Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard’s Running Horses now gallop past the National Gallery of Canada
Ottawa - December 2, 2011
A herd of prairie horses – created in steel by Saskatchewan artist Joe Fafard – is now running past the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). The newly installed work, Running Horses (2007), was purchased by the NGC in 2008 with the support of the Gallery Foundation.
With manes and tails streaming out behind them, the herd of horses in shades from rusty red to yellow to black appear to gallop along Sussex Drive towards downtown. An elegant mare leads the herd, followed by other mares and colts, while a muscular black stallion brings up the rear. Made from laser-cut steel, each horse is a less-than life size silhouette-like form with various cut out patterns in its body. These negative spaces enable the viewer to see through each horse, creating a layered effect. Viewed head on, each horse is a narrow sculptural form made from ¼”-thick steel and supported by a solid bronze cast base that has been sculpted and painted to look like wind-blown prairie grass.
Among the eleven horses, no two are identical: there are six different variations of cut out patterns and each horse is painted in a unique manner. While the laser-cut patterns are suggestive of dappled or certain types of pinto markings, they come from the artist’s imagination.
“I love the idea of Fafard’s wild horses running along with the traffic on Sussex Drive,” noted NGC director Marc Mayer. “We haven’t had a sculpture in front of the Gallery’s main drive way in many years. This work is a wonderful evocation of Western Canada by one of our most beloved artists.”
There are five other works by Fafard in the NGC collection: Bull (1970), E II R (1978), and Cézanne (1981) are three early works in ceramic; Silvers (1999) and Western Dancer (2003) are two later works in bronze.
About artist Joe Fafard
Joe Fafard, a twelfth generation Canadian, is a sculptor best known for creating objects which reference community and farm life. His career has boldly blazed a path for the reinvigoration of sculpture in the contemporary Canadian art scene. Born into a farming family in the French-speaking community of Sainte-Marthe, Saskatchewan, Fafard showed a keen interest in art from a young age. He completed a bachelor’s degree in fine art at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg in 1966, and a master’s degree at Pennsylvania State University in 1968.
He returned to Canada to teach sculpture and pottery at the University of Saskatchewan in Regina. In 1974 he left teaching, and settled in Pense (SK) to sculpt full time. Fafard’s career took a major shift in the early 1980s when he won a commission from the Toronto Dominion Bank to create a new public art installation. The commission propelled Fafard into a new phase of creation with a new medium: bronze. In 1985 Fafard opened his own foundry, Julienne Atelier Inc., in Pense.
Fafard was awarded the Order of Canada in 1981, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Allied Arts Award in 1987, an honorary doctorate from the University of Regina in 1988, and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in 2002.
About the National Gallery of Canada
The National Gallery of Canada is home to the most important collections of historical and contemporary Canadian art, including the extensive collection of the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography. The Gallery also maintains Canada's premier collection of European Art from the 14th to the 21st century, as well as important works of American, Asian and Indigenous Art and renowned international collections of prints, drawings and photographs. Created in 1880, the National Gallery of Canada has played a key role in Canadian culture for well over a century. Among its principal missions is to increase access to excellent works of art for all Canadians. To do so, it maintains the largest touring art exhibition programme in the world. For more information: www.gallery.ca