Since the early sixties Tascona’s work has been exhibited and collected by art
galleries, universities, and corporations across Canada. He has also received many
public art commissions, including the murals in the Winnipeg Centennial Concert
Hall, the Manitoba Law Courts Building, and the installation at the Freshwater
Institute at the University of Manitoba. A member of the Royal Canadian
Academy of Arts since 1973, he was granted an honorary degree by The
University of Winnipeg in 1994 and inducted into the Order of Canada in 1996.
Now, as he enters the sixth decade of his career as an artist, it is appropriate to
assess his work’s scope and development. How has he developed his distinct
visual vocabularyNULL What are the continuing and recurring themes of his workNULL In
the 1980 Royal Canadian Academy catalogue, he wrote:
Art is an idea, a concept that the artist conceives and transforms into
visual (though not always easily understandable) physical reality. Art
deals with research and experimentation. For me, to do art is like riding
along the edge of a precipice. In my work excitement and experience
result from the embodiment of ideas in the process of bringing about
constructive change. So as a practicing artist, I am never bored or
complacent, for complacency can only lead to stagnation and false
Tascona’s quest for research and experimentation is evident in the variety of
materials he uses: oil, acrylic lacquer, sand, pumice, printers ink, epoxy resin,
coloured pencil, India ink, crayon, and graphite. His spray lacquer on aluminum
paintings and resin sculptures, based in part on his experiences working at Air
Canada, are unique.
Throughout his career, the periodic reintroduction of ideas, linear forms, and
palettes from earlier periods recur. As the work develops, he introduces new
elements and refinements, and presents more complex patterns of ideas. His
interest in structure, scale, and space are constant in work from every period in
his life. Movement, texture, and light are critical for him and he uses these
elements effectively to achieve a balance and tension between the natural and
The resulting resonance in Tascona’s work is derived from the world around
him—the landscape, the people, and his experiences—and is imbued with
references from music, which echo the rhythms of nature. He frequently uses
musical terminology in his titles, such as Quarter Time, 1965, and Yellow
Dynamic I, 1972. He agrees that music is a consistent element in his work, but
its inclusion has been intuitive, not consciously planned. The Concert, a print
from his student days in 1951, and The Offering, 1956, mark the beginning of
this subconscious ongoing exploration of music.
The feeling Tascona achieved in his earlier work is recaptured in his recent
drawings. His repetition of line within a work creates rhythm. His work resounds
from one piece to another, from one period to another, and from one medium to
another. Such resonance is enhanced by the techniques Tascona uses. The
resulting compositions convey an economy of line, form, and colour. The subtle
introduction of a third dimension, through embossing and laminating, add depth
and increases the resonance of patterns and sounds. This delicate balance also
evokes the prairie landscape:
Living on the prairies makes one acutely aware of the precise physical
laws of nature. I react to scale, movement, balance, light, colour…all
the physical energies. 1
Landscape is a recurring source of inspiration in Tascona’s work in all media. The
subtle colours and contours of the prairie landscape, the organic elements of
nature and the rhythms from the seasons occur in his prints and drawings.
Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, a series from 1994, combine the colours
and linear patterns evoking the relevant movement of the season. As he says of
his current works:
They are becoming more organic again, but I always thought
organically even when I was working very structurally in my work.
When I was doing constructive pieces like the aluminum constructions, I
was always thinking organically; it is all related to what I saw or felt
Tony Tascona’s great strength is his tenacity and ability to develop his idiom in
each distinct media, remaining true to his ideals over such a long period. Tascona
My periods of greatest difficulty occur when I am undergoing the
transition from one art form to another in order to better intensify the
clarification of whatever it is I am trying to do or say. When these
factors have been resolved—when the turning point comes—when some
of the experimental involvement with materials in various media take
form as physical realities then it is a time of achievement for me.
Yet it is precisely that experimentation which continues to drive Tascona in his
pursuit of his unique visual language and expression. Through his work, Tony
Tascona has resonated with many people of all ages. His generosity to all parts
of his community has broadened the understanding of the visual arts. This will
surely continue to resonate positively for generations to come.
This exhibition is generously sponsored by the Great-West Life Assurance
Company. Also made possible by grants from the Canada Council for the Arts
and the Manitoba Arts Council, and by Arthur and Judy Drache.
Blue Day, 1995.
Acrylic lacquer on aluminum.
Collection of the artist.