The world of Canadian art has suffered a serious loss with the death of Audrey Garwood, in California, on February 16th.
A graduate of the Ontario College of Art, with postgraduate studies both in Amsterdam and Paris, she began early to develop her distinctive style ... and produced major works for more than fifty years.
Anchoring all Garwood’s works was a mighty presence: no less than the substance and structure of the universe. Like an X-ray, she saw beneath the landscapes she painted right into the primeval forces that created them, using that insight to create complex, crystalline, intricately-worked surfaces of astonishing colour and light.
She probed the depths of her subjects for meaning, always in search of new ways to express them. Sometimes, her irrepressible sense of mischief showed up in her work: A series of paintings resulting from a trip to Labrador showed, not a grim, foreboding landscape, but brightly coloured little habitations dancing across the cliffs. The human spirit thumbing its nose at Nature.
In her paintings, everything came alive. Houses danced; seas chewed at their shores; clouds clawed their way across the sky.
A member and exhibitor with the Ontario Society of Artists, Royal Canadian Academy and Women’s Caucus of the Arts, Garwood also is a veteran of no less than ten one-woman shows.
Her honours were significant ones: the Sterling Trust Award for Canadian painters; the Canadian Society of Printmakers Print Award; the San Francisco Art Festival’s Purchase award. She was the youngest person (and first woman) to win the prized Forester Award (Ontario Society of Artists, 1956).
Because her works were often large and challenging, and usually had to be studied to be appreciated, Audrey Garwood’s paintings became the material for serious collectors. They hang in prestigious collections both in Canada and internationally.
Where to place Garwood in the stream of Canadian art? One might say that she stands beside the Group of Seven in her intuitive understanding of the grand architecture that is the Canadian landscape. And yet, as a member of the following generation, she added a more modern sensibility – an analytic understanding of the structures she painted.
Amongst the works of art created by Audrey Garwood was, undoubtedly, herself. She will be vividly remembered for her vitality, her love of fun and parties, her moonstone eyes, her in-your-face fashion sense.
And most of all, both in her paintings and in her life, Audrey Garwood will be remembered for the joy and beauty that she took from life ... and gave so liberally to everyone who knew her.