by John Copley
(ANNews) – Art enthusiasts from across the nation are already well aware that the breathtaking exhibition 7: Professional Native Indian Artists Inc. (PNIAI) is now on display in Edmonton’s Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA). The rare and unique collection of art by renowned Aboriginal artists Jackson Beardy (1944-1984), Eddy Cobiness (1933-1996), Norval Morrisseau (1932-2007), Carl Ray (1942-1978), Alex Janvier (b. 1935), Daphne Odjig (b. 1919) and Joseph Sanchez (b. 1948) has been showcased in various galleries across Canada during the last several years and the AGA is the final opportunity to witness this amazing exhibit.
“The PNIAI exhibition has been on tour since 2013,” noted curator Michelle LaVallee. “It was first presented at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina. Since then the exhibition has been presented at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Kelowna Art Gallery, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario and the Art Gallery of Windsor. Edmonton is the final destination.”
The exhibition includes more than 80 stunning works of art, most of which were created in the 1970s. It has been well received at every venue and will be on display in Edmonton until July 3. Thousands of art patrons, students, and members of the general public with a thirst to learn more about the fine art work created by the seven artists have made their way to the gallery during the past three months to get a view and perhaps take a picture of what is undoubtedly one of the most exquisite collections of art in Canada today.
Accompanying the exhibition is an unbelievably beautiful 359 page catalogue, a magnificent book put together, written and edited by LaVallee, a professional curator who works at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. The Art Gallery of Alberta had more than 180 copies of the catalogue when the exhibition first got underway in Alberta’s capital; the price was less than $60 – a steal of a deal that I was fortunate enough to pay. I purchased the second last book in the gallery but there is talk that more could be printed if the demand is high enough.
The catalogue is filled with highlights, upbeat articles about the individual artists, artwork, historical anecdotes and commentary by the artists. It also includes the remarkably insightful reflections of LaVallee.
In the catalogue she writes: “I am witness to the spirit that pours out of the works of the PNIAI and into the hearts of so many. I am humbled and proud to be in a position to honour this Group and their legacy, yet I am conscious that I have barely scratched the surface. For the last thought, I defer to the insights of Alex Janvier, who shared these words with a full house at the opening night of the exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery: What you see here is . . . a true story, and that’s how it began, and ever since then we haven’t stopped. Members of this Group, some of them have gone on to their graves, but you’ll see their work, they will talk to you with their art. Our story is really a Canadian story, a real Canadian story. It comes from here, by the people from here, and it’s about here. I welcome all of you to take a good look and be proud. I’ve travelled around the world quite a bit .. but when you come back to Canada, you almost want to kiss the earth that you come from because it’s so good to come home. I hope the catalogue will give you the same feeling, that every one of you has come home.”
The exhibition will continue until July 3 this year; if you are unable to buy a copy of the beautiful catalogue, be sure to visit the Art Gallery of Alberta where you can get an up-close look the magnificent work created by the Group of Seven.
“The exhibition considers the collective artistic impact of each artist; you will be pleased with their unique and distinctive styles, as well as the distinctive styles and experimentation of the individual artists,” wrote LaVallee in the exciting and eye-pleasing must-have catalogue she compiled for the exhibition.
“The history of Professional Native Indian Artists Incorporated signaled a new course for the exhibition and an understanding of contemporary Indigenous art. The visual impact of this exhibition will reacquaint visitors with the excitement and newness of the images and styles that these seven artists produced.”
During the 1970s,” added LaVallee, “the group stimulated a new way of thinking about the lives and art of First Nations people. Inspired by the legacy of their ancestors, they translated a world of knowledge based on individual experience and cultural heritage. While their styles and techniques vary from artist to artist, a contemporary indigenous aesthetic is apparent in the vivid colours, dynamic forms, and non-European sensibility that pervade their work. Though their personal aspirations were diverse, their collective vision of PNIAI made them frontrunners in the development of contemporary Indigenous art.”
The Group of Seven exhibition catalogue is a breathtaking adventure that offers readers an in-depth peek into the minds and abilities of seven of Canada’s most renowned artists. Words cannot describe the treasure trove of information and esthetic found within its pages. This catalogue is a must have for any person who enjoys the art of Canada’s multi-talent Indigenous artists.
In 1978, artist Eddy Cobiness explained the important impact that the PNIAI had and wanted to have on the art world. He said, “I have met and worked with many talented young artists, who have so much to contribute to the world of visual art. I hope, by setting a good example myself, that someday you will get to know them too.”