Author Tags: Aboriginal Authors, Art
Lyle Wilson was born in 1955 and raised in the Haisla community of Kitamaat, near the townsite of Kitamat, south of Prince Rupert, in British Columbia.
The Haisla Clan system is matrilineal and although Wilson was born into the Beaver Clan, he was formally adopted into his father’s Eagle Clan, and thus a stylized image of the Eagle crest often appears as the artist’s signature in his prints and drawings.
Wilson was enrolled in the University of British Columbia’s Native Indian Teacher Education Program (NITEP) in 1976. Wilson and went on to study fine arts and education at both the University of BC and the Emily Carr College of Art and Design. He graduated with a diploma from Emily Carr in printmaking, but also undertook works in wood and jewelry.
Wilson also undertook an intensive exploration of ancestral paintings while working at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC (MOA). Allene Drake and Lyle Wilson became co-authors of Eulachon: A Fish to Cure Humanity (UBC Museum of Anthropology, 1991). He has produced major commissions in Vancouver for the First Nations House of Learning, the Canadian Institute for the Blind, and the BC Sports Hall of Fame, as well as for the Canadian Consulate in Osaka, Japan.
His first major exhibition of paintings opened at the Bill Reid Gallery on March 27, 2013. The exhibition catalogue, Paint, offers not only a comprehensive visual record of the exhibition, but some 30 essays by the artist that help to explain his paintings, and reflect his keen interest in the Haisla language. Other contributors to the catalogue include: Barbara Duncan, Curator, Maple Ridge Art Gallery; Gary Wyatt, Curator and Partner, Spirit Wrestler Gallery; and Karen Duffek, Curator, Contemporary Visual Arts & Pacific Northwest, Museum of Anthropology at UBC.
The exhibition, Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson was conceptualized by Maple Ridge Art Gallery curator, Barbara Duncan and reveals the impressive range of traditional and contemporary elements of Wilson’s evolving artistic vision, while celebrating his accomplishments as a painter. Created over a period of 20 years, this collection of 58 works was curated to be enjoyed in its entirety, as well as to show pieces with remarkable detail in execution, and reflect narrative themes and personal stories.
The artist’s 20-year association with MOA enabled him to reinforce his understanding and conclusion about the style of painting popularly known as formline.
“While historical Pacific Northwest Coast paintings on boxes, screens, and house fronts arouse much interest among experts and the public, modern works in this medium are largely ignored. Because I also work in wood and metal, I know that painting is as challenging as these other media. Yet the inventiveness and skill involved in painting in Northwest Coast styles is not widely recognized.” -- Quotation from Lyle Wilson in Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson, page vii.
[Text partially provided by Bill Reid Gallery]
[Photo by Anne Seymour]
Eulachon: A Fish to Cure Humanity (UBC Museum of Anthropology, 1991). With Allene Drake
Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson (Bill Reid Gallery 2013).
Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson
Curatorial Statement (2013)
The Bill Reid Gallery of Northwest Coast Art is delighted to present the exhibition, Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson. Conceptualized by Maple Ridge Art Gallery curator, Barbara Duncan, it is the first major exhibition to focus on Lyle Wilson’s paintings. A representative body of his carving work is also included in the exhibition in this Gallery. Created over a 20-year time span, this collection of some of Wilson’s finest paintings was curated to allow for the full scope of his painting practice to be enjoyed in a single sweeping view. Beyond the initial impact, the works may be viewed individually and appreciated for their remarkable detail in execution, and for the narrative themes and personal stories they contain.
The primary focus on paintings is an unusual one. In his artist’s statement, Wilson explains his decision to keep the focus on the medium of paint:
While historical Pacific Northwest Coast paintings on boxes, screens, and house fronts arouse much interest among experts and the public, modern works in this medium are largely ignored. Because I also work in wood and metal, I know that painting is as challenging as these other mediums. Yet the inventiveness and skill involved in painting in Northwest Coast styles is not widely recognized. Painting is the most stressful of the mediums I practice. The physical act of carving wood relieves tension, while in painting, an image is built up brush stroke by brush stroke, the stress level continually rising. Often I’ve found myself unconsciously holding my breath for long periods until the series of strokes is finished. The concentration required is draining, and the sense of dread with which I approach painting is alleviated only by the pure joy of finishing a work. Lyle Wilson cited in Paint: The Painted Works of Lyle Wilson, page vii.
Although Wilson has spent years mastering the traditional Northwest Coast style, he has always allowed for the expression of his own unique voice in his work. His ability to keep both of these dynamic forces in balance is one of Wilson’s great achievements. The power of these paintings clearly upholds the artist’s contention that a singular and concentrated focus on contemporary First Nations painting is long overdue.