Eyre moved to Winnipeg, where he enrolled in the School of Art at the University of Manitoba studying under William McCloy, Wynona Mulcaster, and George Swinton, graduating in 1957. He married Brenda Yvonne Fenske, whom he had met at the University of Manitoba, in 1958, before heading off to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks to begin his MFA studies in the same year. The couple returned to Winnipeg in 1959 when Eyre was hired by his alma mater to teach in the School of Art. The next year, he was made a full-time instructor, a position he held until his retirement in 1993. Within a year of his first semester teaching, the Winnipeg Art Gallery had included the artist’s work in an exhibition. After a celebrated career as a painter and sculptor spanning seven decades, Ivan Eyre passed away at the age of 87 on November 5, 2022.
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