“The Life + Dream of Alex Mullie ” shows the important impact of an underrated Prince Albert artist

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Two admirers of Alex Mullie’s art, (L to R) George Glenn and Jesse Campbell admired his work at the closing reception for “The Life + Dream of Alex Mullie "on Friday night at the Mann Art Gallery.

The late Alex Mullie made an impact on artists in Prince Albert and beyond.

That was the theme as the Mann Art Gallery held a closing reception for “The Life + Dream of Alex Mullie” on Friday. Interim curator Lana Wilson said the exhibition was a chance to recognize an artist who received no critical recognition during his life.

“He’s got some, really striking unusual artworks and he was incredibly well known in local artistic circles and very much admired,” Wilson said.

The Mann Art Gallery show features 50 of Mullie’ pieces from the Mann’s permanent collection. His work was admired by his former teacher from St. Peter’s College, the noted art teacher and painter Grant McConnell, and local artist George Glenn, who was another of his instructors.

“Alex was so inspired and driven to create art,” Wilson explained. “(He) was very prolific and worked in a wide variety of mediums.

“That’s one of the things that’s nice about this exhibition. We are looking at the variety of media and the variety of subject matter that he created through the works that are in the Mann Art Gallery’s permanent collection.”

Mullie’s work in the exhibition showed everything from painting on canvas, paintings on paper and several forms of printmaking.

“We had asked George Glenn what his production was like throughout his life and George said, ‘yes, he had done many more prints than paintings,’ but he certainly liked making paintings, (and) drawings as well,” Wilson said.

The exhibition also has a unique way of arranging the works to show his vast and arrayed interest. To show his relationships with friends and mentors, the exhibition paired paintings by Mullie with other work by artists like Glenn, his friend Bonnie Lachance, and Mina Forsyth, who is known for her work with the Emma Lake Workshops has a smaller abstract work displayed by one of his large abstract works.

“One of George Glenn’s artworks is hanging beside one of Alex’s drawings inside the gallery space, and it’s showing how they were both doing an interior scene,” Wilson explained. “Alex has a lovely charcoal drawing of the interior of a wood cabin with a stove and a kettle, and then George has one of his well-known still life studio interiors with flowers and a sofa.”

One of Mullie’s portraits of Lachance is also displayed next to a portrait Lachance created of Mullie.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Another piece of art by Alex Mullie that is part of the exhibition “The Life + Dream of Alex Mullie,” which had a closing reception on Friday night.

Former Mann employee Cydnee Sparrow curated the exhibition before leaving for another job. Wilson said many hands helped with the exhibition including former curator Marcus Miller and summer student Michaela Leblanc.

Sparrow was with the Mann for exactly one year as registrar but has a background in curatorial work. They also sent some words along to Wilson for the closing reception.

“Cydnee was really struck by the by the quality of Alex’s works in the collection. He was a very frequent correspondent and so there are dozens of greeting cards that he would do, drawings and paintings or print making,” Wilson said.

“He would make cards and then he would write messages to the people that he was sending them to and so they really got a chance to get a sense of his personality through that, and then they have also done printmaking and drawing and painting,” she added.

In their speech Sparrow said that the experience of living in Prince Albert was intertwined in Mullie’s work. This was called a reason why Mullie’s work captured people such as Miller, Leblanc and Sparrow. Leblanc helped to pick the artwork in the exhibition.

“His work captured us all,” Sparrow’s speech reads. “We were all newcomers to PA, and so it’s interesting that this local figure captured our attention and the reasons could be a variety of things. The line quality of his etchings, the thickness of the ink on his prints, the subject matter, the humour, the directness, defiance, the honest and almost offhand questions he asks about circumstance, I think of him as a voice to an experience of this place.

“The perceptions and experiences of physical and spiritual reality considered in the everyday,” it continued

The line about perceptions resonated with the crowd who attended the reception on a cold night in Prince Albert.

“Some of the humble themes that are in his work, but they are treated in a profound way in his paintings and drawings and prints and I appreciate that,” Wilson said.

“Cydnee says we need artists that are asking questions with straightforward, honest and brutal candour,” Wilson said.

Mullie’s art is known in Prince Albert but also as far away as Nipawin and Carrot River. Mullie was born in Arborfield and passed away in Nipawin in 2019.

“Everybody knew this eccentric guy who was constantly creating art, sending them letters and writing about to them about his art and purely by chance, it turned out that in December, the Nipawin Art Club hosted an exhibit of about 40 of his drawings and paintings up in Nipawin, just purely by chance. I thought that that was kind of neat,” Wilson said.

The exhibition is still on display until Wednesday, Jan. 17.