This abstract painting presents a complex composition and a diverse visual vocabulary. Large areas of flat blue, black, white and grey of varying density mix with sharp-edged shapes, straight and curved lines, small chevrons and a few clusters of hatching. The outlines are blurred in some places, distinct in others.

Kenneth Lochhead

(Ottawa 1926 – Ottawa 2006)

 

Chevron Blue

1962

Enamel on Masonite

121.9 x 182.9 cm

Gift of Mackenzie Art Gallery Society

MacKenzie Art Gallery, 1962-1

© Estate of Kenneth Lochhead / CARCC (2018).

Photo: Courtesy of the MacKenzie Art Gallery 


The use of enamel and Masonite to make Chevron Blue was not coincidental. The contrasting properties of these materials – the irregularities of the hardboard and the smoothness of the enamel – allowed Kenneth Lochhead to experiment with textures, an interest he shared with the other Regina Five artists. In Chevron Blue, Lochhead’s gestural abstraction has become more structured, and the use of a rich deep blue foretells the exploration of colour he pursued in the following years. This painting is a prime example of the work that attracted international attention to the practices emerging on the Prairies in the early 1960s.


As the director of the Regina College School of Art, Kenneth Lochhead played a major role in fostering a dynamic art scene on the Prairies in the 1950s and 60s. His most significant initiative was to bring in major artists and art critics to lead the summertime Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops. Lochhead’s own practice saw a series of changes in just a few years, evolving from figurative representation to gestural abstraction to colour field painting. During his long career, he explored many different styles and techniques and taught at several Canadian universities.

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In 1962, the influential New York art critic Clement Greenberg (1909-1994) was invited at the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshops. A champion of American abstract painting, Greenberg promoted the Modernist belief that each artistic discipline should adhere to its own properties and conventions regardless of subject matter. Thus, in painting, only the flat surface of the canvas counted. Greenberg’s visit to Regina profoundly influenced Kenneth Lochhead, as evident in a comparison of Chevron Blue (1962) and Grey Square (1963). The later composition is simplified and the exploration of texture has given way to the fields of flat colour that would characterize the painter’s work for the next decade.

Kenneth Lochhead

(Ottawa 1926 – Ottawa 2006)

 

Grey Square

1963

Acrylic on canvas

187.8 x 194.7 cm

Purchased in 1965

National Gallery of Canada, 14763

© Estate of Kenneth Lochhead / CARCC (2018).

Photo: National Gallery of Canada