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  Bookends: Dan Davidson

Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings

Reviewed: September 23, 2008
By: Anne Newlands
Publisher: Firefly Books
366 pages, $69.95

While I realize that if you’re paring down the history of Canadian art to a mere 164 representative examples you can’t include everyone, my personal objections to Newlands’ selection of artists would have to be the omission of Robert Bateman and Ted Harrison. Any book that would include Ken Danby ought to be able to come up wth a Bateman, and certainly Harrison’s work is one of the signature styles to come out of the Yukon.

Enough about that. Newland’s book isn’t a history of Canadian art, though it spans time from the 17th century to the present. The works are organized in alphabetical order, by artist, and so the styles and themes are all over the artistic map. There’s literally something for everyone between these covers.

Newlands’ opening essay does provide a nine page historic overview of the Canadian art scene, but the rest of the book tends to focus on individual pieces and artists rather than trends or movements.

This is a coffee table sized book, one that works best on a table or in your lap. The high quality paper and its size make it way too heavy to hold any other way. Each double spread contains a reproduction on the right hand page and Newlands’ commentary on the left. The commentary mixes art criticism with a bit of biography, focussing on a piece of work which Newlands felt was representative of that artist’s oeuvre.

In this fashion, she works her way from Luke Anguhadluq to Tim Zuck. The latter was the subject of an exhibition and artist’s talk at the ODD Gallery in Dawson City a few years ago, and the painting chosen for this book, “Yukon”, is the same one used on the exhibition poster here.

This is not a quick book. You will find yourself looking at only a few items each time you sit down with it, and it will take you a while to get through. That’s not a criticism. It’s a lovely book and it repays the time it takes.

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