Jack Bush (1909-1977):
Selected Paintings

Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art, Calgary
March 25 - April 25

Jack Bush - Irish Rock II (1969)
Jack Bush, Irish Rock ll, (1969),
acrylic on canvas

Clement Greenberg once stated that the paintings of Canadian artist Jack Bush never again look as bad as they do on first sight. Not only did Bush aspire to an awkwardness of composition and balance, he was known to take a perverse delight in inserting common symbols and emblems into "canonically abstract " painting. Deliberately difficult and asymmetric, his work requires exposure and familiarity to be fully appreciated.

Although he is one of Canada's foremost painters, Bush was almost fifty when he reached a sureness of direction in his art. From that point on his paintings were considered to have a strong sense of urgency. His colour has been called "risky and intense". He used distinct hues in juxtaposition to each other without blending, and bold contrasts of figure and ground. His shapes are active and weightless against simple fields. Bush himself treated his shape/colours as single units. He even lightly referred to them as if they were characters themselves, such as "Mr Blue" and "Mr Green".

The Newzones exhibition includes six major canvasses from the 60s and 70s, four major drawings from the 50s, and a series of twelve colour trials and studies. Bush's love for the art of Matisse can be seen in the clean contours and cut-out motifs that are carefully prepared in his colour studies and fully-embodied in his canvasses.

© Mia Johnson