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Features / December 1, 1987

Paterson Ewen: Phenomenology

At 62, forty years of painting behind him, his journey of self-discovery not over yet, Paterson Ewen has emerged into another big day in the sun. The last one dawned in 1982, when Jessica Bradley, assistant curator of contemporary art at the National Gallery, selected him to represent Canada at the Venice Biennale in recognition of his achievements of the previous decade.

For it was in the early 1970s that Ewen, transplanted to London, Ontario from Montreal, finished his marriage of 16 years, emerging from a dark night of the soul, fed up with formalism, brushes and canvas, embarked on the adventure for which he has become known and celebrated. He set heavy sheets of plywood horizontally onto two sawhorses, climbed aboard, marked an image with a felt marker, turned on a router, and attacked. Gouging, hacking, flaying; later rolling, dripping, sloshing or spraying acrylic paint into and onto the unprimed, man-made landscape; sometimes nailing, gluing, inlaying pieces of metal, canvas, coco matting or string—he forced into being images of natural phenomena he’d been carrying inside him since childhood.

So begins the cover story for the Winter 1987 issue of Canadian Art. To keep reading, view a PDF of the entire article.