In honour of Gathie Falk’s new Art Canada Institute online book release, we have curated a small exhibition in our middle gallery celebrating her recent still life paintings and 2 rare ceramic sculptures.
Gathie Falk has spent more than five decades creating artworks that aim to “venerate the ordinary”. Her home and the objects in her daily life act as the source material for her recent still life paintings. Falk has reconstructed intimate details from her own existence: carefully set dinner tables, flower arrangements and portraits of guests lovingly invited into her home. Through these paintings, Falk celebrates simple pleasures, elevating the ordinary objects, and appreciating the joy and love for the things and people in her life.
Along with the recent paintings, we have included 2 rare early ceramic sculptures: “Cherry Basket” (c.1969) and “Picnic with Green Bottles” (1976). As in the paintings, the repetition of ordinary household domestic objects is a thread to Falk’s work. She is perhaps best known for her ceramic sculptures of fruit piles – brilliantly glazed pyramidal displays of ceramic fruit made between 1969-70. The piles included apples, oranges, grapefruits and cherry boxes that ranged in size from stacks of 5 to 196. The pyramid form, which she first noticed at a corner grocery store, appealed to her as a logical way to stack fruit. The repetition of individualized pieces reinforces her commitment to celebrating the ordinary and the glistening cherries, a delight for our eyes.
The 1976 “Picnic with Green Bottles” is from Falk’s 1976-1977 “Picnic” series. Originally from a performance piece where Falk staged picnics in strange places, each Picnic ceramic combines an everyday object on a thick slab of clay sod. Our “Picnic with Green Bottles” includes four green empty bottles on a beautiful white doily set upon the thick green grass. This sculpture was included in Falk’s 1985 retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Gathie Falk was born in Alexander, Manitoba in 1928. Her parents were German-speaking Mennonites who immigrated to Canada in order to escape persecution in Russia. Shortly after Gathie’s birth, her father died, leaving the family impoverished and forcing them to move repeatedly to various mennonite communities across Canada. For a short time, the family moved to Winnipeg, setting in Vancouver in 1947.
In the 1950s, Falk studied education at the University of British Columbia and worked as an elementary school teacher for 12 years. During this time, Falk also began her formal training in the arts. She took summer classes at UBC and studied drawing and painting with JAS MacDonald. In 1965, Falk left her position as a teacher and decided to pursue a career as a full time artist.
Working in painting, sculpture, installation and performance, Gathie Falk has repeatedly explored motifs of the domestic and everyday, choosing running shoes, fruit, eggs and clothing, among other objects, as her subject matter.
In 2000, the retrospective exhibition “Gathie Falk” was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and travelled to the National Gallery of Canada, the MacKenzie Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, the Robert McLaughlin Gallery and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Falk’s second touring retrospective begins in June 2022 at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection and travels through 2024 to Museum London, Glenbow and the Audain Art Museum.
In May 2022, Michelle Jacques wrote “Life & Work” an online Art Canada Institute book devoted to Falk’s life and art practice.
Falk is well represented in collections across the country, including those of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Glenbow Museum, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal.
In 2013, Gathie Falk was awarded the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Visual Arts. She is also the recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (1990), the Order of Canada (1997), Order of British Columbia (2002) and the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2003).
Falk continues to live and work in Kitsilano, Vancouver.