Brian Fisher (1939 – 2012)
By Portia Priegert
Brian Fisher’s painting, Visitation, seems to evoke the vortex of a sorcerer’s ball or, perhaps, a sci-fi portal into a faraway galaxy. Colours swirl and blend, candy-floss pinks mixing with red, white, violet and ochre, all with a sedimentary quality suggesting the drift and flow of water.
Fisher created the marbled core by pouring acrylic paint on a wet canvas and letting the colours run together as the entire substrate spun on a wheel. Once dry, he added a series of precise concentric rings, making a mandala of sorts.
Brian Fisher, "Visitation," 1985, acrylic on canvas, 28” x 28”.
Peter Redpath, a manager at the Winchester Modern in Victoria, thinks no one has made similar work in Canada, and perhaps beyond. “I’m convinced his art is unique,” he says. Redpath has been researching Fisher, active in the Canadian art scene from the late 1960s to the early 1980s, since last year. That’s when the gallery obtained a dozen or so paintings Fisher had entrusted to an old friend after moving to Australia in 1983 with his second wife.
Fisher, who grew up in Regina, first gained national attention as part of the Canadian pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal. He was included in several other national shows, won important commissions and taught for a time at the University of Regina.
Notable enough to be one of 24 artists profiled in William Withrow’s 1972 book, Contemporary Canadian Painting, Fisher has fallen from public awareness, perhaps because he remained in Australia until his death in 2012. Withrow, a former director of the Art Gallery of Ontario, offered unstinting praise. “In the same way that the solution to a complex mathematical problem has connotations of beauty, the intricacy of Fisher’s work fascinates the viewer,” he wrote. “Not surprisingly, he is himself interested in avant-garde theories in both mathematics and sciences, as well as in Zen and the occult.” Withrow traced Fisher’s genesis through instructors at the University of Saskatchewan, including Art McKay, Ronald Bloore and Roy Kiyooka, who awakened Fisher’s interest in Eastern spirituality.
Some of Fisher’s work shares formal affinities with Op Art, particularly that of British painter Bridget Riley, who’s now enjoying a resurgence of interest amongst a younger generation of artists. Fisher recommended spending at least half an hour with one of his paintings to focus the mind and enter a reflective state. Thus, his work is less about optical play and more about art as a path to open spaciousness within.