Michael Snow


Oil on canvas, 1962
30.5 x 44 inches, 77.5 x 111.7 centimeters

Provenance: The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto.

Exhibited: The Isaacs Gallery, Toronto, Group Exhibition, January 25th. – Feburary 11th. 1963, Cat. #2.

Literature: Walking Woman Works Michael Snow 1961-67 New Representational Art and Its Uses, Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston, 1983, p. 152 and p. 158.

Image © Copyright Michael Snow (2015)

Bio: Michael (James Aleck) Snow, 1928 – 2023.

“My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter, music by a filmmaker, paintings by a sculptor, sculpture by a filmmaker, films by a musician, music by a sculptor…sometimes they all work together. Also, many of my paintings have been done by a painter, sculpture by a sculptor, films by a filmmaker, music by a musician. There is a tendency towards purity in all of these media as separate endeavours.”
Michael Snow, 1967

Internationally acclaimed as an experimental filmmaker, Michael Snow is one of Canada’s most important living artists, distinguished as a highly accomplished musician, visual artist, composer, writer, and sculptor. Dazzling in his ability to switch from one medium to another outside of any predictable sequence, and noted for a multi-disciplinary approach to his work, Snow continually challenges notions of content and form, seeing and representation.

During and following his studies at the Ontario College of Art from which he graduated in 1952, Snow produced a body of drawings that were exhibited at Hart House in 1954. These drew the attention of George Dunning who hired him to work in film animation, thus introducing him to the world of film, and to the artist Joyce Wieland to whom he was married for a number of years. In 1956, Snow produced his first film, A to Z, and in the same year had his first solo exhibition at the Avrom Isaac’s Greenwich Gallery in Toronto.

After prolonged visits to New York in the early 1960s, Snow and Wieland settled there in 1964 (until 1972), and during this period the majority of Snow’s work focused on the theme of the Walking Woman whose silhouette dominated explorations in painting, sculpture, photography and multi-media works. In 1967, Snow produced an eleven-part sculpture based on the Walking Woman for the Ontario Pavilion at Expo in Montreal.

From the mid 1960s on, Snow continued to produce works deceptively simple in form, but extremely complex in terms of ideas. Works in the Gallery’s collection such as Seen (1965), Scope (1967), Blind (1968), Authorization (1969) explored notions of seeing, with and without the camera, making the viewer conscious of the structuring and framing of visual perception. Later works such as Trinities, Triads, Trios (1986), employed holography and show Snow’s creative exploitation of new technologies to pose fresh questions about seeing and representation.

Since the 1960s, Snow has maintained an international reputation for his achievements in experimental filmmaking, producing, for example, Wavelength (1967), La Region centrale (1971), Rameau’s Nephew by Diderot (Thanx to Dennis Young) by Wilma Schoen (1974), and Presents (1981) all of which explore with radical originality, the essentials of film: light, time, movement and sound. Snow’s film production continues unabated, with The Living Room (2000), Prelude (2000) and Corpus Callosum (2002).
On the Toronto public art scene, Snow is renowned for the Canada Geese three-dimensional photographic work, Flight Stop (1979), in the Eaton Centre and for the postmodern gargoyles, The Audience (1989), that animate the facade of the SkyDome sports stadium. Snow’s public visibility was further enhanced in 1994 when the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Power Plant staged The Michael Snow Project, a multi-publication and multi-exhibition celebration of Snow’s contributions to visual art, film and music/sound.

Biography courtesy National Gallery of Canada


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