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"Artist Ken Dalgarno"
Artist Ken Dalgarno.
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Ken Dalgarno, "Crippled," acrylic on canvas, 35.8" X 48".
KEN DALGARNO, Sculpted Landscapes
Allie Griffin Art Gallery, Weyburn
June 1 to 23, 2008
By Patricia Robertson
We’ve all heard the stereotypical descriptions of the Prairie landscape as flat, uninteresting and banal. When driving through southern Saskatchewan on the Trans-Canada highway, many bored travellers have been known to put the car on cruise control and keep going until the monotony ends.
Not so, says Moose Jaw-based painter Ken Dalgarno. He says the Prairies are far from “featureless” and he backs up his assertions with rich, varied and textured landscape paintings to demonstrate his case. Dalgarno’s current subject matter, vanishing family farm buildings, is truly representative of the rural culture that defines the region. There’s more substance to Dalgarno’s work than mere broken-down barns — these symbols of faded glory also represent our own mortality.
Sculpted Landscapes, a collection of ten lush paintings by Dalgarno, is currently circulating around his home province, thanks to the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Council, which chose his work as part of an adjudicated call last year. The touring exhibition, which began in April, runs through May 2010. The citizens of Tisdale, Hudson Bay, Rosthern, Kipling, Weyburn, Lloydminster, Prince Albert and La Ronge, to name just a few, will now get the opportunity to view the work.
Dalgarno, who is self-taught and a self-described “outsider artist,” is thrilled to have his work recognized. When asked about his aesthetic influences, Dalgarno cites Degas, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Riopelle, and closer to home, Saskatchewan sculptor Joe Fafard. “I want to walk the same line between public galleries and commercial galleries as Joe Fafard does,” Dalgarno says. “I appreciate his grassroots reaction to Modernism and I want to continue to work on subject matter I can relate to and am passionate about. I choose down-to-earth subject matter and I want to stay grounded in that philosophy.”
The painter’s earthy work is full of depth, beauty and social commentary. It’s layered and sculpted like icing on a gourmet cake, yet it also packs a deceptively clever political punch. Dalgarno’s evocative depictions of the family farm make a statement about the end of a traditional way of life that’s quite personal for the artist. Both sides of Dalgarno’s extended family have agricultural roots in the Moose Jaw region, and he has elected to raise his own family in the area.
To support his painting career, he works full-time at the Moose Jaw Public Library. In fact, Dalgarno was out driving around on a library bookmobile tour of southern Saskatchewan when he spotted the sideways silo that was the subject for the dramatic painting, Will of the Wind. Books and libraries have played a significant role in the painter’s life — he studied English at the University of Saskatchewan before taking up painting. The literary connection continues to meld into the artist’s life as two of Dalgarno’s works, Broken and Submersion are now in the private collection of author Yann Martel.
“You really need to see Ken’s work in person in order to appreciate it,” says Dalgarno’s Regina dealer, Mary Weimer of Assiniboia Gallery. “I’m so glad that his work is getting more exposure. His paintings are so tactile. Most people don’t normally touch art in the gallery, but when we show his work here they almost always reach for it and then resist the urge.”
Weimer believes that Dalgarno is a unique talent. “We carry Dorothy Knowles and all of these really excellent landscape artists so that’s a league you have to belong to. There are some great painters here in Saskatchewan and Ken is one of them.”
Sponsored by the Organization of Saskatchewan Arts Councils, Sculpted Landscapes will tour throughout Saskatchewan until May 2010.