Alex Colville, Skater, acrylic polymer emulsion, 44.5 x 27.5 inches, Collection: Museum of Modern Art, New York
Several years ago I purchased a painting of a realistically depicted female skater with one skate raised almost parallel to the ice and with her arms behind her back close to her body. The other skate was firmly placed on the ice as she seemed to be skating away from the viewer with her head and upper body partially obscured by her almost-horizontal torso. I surmised that the piece was probably a copy although its composition, viewpoint, perspective and visual proportional relationships, suggest a planned and carefully thought-out image.
It was not until I recently obtained a copy of Helen J. Dows seminal book, The Art of Alex Colville, that I discovered an image of a preliminary sketch entitled Skater, which was very similar to that of the painting I had bought. No, I had not purchased an original painting by Colville I was aware of noticeable differences between the copy by an unknown artist and the original piece. I no longer own the piece. Colville painted Skater (44.5 x 27.5 inches) in 1964 using acrylic polymer emulsion. According to Helen Dow in her article The Magic Realism of Alex Colville, the image is based on Le Corbusiers Modular (a system of proportional measurement based on a human being with a raised arm) of a square placed in a harmonic position between two contiguous squares, the entire panel forms a golden section rectangle
It is interesting to note that Dow goes on to say that
so that all is grace, serenity and composure. This is the picture of a human being who has come to grips with reality. And further: Courage itself is the power to overcome fear, in this case the fear of participation with environment: as the painter (Colville) has said, 'The Skater is not frightened'.On the inside cover of the book there is a handwritten inscription which reads, To. Frances as a memento of mutual love. From. Murray. Christmas 1972. The book also contains a hand-written
letter signed and dated by Colville on January 23, 1981, together with an envelope addressed to Dr. Murray Wanamaker, Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Dr. Wanamaker taught English at the University of Winnipeg from 1966 to 1986 before retiring to British Columbia where he died at age 90 on August 24, 2010. As a fellow Nova Scotian, he had been a friend and admirer of Colville and it seems eerily coincidental that he and Colville share the date of August 24; the date that Dr. Wanamaker died and the date of Colvilles birthday.
The inclusion of mathematical constructs such as the golden section hints at the cyclical inevitability of death and resurrection being the elegant and magnificent order of the universe. Such is the order and coincidence of life. There is a certain magical irony in such coincidences, which I am grateful to have been part of.
Next: The Case of the Silent Song