Pair of exhibitions help trace history of Saskatchewan’s art

A pair of exhibitions featuring works by McGregor Hone (left) and Kim Ennis are opening at the Mann Art Gallery on Nov. 16, 2018.

Shows feature works from Mac Hone and Friends, Kim Ennis

The latest pair of exhibitions opening at the Mann Art Gallery help trace Saskatchewan’s settler art history through the works of some of the province’s most influential artists.

On Nov. 16 the gallery will hold the opening reception for a pair of exhibitions: Paintings by Mac Hone & Friends and Kim Ennis: At the Threshold. The artists in each exhibition draw a clear lineage between each other, and according to gallery curator Jesse Campbell, the pair of shows demonstrate how painting can take many different forms over time in the province.

The McGregor (Mac) Hone and friends exhibition includes a lot of painted work, which Campbell said is appropriate when considering the progression of an artist.

“We are looking at a lot of his painted work, which is appropriate when we also look at one of the histories of art in this province because so many artists begin with painting,” she said.

“This show is primarily painting, but there are many other elements incorporated as well — collage elements, sculptural elements, mixed media, and the printmaking influence is big as well.”

This is the second year the gallery has displayed selected McGregor Hone works from its permanent collection. It’s based on a donation of a collection of works received in 2-15 from the families of David Hone and Jim Hall, descendants of Beth and McGregor Hone. The donation included prints, painting, sculpture, sketches, drawing and archival work.

The donation was made because Mac Hone was born in Prince Albert in 1920 and spent the early part of his life here.

“He actually was quite a significant figure in encouraging an active art community in Saskatoon and P.A., and eventually in Saskatchewan,” Campbell said.

The show also includes works from artists connected to Hone, such as Prince Albert Arts Hall of Fame inductee Margreet Van Walsem, Order of Canada recipient David Thauberger, University of Saskatchewan art program pioneer and early Saskatchewan artist Augustus Kenderdine, Order of Canada Officer Ernest Lindner and artist and former teacher Wynona Mulcaster.

“All of these people had connections in one way or another to McGregor Hone,” Campbell said.

Last year’s Hone exhibition focused on printmaking. This year’s show includes painted works spread over many years of Mac Hone’s art practice. It includes work from his early 20s when he was studying at the U of S under Kenderdine and Lindner, along with work from the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s. Unfortunately, not all of the work is dated, but Campbell thinks some of the pieces may be more recent. There is also relatively recent work from Mulcaster, created in the last 20-30 years.

In putting a show together that spans many years and styles, Campbell said, it becomes about documenting how the artists and the works fit together.

“I’m looking at the historical context of the history of art in Saskatchewan, so trying to choose works that show the development of one artist, but also how that fits into the larger provincial art setting,” she said.

It’s not just limited to painting, as in later years elements of sculpture or printmaking enter the works, and are included as the art progresses around the gallery walls.

“Our goal is, in part, to show McGregor Hone’s practice and development as an artist and how his work fit in with the community he was working in in Saskatchewan,” Campbell said.

“Another goal of this exhibition is to show how this big one collection fits within our Mann Art Gallery collection here in P.A.”

Then there’s the Kim Ennis show. Ennis, unlike many of the artists in the Hone show, is a living, practicing artist. While his style differs from that of Mac Hone, his artistic journey takes inspiration from some of the same people connected to Hone’s practice — including artists who were active at the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus.

“Kim Ennis is very much informed by nature, but the prairie landscape, even though that may not be apparent at first glance, because his works are very abstracted,” Campbell said.

“There is a strong, spiritual influence in his work. He’s a practicing Baha’i and there are many concepts of the Baha’i faith that play into his artistic practice.”

Ennis is also well-regarded as an art teacher and operates a framing shop in Saskatoon. He will help some local artists explore some of his techniques Nov. 17, as he is hosting a workshop at the gallery.

“The whole goal of that workshop is to open up, loosen up and totally explore painting and collage,” Campbell said. “That’s what he does in a lot of his work.”

Those who aren’t enrolled in the workshop still have a chance to hear from Ennis about his work. The artist is giving a talk at the opening reception Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m. The reception begins at 7 p.m. at the gallery and is free to attend.