Home » Underrated Canadian artist: Gershon Iskowitz

Underrated Canadian artist: Gershon Iskowitz

Gershon Iskowitz. Image: artmatters.ca


In the first of our monthly feature on underrated Canadian artists, VoCA salutes the late, great Gershon Iskowitz.

Like many Canadians, we were never properly schooled in 20th century Canadian art. On a visit to Gallery Moos in Toronto recently to inquire about work by the Costa Rica-based Canadian artist Leonidas Correa, we were struck by some of Mr. Iskowitz’s paintings.

Gershon Iskowitz, Sky-D, 1982. Image: gallerymoos.com

From the Canadian encyclopedia: Gershon Iskowitz, was a survivor of concentration camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, In 1949 he immigrated to Canada. After a Canada Council grant in 1967 enabled him to take a helicopter ride over Churchill, Man, his abstract paintings became reminiscent of aerial views of the landscape.

In 1985, recognizing the value of the Canada Council’s assistance over the years, Iskowitz established The Gershon Iskowitz Foundation, which gives $25 000 annually to a mature, practising artist.

Mark Lewis, still from Rush Hour, Morning and Evening, Cheapside, 2005. 35mm film. Image: fillip.ca

In May 2007, VoCA favorite Mark Lewis, an Ontario-born, UK-based photographer and filmmaker, won the Gershon Iskowitz Prize for his contribution to visual arts in Canada.

Iskowitz’s multi-layered abstracts remind us of the early work of Peter Doig, wherein landscapes were overlaid with a painted haze.

Gershon Iskowitz, Ultramarine Blue Deep #1, 1977. Image: gallerymoos.com

Peter Doig, Ski Jacket 1994. Image: tate.org.uk

This effect, for us, evokes the passing of time and of memory. In Mr. Isowitz’s paintings, the layers of pattern move between a more obvious reading of shapes evoking islands or tufts of wool, and of painted-over layers that suggest the passing of time.

These are beautiful, intriguing and important paintings.

Gershon Iskowitz, Red Blue A, 1983. Image: gallerymoos.com

3 Responses to “Underrated Canadian artist: Gershon Iskowitz”

  1. Adam says:

    Good choice for underrated Canadian artist! Very nice critical insight too. Iskowitz’s last studio was on Tecumseth St., roughly between where Susan Hobbs and Diaz Contemporary galleries are now.

  2. Gary LeDrew says:

    I agree I knew Gershon since 1965.
    In the late seventy’s I was coming home from a party with Harold Town. As i drove up spadina Harold said. Doesn’t Iskowitz live around here? I always wanted to meet him. No Problem says I and pulled over in front of gershons 3rd story studio. I was a hot summer night and the his window was open. so Town and I clutching a bottle of vodka stood there yelling at the window. Finally Gershon came over and looked down and closed the window. Town and I drove off laughing.
    by the by I have a drawing Gershon gave me that I am interested in selling.

  3. Jessie says:

    I have been in love with the works of Mr. Iskowitz for years and so saddened to see that he rarely, if ever, gets spoken about. Not only do I find his work beautiful, but the story of his life and his transition from painting about the atrocities of life during the war to these expressionists works is incredible.

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