Gershon Iskowitz, "Night Blues-F," 1981, oil on canvas, 39" x 34".
GERSHON ISKOWITZ and MICHAEL WALKER
Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art, Calgary
Apr 8 - May 6, 2006
By Lucia Sollecito
One of Canada’s most important abstract painters, Polish-born Gershon Iskowitz survived concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald while in his twenties and studied painting briefly with Oscar Kokoschka at the Munich Academy before immigrating to Canada in 1949.
After arriving in Toronto he began painting dark, haunted images drawn from the horrors he had experienced in the prison camps. Gradually, however, the landscape around Toronto began to lure him. Soon he became equally enamoured of the countryside in the Parry Sound area. At first representational, his landscape work during the 1950s became increasingly abstract. He delighted in the intricacies of colour, texture and shapes as they changed with the seasons.
Critical acclaim found Iskowitz in 1960 following his first one-man show at the Here & Now Gallery in Toronto. Parry Sound Variations, a series of 30 watercolours he created in the mid-1960s, was well received and opened new doors. In 1967 a pivotal Canada Council grant enabled him to take a helicopter ride over Churchill, Manitoba. Greatly influenced by that experience, his abstract paintings began to reflect aerial views of the landscape.
Iskowitz was one of two artists selected to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in 1972. Following that experience, his works began showing across Canada, the United States and Europe, becoming part of collections in The National Gallery of Canada, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Canada Council for the Arts, the Tel-Aviv Museum and the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art in Florida, among others.
Nearing the end of his life, in 1985 Iskowitz established the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, a non-profit charitable foundation dedicated to promoting and supporting the visual arts in Canada. After his death in 1988, his foundation established the $25,000 Gershon Iskowitz prize, given annually to artists in recognition of their achievements as well as in support of innovative projects for exhibition and publication.