Born in Calgary in 1933, Godwin trained at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology before moving to Regina in 1958. In 1961, following studies with Barnett Newman at the famed Emma Lake Artists Workshop in Saskatchewan, Godwin was exhibited at the National Gallery of Canada in an exhibition called “Five Painters from Regina.” Along with the other artists in the exhibition—Ronald Bloore, Kenneth Lochhead, Arthur McKay and Douglas Morton—Godwin became known with that show as one of the Regina Five. All five of the artists worked in abstraction at the time.
In a statement related to a 1962 Stratford exhibition (now posted on dealer Wallace Galleries’ website) Godwin articulated the following: “A painter must be involved as deeply and completely in life as possible for it is only through living that ‘life’ can be assessed, re-arranged, or mirrored. My painting is a process of discovery and evaluation of the internal and external forces I apprehend. These stimuli are re-arranged to become part of my personal vocabulary of abstraction. The success of a work is dependent upon how well the stimulus has been absorbed and the degree of command I have established over the image and the artifices used to create it with.”
From 1964 to 2000, Godwin influenced many younger artists through his teaching work at the University of Regina. He continued to maintain a studio practice after retiring from teaching and moving to Calgary in 2000.
Later in his career, Godwin shifted into a more representational mode of painting, focusing on landscapes.
Interestingly, says Colette Hubner, director of Wallace Galleries, “he didn’t consider his landscapes pure landscapes; what did he say is that they were abstracts cunningly disguised as landscapes….there would always be layers to the paintings.”
During his 79 years, Godwin participated in many important group exhibitions, including early biennials of Canadian art at the National Gallery of Canada; an early Winnipeg Biennial; and a group show of top Canadian artists at the Expo 67 Canada Pavilion. In 2005, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. In the arts community, he was known as a colourful character, always with a story to tell.
Godwin is survived by his wife of 57 years, Phyllis, and his daughters Teddi Driediger and Tammi Shanahan and granddaughters Jessie and Larissa, his sister Ruth Godwin, and several nieces and nephews.
Funeral services will be held at McInnis & Holloway in Calgary on January 11 at 2:30 p.m. Condolences are currently being posted at and can be forward through the McInnis & Holloway website.