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In pictures: Examining the work of painter Alex Colville

Sarah Milroy takes a closer look at the Canadian artist's keen eye for domestic life and the anxiety underneath it all

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Seven Crows (1980): A group of crows is called a murder, and Mr. Colville’s subtly menacing painting of these harbingers of mortality suggests some action unseen, or impending. Capturing both exertion and graceful soaring, he pictures the crows converging on an unknown destination, their movement a fluid counterpoint to the dull sky and the static landscape.


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Living Room (2000): With the companionable arbitration of the family dog, artist and muse share a moment of domestic accord and devotion, although the harsh interior light and the darkness outside confer the suggestion of claustrophobia. Rhoda died two years after this painting was finished.


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To Prince Edward Island (1965): Mr. Colville’s scenes of married life are the warmest in his oeuvre, celebrating his partnership with his wife, Rhoda, the field commander of his heart, with whom he was then building a family. Here, her head obscures that of a male passenger – whether it is the artist or a stranger, we cannot tell. The painting seems to speak to her leadership during those years, as well as her vigilance and skill in navigating life’s choppy waters.


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Pacific (1967): The picture is one of the artist’s finest, a compositional clenched fist that is organized around the dynamic between a man (fleshy, vulnerable) and a gun (cold, clinical, an instrument of termination). The scene is still, but it could hardly be described as peaceful. Instead, like many of Mr. Colville’s best works, it is motionless, but taut with feeling.


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