One of the most interesting people I have had the privilege to meet was the internationally renowned artist, Joe Fafard. A home-grown Saskatchewan boy, here is his story with original photos that were not included in the Prince Albert Daily Herald published June 5, 2018.
Creativity is the result of curiosity; curiosity is really the mother of creativity,” Joe Fafard
A tour of the Joe Fafard ‘Retailles’ exhibit offers a delightful visual experience where shadows of the sculptures’ forms, are an integral part of the art. These are laser-cut and welded metal sculptures along with embossed and woodcut prints Embedded within many of the ‘cut-outs’ are secondary images, enticing viewers to explore and study each piece.
Fafard was in attendance at the show’s opening last Friday at the Mann Art Centre in Prince Albert, where Retailles will run from June 1st to August 25th, 2018. Internationally-renowned, Joe Fafard is one of Canada’s most recognized and prolific artists.
Asked about the imagery within sculpture, Fafard turns attention to the main sculpture of the show, “Do Re Mi Fa Sol La Si Do”, which portrays seven running horses.
“A lot of it is happenstance, but it also has to be an image that I will accept to be within that,” says Fafard. “With these particular horses, there are many images within them because these ones here are done larger for Calgary and Quebec City.” Those sculptures were commissioned by the City of Calgary as a gift to Quebec City for its’ 400th anniversary.
“I wanted something to do with the history of Canada, with the history of the Europeans coming and the horse seemed like a nice symbol, one of great contribution to the Americas,” explains Fafard. “The first horses to come to the territory of Canada were actually sent by Louis IVX in 1668.”
Fafard points out the lead horse has within it an image of a soldier standing guard, and also a soldier hiding in a trench. Other imagery in the sculpture include things like steeples, churches, trees, and animals. “So I was trying to incorporate images in the horse, for instance, that had something to do with our history.”
The shows’ name, Retailles is French for “scraps” or “trimmings” or “that which is cut away.” It not only references the act of removing the negative space from the positive to create form, but refers to the act of recycling these “out-cuts” to create new works. This show offers insight into Fafard’s exploration of the laser-cut process and his creative renderings of its by-products. Drawings and prints also feature prominently in this exhibition.
Retailles reveals Fafard’s deep connection to his rural Saskatchewan roots, having been born to French-Canadian parents in the small agricultural community of Ste. Marthe, Saskatchewan.
“Since I live here (in Saskatchewan), I’ve always lived here, this is what I know, so this is what feeds my imagination, it’s the images we have around here. “reflects Fafard. “I think it is normal that art would resemble the area that it comes from. All art should have some basis in reality because that’s where we interpret who we are and where we are coming from. Creativity is the result of curiosity; curiosity is really the mother of creativity.”
For people that view his works, Fafard is not wanting to determine what it evokes in them. “I want them to bring themselves to the work, and interpret the work in their own light, their own experience, and from there, recreate a work of mine that they are participants in.”
“If I have to determine how the reaction of the person is going to be to the work, then I become a preacher, which I don’t want to be. I would rather be a participant to conversations, where you say something to somebody and it triggers something in their mind, and they respond from their experience. That’s how I would like my work to act with people. I trigger something in them, and they can then contribute as an experience to the work.”
Fafard’s journey as an artist began on the family farm, where he had opportunity to observe domestic animals, and began drawing them. In a family of five brothers and six sisters, he became known as ‘the artist of the family’.
This inspired Fafard to attend art school, where, he says, “the art school was not terribly interested in my experience as a farm boy, but how to bring me ‘up to date’ in the world and whatnot. So it really wasn’t about bringing out the child and what is actually there in the first place, but how do we change him to suddenly become a modern artist.”
Fafard says he went along with that approach for a number of years out of curiosity, but experienced difficulty after graduating.
“I tried to practice, but I was failing because I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t pleased with what I was doing. Finally, I decided to reconnect with my childhood and my experience and work from what I knew. So when I finally started to re-work from what I knew, I started making little clay things, and one of them was a cow. For some reason, that struck a nerve with people. People would start saying, ‘Well, that’s the Cow Man, he’s the guy that makes cows’.”
“I didn’t think this was a good career move,” chuckles Fafard, “but it turned out to be. So I just kept doing, as long as my interest was there, I kept following my interest. But eventually, I went back to what was the love of my life on the farm, which were the horses.”
Over the decades, Fafard’s artistic career has incorporated clay, bronze, steel sculpture, drawing, and printmaking, It is always evolving, driven by continual experimentation with media, subject matter, and process and technology.
Fafard resides on an acreage near Lumsden, Saskatchewan. He is one of Canada’s leading professional visual artists and has exhibitions of a wide variety of work in galleries and museums across the country and around the world, including the United States, Great Britain, France and Japan.
The Retailles exhibition is organized by the Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery in partnership with Art Gallery of Swift Current.
ABOUT JOE FAFARD
Joe Fafard is widely recognized as being at the forefront of his art, and his outstanding contributions to the arts have significantly raised the profile of both Saskatchewan and Canada on the national stage. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1981; awarded the Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award in 1987; received an honorary degree from the University of Regina in 1989, and from the University of Manitoba in 2007; received the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2002; received the National Prix Montfort in 2003; received the Lieutenant Governor’s Saskatchewan Centennial Medal for the Arts in 2005; was named CTV Citizen of the Year in 2006; and the Saskatchewan Arts Board Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. Joe Fafard also received his third honorary doctorate degree from the University of Saskatchewan in June of 2012.
Fafard attended the University of Manitoba (BFA 1966) and Pennsylvania State University (MFA 1968). He worked at the University of Saskatchewan, Regina from 1968 – 1974 and was a visiting lecturer at the University of California at Davis in 1980-1981.