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Eyre, Ivan (1935–)

Ivan Eyre was born in Tullymet, northeast of Regina. The Eyre family lived in Red deer, Alberta, and Turtleford, Southey and Ituna, Saskatchewan before moving to Saskatoon in 1946. Ivan subsequently studied art at the Saskatoon Art Centre, the Saskatoon Technical Collegiate, and the University of Saskatchewan. In 1953 he began studies at the School of Art, University of Manitoba. He graduated in 1956, married fellow art student Brenda Fenske, and pursued graduate work at the University of North Dakota, where he also taught. In 1959, he returned to the School of Art to teach drawing. He retired in 1992, and was named Professor Emeritus in 1994.

While a student, Eyre exhibited in the annual Winnipeg Show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery (WAG). His first solo drawing exhibition was held in 1962 at the University of Manitoba, followed by a one-man exhibition of paintings at the WAG in 1964. Since that time, Eyre has had over sixty-five one-person exhibitions and has participated in over 250 group shows. His work has achieved national prominence and has toured internationally. Highlights of his exhibiting career include the 1980 Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s Ivan Eyre: Exposition, which toured Canada, Great Britain and France, and the 1988 WAG exhibition Ivan Eyre: Personal Mythologies, which became the first contemporary Canadian solo exhibition at the new National Gallery in Ottawa.

Eyre is a consummate draughtsman, using drawing to translate the figure in sensitive, realistic and imaginary ways, and to explore small abstract compositions that he makes out of materials. These drawings appear in his figurative paintings, which utilize the conventions of realism and illusionism to create magical and mythical spaces and events, which some commentators have linked to Surrealism. While the young artist was open to many art historical precedents, the artist’s mature style employs its own lexicon of highly developed symbolism, compositional devices, and reoccurring imagery. Eyre is known for large-scale, breathtaking and imaginative landscapes, which are built up slowly with subsequent colour layers in acrylic. The landscapes are not based on exact geographic referents, yet many viewers insist on finding resemblances to specific points across the globe. The vast skies, spaces, built environment, and Gothic undercurrent of the Prairies have influenced his landscapes and figurative works.

Eyre’s work is included in most public collections in Canada and many private ones. His work is featured in a permanent installation at the Pavilion Gallery in Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park; the Ivan Eyre drawing archive, which includes more than 4,000 drawings, is part of this collection.

Amy Karlinsky

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