David Urban

David Urban is widely regarded as the leading Canadian painter of his generation. Born in Toronto in 1966, he studied poetry and painting at York University, earning a BFA in 1989. Urban received a master’s degree in English literature and creative writing from the University of Windsor in 1991 (where he studied with Alistair MacLeod) and a second master’s degree in painting from the University of Guelph in 1993.

His work is represented in many private and public collections including the National Gallery of Canada. In 2002, Urban curated Painters 15, an exhibition of established Canadian painters which was presented at the Shanghai Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.

The art practice of David Urban is defined by bold collisions of line and shape, clashing tones and kinetic brushstrokes. Urban builds his dynamic paintings, layer upon layer, into a strange borderland between abstraction and representation. Rhythmic geometries conjure up networks of boards, beams and girders. These improvisations incorporate the traditions of still life and landscape, abstraction and realism within an abstract framework. Urban produces forms that confound in their perception and pursues an endless investigation into how and why we see.

Urban reflects on music, childhood and the primacy of the imagination, becoming a summation of thematic ideas pursued in his paintings. He is deeply implicated in the history and methodology of paint. Urban is a poet and a musician, playing several instruments and investigating the physical presence of sound. His work explores the interplay between representation and abstraction, while maintaining a strong sense of connectivity and rhythmical structure. He integrates both real and abstract elements, simultaneously presenting two disparate threads of modern painting.

Selected Works


Winter 2021

January 29 - April 10 - 2021

“Chroma III”

For the past two years we have curated exhibitions deep in the winter months that feature colour.  This year, colour has been deeply needed.  In response to the white falling snow outside, we have curated[...]


January 14 - February 29 - 2020

“Chroma II”

Our winter 2020 group exhibition features paintings that are saturated with glorious colour.  Chroma is the quality of a colour’s purity, intensity or saturation.  From Ron Martin's "black" painting to Mark Dicey's abstract that contains[...]


Curriculum Vitae


1966 in Toronto, Canada


Art Gallery of Hamilton
Art Gallery of Mississauga
Art Gallery of Nova Scotia
Art Gallery of Ontario
Art Gallery of Peel
Art Gallery of Windsor
Birmingham Art Gallery, Alabama
Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery
Mendel Art Gallery
Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph
Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Musee des beaux-arts de Montreal
Museum London
National Gallery of Canada
The Rooms, St. John’s, NL
Vancouver Art Gallery
Varley Art Gallery of Markham


1992-1994 MFA Visual Arts (Painting / Drawing), University of Guelph
1990-1991 MA English Literature and Creative Writing, University of Windsor
1985-1989 BA English Literature, York University
BFA Visual Arts, York University


2021 Subject/Object/Process: Works from the Permanent Collection, The Varley Art Gallery of Markham, Markham, ON
Everywhere We Are, Calgary Contemporary, Calgary, AL

2020 Accidental Geometries, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON

2019 When the sun departs for a new horizon, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON

2018 Desire, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON

2017 David and Goliath, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON

2009 A Celebration of Art, Architecture and Design, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, AB

2008 Walter Redinger & David Urban, Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON

2004 John Clark, David Urban, Harold Klunder, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, AB

2003 Painters 15, Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, ON
Mixed Media, Gallery Neubacher, Toronto, ON

2002 Vancouver Collects, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC
Hungry Eyes, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Recent Acquisitions, Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama, US
Abstraction, Appleton Art Museum, Florida, US
Painters 15, Shanghai Art Museum, China (curator)

2001 Signs of the Spirit: The Donovan Collection at St. Michael’s College, University of Toronto, ON
Suburbia, Art Gallery of Peel, Ontario
Durham Press Inc, Durham, Pennsylvania, US
Gottheiner Contemporary Art, St. Louis, Missouri, US
Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta

1999 Translinear, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, ON [Travelling to: Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, Owen Sound, Ontario 2000; Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, 2000-2001; Plug-In Gallery, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2001; Cambridge Galleries, Cambridge, ON, 2001; Kelowna Art Gallery, Kelowna, BC, 2001-2002]
Processes: Caio Fonseca, Jeffrey Graham, Robert Kelly, Antonio Murado, Tony Sherman, David Urban, Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta (Travelling to Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC)
Les peintures, Galerie Rene Blouin / Galerie Lilian Rodriguez, Montreal, QC
Social Body, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux Arts, Paris France
Contingency and Continuity: Negotiating New Abstraction, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, ON

1998 Show and Tell, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
Robert McLean Gallery, Houston, Texas
Marcia Wood Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Durham Press : 10 Year Anniversary Exhibition, Marcel Sitcoske Gallery, San
Francisco Gallery, San Francisco, US

1997 Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam
Stux Gallery, New York, New York
Abstraction / abstraction: geometries provisoires, Musee d’Art Moderne de Saint-Etienne, La Terrasse, France (with Helmut Federle, Mary Heilmann, Helmut Dorner, Jonathan Lasker, Juan Usle, et. al)
David Craven – Ric Evans – Tony Sherman – David Urban: On Paper, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
New Modern: Art and Design in the Post Industrial City, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta

1996 Theories of the Decorative, Baumgartner Galleries Inc, Washington, DC
New Breed-A Synergy of the Arts, Lincoln Center; Saks Fifth Ave, New York, New York
The Quill of Darkness, Gallerie in Arco, Turin, Italy – with Peter Schuyff and Stefano Peroli
London Life : Young Contemporaries 1996, London Regional Art Gallery, London, ON
Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Second Skin, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, ON [Travelling to Rodman Hall Arts Centre, St. Catherines, ON, 1997; Lynwood Arts Centre, Simcoe, ON, 1997; The Gallery Stratford, Stratford, ON, 1997 ; Tom Thomson Memorial Art Gallery, Owen Sound, ON, 1998]

1995 Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, New York, US

1994 Fay Gold Gallery, Atlanta, Georgia
Edward Thorp Gallery, New York, New York
Kunst Rai, Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam

1993 Body / Language (in collaboration with Doug Kirton), Zavitz Hall Gallery, University of Guelph


2021 David Urban: Revisiting Motifs, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON
2019 Lonely Boy, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON
2014-15 Love of the Real, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON
2015 Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON
2014 Studio 21 Fine Art, Halifax, Nova Scotia
Corkin Gallery, Love of the Real, Toronto, ON
2013 Corkin Gallery, How to be Broken, Toronto, ON
2012 Corkin Gallery, The Eye as Dove, Toronto, ON
2011 Corkin Gallery, Returner, Toronto, ON
2010 Corkin Gallery, The Konokol: Sound and Reflection, Toronto, ON
2009 Corkin Gallery, Works on Paper, Toronto, ON
2007 Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, AB
Actual Fiction, Corkin Gallery, Toronto, ON
2006 David Urban, Corkin Shopland Gallery, Toronto, ON
2005 The Constructor, Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON
2004 Moore Gallery, Toronto, ON
2003 The Recognitions, Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON
Galerie Rene Blouin, Montreal
2002 Present Tense, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON
Of Being Numerous, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
Dialogue(s) Lise Boisseau, Michel Daigneault, David Urban, Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal, QC
2001 Dialogue(s) Lise Boisseau, Michel Daigneault, David Urban, Centre d’exposition de Val d’Or, Quebec (in association with the Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal, QC)
2000 David Urban: Transport to Summer, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
David Urban: North, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
David Urban: Credences of Summer, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
Galerie Rene Blouin, Montreal, QC
1999 David Urban, Gina Rorai, Macdonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, ON
1998 Parts of a World, Art Gallery of Peel, Peel Heritage Complex, Brampton, ON (also shown at the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, ON and the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Waterloo, ON
Parts of a World, Galerie Barbara Farber / Rob Jurka, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Jim Schmidt Contemporary Art, St. Louis, Missouri
Like Seeing Fallen Brightly Away, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
1997 Form and Colour Society, Galerie Rene Blouin, Montreal, QC
Douglas Udell Gallery, Vancouver, BC
David Urban: New Paintings, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
1996 Farewell to an Idea, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
The Quill of Darkness, Galleria In Arco, Turin, Italy
Entering Language, Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta
1995 Easel Painting, David Beitzel Gallery, New York, New York
The Anderson Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, Alberta – Project Room
A Cold Spring, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
1994 Reform School, Galerie Barbara Farber, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Expandable Language, Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
1993 Gubbinal, Gallery 788, Toronto, ON
Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, ON
1989 IDA, Gallery York University, Toronto, ON


2016             The Artists Talk, Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts
2012              Art Gallery of Ontario, “Paul-Emile Borduas and James Wilson Morrice”
2011              Art Gallery of Ontario, “AGO Next debate: Relevance of the Group of Seven”
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, “The Automatistes (Symposium)”
2010              Art Gallery of Ontario, “Kathleen Munn”
1999              Ontario College of Art & Design University, “David Urban”
1997              Emily Carr School of Art and Design, Vancouver, BC
1996 University of Lethbridge, Alberta
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, “Theories of the Decorative”
1995 U.A.A.C Conference, “Wilderness Stations: Painting and Historical Memory”
University of Guelph, Canada
1994 McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Canada


2005 External Thesis Advisor, University of Waterloo
1994 Sessional Instructor: Painting, University of Guelph
1993 Sessional Instructor: Drawing, University of Guelph
Teaching Assistantship: “Art Theory and Criticism”, University of Guelph
1992 Teaching Assistantship: Painting, University of Guelph
1991 Teaching Assistantship: Romanticism to Modernism Department of English Literature, University of Windsor
1990 Teaching Assistantship: Literary Genres, Department of English Literature, University of Windsor


2009 Alumni of the Year Award, University of Guelph
2003 Elected Royal Canadian Academy of Art
1995 Canada Council “B” Grant
1993 Ontario Arts Council Exhibition Grant
Graduate Fellowship, University of Guelph
Ontario Graduate Scholarship, University of Guelph
1991 Ontario Graduate Scholarship, University of Windsor



2012   Koerner Artist in Residence, Queen’s University, Kingston, ON



Baird, Daniel. “The Eye as Dove Review”, The Toronto Star, Toronto, September 30, 2012.

Brackert, Donald, “Paintings Become the Real World”. The Globe and Mail, 4 October 1998.

Breismaster, Holly, Artword Magazine, (Review), Issue No. 21, Spring 1995.

Cheetham, Mark, “Jazz Lines”, Canadian Art, Vol 17, No 4, Winter 2000, p.86.
-, “Translinear”, Canadian Art (Review), Fall 2001.

Couelle, Jennifer, “Paysages”, La Presse, Montreal, April 1, 2000, p D17.

Cullum, Jerry. “What Abstraction Represents”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution 10 June 1998.

Dault, Gary Michael, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Saturday October 20, 2007 (Review)
-, “Exhibit A: Moving Forms,” The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Friday Septmber 26, 2006, p. R24
-, “Urban’s abstracts get figurative”, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Saturday December 28, 2002, p. R6 (Review)
-, “David Urban at Sable-Castelli” The Globe and Mail, Toronto, October 21, 2000. p. R10
-, “Don’t look at me like that – and other imperatives of Recent Abstract Painting”, Canadian Art, Spring 2000. Vol 17, No. 1, p 62-69.
-“La peinture vivante”. L’Oeil (October 1997)

Enright, Robert, “The Miraculous Question of Looking”, An Interview with David Urban, Border Crossings, Vol 20, No 4, 2001, p 18-31.

George, Kate. CJRT Radio Interview, 27 January 1999.

Griswold, Alicia. “A Journey is Not a Commute” Artists and Madmen Weekly, vol. 4. 13, 22-28, May 1998.

Jordan, Betty Ann. “David Urban”, Toronto Life Magazine, Vol 34, No 26, October 2000, p46.

Kisil, Gerry, “Consuming urbanization”, Border Crossings, Vol 17, No 1 (Winter 1998) p46-47.

Kissick, John, “David Urban”, Canadian Art Magazine, Summer 2003. p95.

Lamarche, Bernard. Le Devoir, 11 July 1997.

Lehmann, Henry. “David Urban’s abstracts also have something to do with soul-searching”, The Montreal Gazette, 12 July 1997.

Locke, Donald. “Quantum Leap: Construction, Representation and Action at Marcia Wood”, Creative Loafing, Atlanta 23 May 1998.

MacKay, Gillian, “David Urban at McMaster Museum of Art”, The Globe and Mail, February 6, 1999. p C13.

Marchand, Keith. “David Urban’s use of the abstract”, Montreal Mirror, 19-26 June 1997.

Mays, John Bentley. “Urban’s Oblongs: Like a Mirror”, The Globe and Mail, 2 April 1994
-“Rising Stars of Canadian Culture”. The Globe and Mail, 31 December 1994.
-“Urban’s Abstracts: Over the Top”. The Globe and Mail, 4 March 1995.
-“The Triumph of Canadian Art”. The Globe and Mail, 12 June 1995.
-“Night and Day” Canadian Art (cover), Vol 12, Winter 1995.
-“The drip turns 50”, The Globe and Mail, Saturday, January 24, 1998. p C1 & 6.
-“Paintings as defiance, a gesture against the void”. The Globe and Mail, 15 May 1998.
-“The New Abstraction: to understand the new school of abstract art, think of a heartbeat captured on canvas”. The National Post, 6 February 1999.
-“Present Tense #24”, Amigo Motel, December 25, 2002.

Maclear, Kyo. Toronto Life, May 1998.

Meraj, Dhir. “David Urban Leading Canadian Painter, Art Beyond the Parameters of a Canvas” FashCam, June 2014

Miller, Earl, “Anne Lazare – Mirvish & David Urban: abstraction revived in Yorkville”, Artfocus, Vol 4, No. 4 (Aug / Sept 1996), p 11-13.

Milroy, Sarah, “Brushes with the best”, The Globe and Mail, May 11, 2002.

Moos, David. “Punctual Painting”. Amsterdam: Galerie Barbara Farber, 1994.
-“In the Suburbs of the Mind” Art + Text (November 1997)

Muller, Brian. “Abstraction / abstractions” Flash Art (October 1997).

Queen Street Quarterly I, vol. 1 (Toronto) (Spring 1997).

Scott, Michael, “Abstract Urban Art : Toronto Painter David Urban’s work announces that modern art is alive and well” The Vancouver Sun, October 22, 1997, p C5.

St. Gelais, Therese. “David Urban at Galerie Rene Blouin”. Parachute 89 (Fall 1998):43-44.

Smith, Pete. “David Urban’s Timely Paintings Impress at Corkin Gallery” Canadian Art, October 5, 2012.

Somers, David et al. David Urban: Parts of a World. Art Gallery of Peel, 1999.

Tousley, Nancy. “If you love painting…” The Calgary Herald, 6 April 1996.

Wachtel, Eleanor. “The Arts Tonight”. CBC Radio Interview, 1 February 1999.

Woodley, Eric. “David Urban”, Art in America, New York, December 5, 2012.


Beaudoin, Marie-France; Lussier, Real. “Dialogues”, Musee d’art contemporain de Montreal et Centre d’exposition de Val-d’Or, 2001.

Campbell, James D. “Only Connect: The Radiant Cartography of David Urban’s Abstractions”, The Constructor, Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON, 2005.

De Chassey, E. Social Body, Ecole Nationale Superieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris 1999.

Shuebrook Ron. “Contingency and Continuity : negotiating new abstraction”, MacDonald Stewart Art Centre, Guelph, ON, 1999.

“The poetics of painting – a conversation with David Urban”. Processes : Caio Fonseca, Jeffrey Graham, Robert Kelly, Antonio Murado, Tony Sherman, David Urban – interview with Robert Enright, Douglas Udell Gallery, Edmonton, Alberta, 1999.

Cheetham, Mark; Moos, David; Pagel, David. David Urban : Parts of a world. Art Gallery of Peel, McMaster Museum of Art, University of Waterloo Art Gallery, 1998.

de Chassey, Eric, Morineau, C. Abstraction / Abstraction, Geometries, Provisoires, Saint-Etienne: Musee d’Art Moderne 1997.

Moos, David. “The Quill of Darkness”, Turin, Italy: Galleria in Arco, 1996.

-“Two Introductions to the work of David Urban”, The Constructor, Michael Gibson Gallery, London, ON, 2005.

Patton, James. Young Contemporaries. London, Ontario: London Regional Art Gallery, 1996

Portis, Ben. Present Tense: Contemporary Project Series No 24. David Urban, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON, 2002.


David Urban

David Urban Magenta Magazine Review

Matthew Ryan Smith reviews David Urban's October exhibition for Magenta Magazine.


60 Painters May 18-June 9

Will Gorlitz, Doug Kirton, John Kissick, Wanda Koop & David Urban included in 60 Painters exhibit.



Magenta Magazine

Magenta Magazine

David Urban

October 2016

Matthew Ryan Smith


Canadian Art

David Urban: Art Gallery of Ontario

Summer 2003

John Kissick


Globe and Mail

Urban's Abstracts get Figurative

December 28, 2002

Gary Michael Dault


Border Crossings

The Miraculous Questions of Looking: An Interview with David Urban & Robert Enright

November 2001, Volume 20, Number 4

Robert Enright



David Urban The Constructor

Introduction by David Moos, Monograph by James D. Campbell

Michael Gibson Gallery

November 2005

100 pages, colour illustrations, 8 ½ x 10 in., softcover


Catalogue of David Urban's seminal exhibition "The Constructor". Includes an introduction by David Moos, monograph by James D. Campbell and images of the exhibition. David Urban’s canvases are dense with paint and intensely coloured. His palette is bright – shocking us with bloody reds, piercing blues and soft yellows. The tight body of work that he has constructed reflects his passion for painting and dedication to his craft.

David Urban Parts of a World

David Pagel, David Moos & Mark Cheetham

Art Gallery of Peel


48 pages, 32 colour illustrations, 10 ½ x 9 inch softcover


Exhibition catalogue of David Urban's 1999 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peel.  Features 2 essays and an interview with the artist.