10 Canadian Artists Capture What Unites Us

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“In challenging times, often it’s the artists who can create a dialogue,” says Andrew Ross, an international contemporary painter and chair of the N3XT committee. N3XT is a juried national art competition run by the Arts & Letters Club of Toronto, one of the country’s oldest and most iconic arts clubs. (It was founded in 1908, and early members included Fredric Banting and members of the Group of Seven.) The theme of this year’s contest, “Canadian unity,” may have been chosen two years ago, but it’s well-suited to our pandemic times, says Ross.

For the past many months, painters, sculptors and other visual artists across the country have been pondering the notion of national unity and using their work to address some difficult questions: What is unity in Canada? How can it be expressed? Can we be unified? A total of 108 works of art exploring the concept of Canadian unity were received, which have been narrowed down by the jurors to the top 10 finalists. The winners will be announced on December 17, 2020.

N3xt runs until December 18, 2020, at St. George’s Hall in Toronto. Appointments can be made with the Arts & Letters Club to see the exhibition in person; works can also be viewed online here.

November 20, 2020
Tom Ashbourne, Blue Angel, green serpentine with glass accents
  1. Tom Ashbourne, Blue Angel, green serpentine with glass accents —

    A former corporate executive, Tom Ashbourne was an art lover and collector before he became a sculptor. Ashbourne creates his assemblage sculptures, made of thought-provoking materials, from his studio in Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Anne Barkley, Shapes of Morning 7, oil and cold wax on birch panel
  1. Anne Barkley, Shapes of Morning 7, oil and cold wax on birch panel —

    Inspired by the beauty and rhythms of our Canadian landscape, Anne Barkley invites the viewer to step into her world of simple but strong abstract shapes and vivid colours. Barkley belongs to several artists’ groups and is an elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists.

Donna Cheryl Brown, From Sea to Sea to Sea, acrylic on canvas
  1. Donna Cheryl Brown, From Sea to Sea to Sea, acrylic on canvas —

    This contemporary-style painter who lives on a lake in the Frontenac Arch Biosphere, north of Kingston, Ontario, explores families, people and unity in a universal sense. In this piece, Donna Cheryl Brown creates a stylized map of Canada and superimposes figures of friends, family members and strangers, all connected.

Alexander Bulzan, Three Black Walnuts, painting
  1. Alexander Bulzan, Three Black Walnuts, painting —

    In this red, black and white triptych, Alexander Bulzan explores our reverence for nature even as we simultaneously – and uncontrollably – consume it. Through his work, the Montreal-born artist, sculptor and designer explores nature’s microcosms and macrocosms and how nature is an intrinsic part of being Canadian.

Eunah Cho, Timeless, woven strips of Hanji paper
  1. Eunah Cho, Timeless, woven strips of Hanji paper —

    India ink, coloured pigment and acrylic with mixed media on hanji, Korean traditional handmade paper, bring the work of this Toronto-based contemporary artist to life. Eunah Cho’s work often incorporates the images of birds, which symbolize hope, freedom and inspirational imagination.

Susan Clark, Elevate, oil painting on stretched canvas
  1. Susan Clark, Elevate, oil painting on stretched canvas —

    Many of the artist’s images are architectural, drawing on inspiration from Toronto and the suburbs where she lives. Here, Susan Clark reflects on the facades we carry and suggests that it’s not what you take from a country, but what you give – a passion for what we share as Canadians.

Cherie Daly, Stepping Stones, acrylic
  1. Cherie Daly, Stepping Stones, acrylic —

    In this abstract acrylic painting, the orange marks at the top are like stepping stones, which could be the provinces and territories or the steps we take towards one another and towards connection. Before working on her art full-time, Cherie Daly worked in public service – she didn’t return to her childhood passions of drawing and painting until her own children were grown up.

Keesha Freskiw, Hats Off, acrylic paint and modeling paste on canvas
  1. Keesha Freskiw, Hats Off, acrylic paint and modeling paste on canvas —

    Up-and-coming artist Keesha Freskiw examines all the hats we wear – from firefighters to foodies – symbolizing different occupations and individuals who are united by being part of this country.

Shelley Hudson, Synergy, watercolour
  1. Shelley Hudson, Synergy, watercolour —

    A deep love of animals and a vivid dream life are the primary inspirations for this Saskatoon-based artist. Here, Shelley Hudson explores the concept of our multicultural society growing together to create a unique and unified Canada, like nowhere else in the world.

John N. Inglis, Tree of Life, oil on primed canvas texture panel
  1. John N. Inglis, Tree of Life, oil on primed canvas texture panel —

    John N. Inglis is a Toronto-based artist, author and educator known for his visionary watercolour paintings. Here he uses a vibrant vision of the natural world to speak to the theme of unity.

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