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Town, Harold Barling
Full of You the Red Canoe
1955

“Full of You the Red Canoe” is an example of the idiosyncratic monotypes that Harold Town produced between 1953 and 1959 and called “single autographic prints.” Former AGO director William Withrow thought they were “among the most beautiful art objects ever made by a Canadian artist.”

Town attended the Ontario College of Art (today OCAD University) in Toronto from 1942 to 1944, but found greater inspiration studying works at the Art Gallery of Toronto (today AGO) and Royal Ontario Museum. By the time he was experimenting with autographic prints, he was a key figure in the Abstract Expressionist group Painters 11. The autographic prints were featured in Town’s first solo show at the Picture Loan Society in 1954 and became an immediate success, launching the artist into heyday decades that saw numerous solo exhibitions, important international group shows, and acquisitions by major art museums. In 1956, the National Gallery of Canada chose Town’s autographic prints to represent the country at the Venice Biennale.

In “Full of You Red Canoe”, Town combines dense, slick layers of overprinted colour and collaged bits with open areas of pale paper and spindly markings. Process and materials create a play between surface and depth or, as art critic Robert Fulford describes, a “palimpsest effect–the feeling that each print has a unique history, that much has happened to it before we see it.” The title is typical Town wordplay, egging the viewer to see something representational in the abstract planes. A figure? A red canoe?

 
Town, Harold Barling
born Toronto, Ontario, 1924; died Peterborough, Ontario,1990
Full of You the Red Canoe
1955
autographic print and collage on paper
60.7 x 47.5 cm
Gift from Patrick McG. Stoker, 2015
58-016

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