A tornado represented as a large oblique streak occupies the centre of the painting. The deep black of the funnel contrasts with the pale yellow, pink and mauve masses that compose the background. The plywood support is gouged with hatches and grooves.

Paterson Ewen

(Montréal 1925 – London, Ontario, 2002)




Acrylic on gouged plywood

244 x 351 cm

Gift of Paul Mailhot, 2004

Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec collection, 2004.430

© Mary Alison Handford. Photo: MNBAQ, Idra Labrie

Tornado depicts an imposing meteorological phenomenon. The opaque funnel that streaks vertically across the centre of the painting contrasts with the luminous pastel colours of the background. The schematic treatment of the subject, typical of Paterson Ewen’s works on natural phenomena, establishes an intersection of figuration and abstraction. Series of grooves made with a router create rhythmic movement on the highly textured support. These gouges reveal the artist’s creative process, which bridges the divide between painting and sculpture. Tornado is representative of his practice of painting on sheets of plywood, begun in the 1970s.

Paterson Ewen studied geology at McGill University before turning to painting. Although initially influenced by contact with the Automatistes and, later, the Plasticiens, his work was never fully in line with these movements. It was only after joining the art community in London, Ontario, that he developed a truly personal style. In 1970, his practice saw a major change. He abandoned canvas to experiment with unconventional materials and gave up pure abstraction to draw on scientific illustrations. Ewen represented Canada at the 40th Venice Biennale, in 1982, with paintings of natural phenomena.


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