Stryjek, Dmytro (1899-1991)

Dmytro Stryjek was born on November 5, 1899, in the village of Lanivtsi, Ukraine. In 1923 he immigrated to Canada, settling in Hafford, Saskatchewan. In 1926 he joined the Canadian National Railway, retiring 38 years later. During his working life he gardened and kept bees, but there is little reference to making art. The outdoor life had its effect, however: Stryjek stored up observations of nature that later informed the vitality of his artwork. He once stated that he “worked 38 years on the railroad and every five minutes the sky is changing.” He was also influenced artistically by the Hafford Ukrainian Catholic church and its rich decoration. When he did start painting, he was misunderstood and sometimes referred to as “Durny Stryjek” (Crazy Stryjek). A local acquaintance explained that it was very strange for an old man to use crayons and pencils as if he were a child.

Stryjek moved to Saskatoon in the late 1960s and began to show his artwork. From 1975 to 1979, he was in the Saskachimo Exposition, an annual exhibition of cattle, agricultural industry, and homemade goods. One room was set aside for the display of art: it was here that his work began to gain attention, and he was awarded a red ribbon in 1978. In 1975, Stryjek was included in “Saskatchewan Primitives” at the Mendel Art Gallery. In 1979, he was featured in “Ukrainian Themes: Four Folk Artists” at the Shoestring Gallery. From that time, Stryjek began to receive support and encouragement. Today, his work is found in the collections of the Canada Council Art Bank, Dunlop Art Gallery, Glenbow Museum, Mendel Art Gallery, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Saskatchewan Arts Board, Ukrainian Museum of Canada, Canadian Museum of Civilization, and Winnipeg Art Gallery.

In 1988, Stryjek: Trying the Colours was presented at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, Ukrainian Canadian Art Foundation, MacKenzie Art Gallery, Edmonton Art Gallery, Ukrainian Museum of Canada, and Glenbow Museum. In 2001, Dmytro Stryjek: Poetic Vision was shown at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Stryjek is known for his exquisite colour and sophisticated compositions. The work combines a wealth of observation about prairie space with an expressive visual freedom, often verging on the abstract. His portraits of religious figures, political heroes and pop star idols were influenced by icon painting - small format, elaborate borders, and stylized poses. Stryjek was a prolific worker until his death on March 5, 1991.

Kate Davis

Further Reading

Millard, P. 1988. Stryjek: Trying the Colours. Saskatoon: Fifth House Press.