Eva Stubbs: The Rough Ideal

Eva Stubbs, Gaia #3, 1990

This exhibition surveys over 50 years of artistic accomplishment by Winnipeg artist Eva Stubbs, revealing important moments of development within her career. In addition to three key pieces from the WAG, the exhibition draws on over 30 public, corporate, and private collections.

Born into a Jewish-Hungarian family in 1925, Stubbs’ formative years in Europe were transient. She and her family endured the Great Depression, dodged the opening volleys of the Spanish Civil War, and witnessed firsthand the terrifying rise of anti-Semitism in Hungary, Germany, and Italy before waiting-out the Second World War in the northwest African city of Tangiers. Stubbs immigrated to Canada with her parents and brother in 1944 and settled in Winnipeg. In her early twenties, while convalescing from tuberculosis, Stubbs made the decision to enroll in the Fine Art program at the University of Manitoba. Over ensuing decades she furthered her training at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in the United States, the Banff School of Fine Art, and the Tokoname Clay Workshop in Japan. Stubbs taught art classes while raising a family through the 1960s. By the mid-1970s she turned exclusively to her own practice, and has exhibited in Winnipeg, Toronto, Montreal, and her native Budapest. She played a founding role in SITE Gallery, Winnipeg’s first artist-run commercial cooperative exhibition space, which existed between 1995 and 2005. Eva Stubbs was elected a member of the Royal Canadian Academy in 1995.

Stubbs’ oeuvre incorporates a wide range of sculptural media, including bronze, plaster, wood, stone, and clay, as well as drawings in charcoal, ink, and oil stick. Her works are figurative and metaphorical. Mothers, children, couples, and families recur as subjects, but most are without specific identity. Bodies embrace and teeter, merge and emerge; they appear locked in struggle or caught at a moment of willed metamorphosis. The human form serves as the artist’s basis for a meditation on larger themes that concern the human species, such as historical memory, the desire for intimacy, and our awareness of the precariousness of existence. As such, Stubbs’ art is deeply personal while, at the same time, it reaches into a well of universal human experience.

Stepping back, we might consider Eva Stubbs’ work to be offering a particular model or ideal of humanity. What the sculptures and drawings envision, however, is not the ideal of noble simplicity and quiet grandeur associated with Antiquity, which reconciles the finite with the divine through a smoothed and proportionate rendering of human form. Rather, hers is an ideal that encapsulates fragility, a notion that brings together the conflicting ideas of vulnerability and resiliency. Humanity is fragile in the sense that it has been worn down by historical moments of irredeemable brutality. However, human fragility also testifies to endurance and the capacity for people to flourish despite the odds.

Click here for a transcript of an interview between Andrew Kear, Curator of Historical Canadian Art, and artist Eva Stubbs.

Eva Stubbs, Wisdom, 1983

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