I had the unanticipated pleasure of a member's preview of the new (and largest) exhibition of Alex Colville's work today when I visited the AGO. Like many people, I suspect, I knew many of Colville's paintings, and might even have felt a bit cynical about them, given how much exposure some of his works have had over my lifetime. But, the show was astounding on a few different levels. One thing that I noticed right away, was how much people in the crowd enjoyed the gallery -- people really seemed to love the work. But, even more than this, it just seemed so obvious that Colville had a tender respect for the subjects of his paintings, whether his wife/muse, the many animals in his works, especially dogs, and perhaps this perspective is more wry in his self-portraits, but it is still there. It was a bit overwhelming -- more than in other exhibits, I really wanted to stop and really look at the paintings (and a smaller selection of drawings) -- each one invites the viewer into the frame, to wonder about the action, to create some kind of narrative or sense of what is going on there -- all the while, facing a certain kind of resistance to just exactly that impulse to make sense. I'm looking forward to going back again and again as often as I can manage to look at it all again.
I was instantly and deeply moved by the works collected under the theme of "Love, Life and Loss," especially the late painting of his wife Rhoda, standing with her back to the viewer, nude and in front of a faceless grandfather clock. You can see see an image of the painting in this video (at 4:36):
After spending some time with Colville's works, especially the ones in the Love, Life and Loss gallery, I'm left thinking about what it means to age, and to love, into what in gerontology is sometimes called "older old age." The exhibit as curated, seems to me anyhow, to represent the heft of a life, of a lifelong body of works, of an enduring love.