Home » Underrated Canadian artist: Gathie Falk

Underrated Canadian artist: Gathie Falk

The 80-year-old Vancouver painter, sculptor, installation and performance artist Gathie Falk has long been inspired by the elements of everyday life: fruit, eggs, men’s shoes, women’s clothing, garden flowers and reading a book, among other things. Her work appears to meld feminine and masculine elements in a unique, charming, serious way.

The artist Gathie Falk in her studio, Vancouver, 1983. Image: lac-bac.gc.ca

Falk grew up in Winnipeg, attending art classes and drawing on her own before moving to Vancouver, where sheattended teacher’s college and studied painting and drawing at UBC with with J.A.S. Macdonald and art history with Ian McNairn.

Gathie Falk, Single Right Men’s Shoes: Eight Red Boots, 1973. Image: canadacouncil.ca

According to writer and curator Robin Laurence, in 1962, at the age of thirty-four, she had an important revelation: ‘”I thought, I don’t want to hear another person’s opinion. I know what I want to do … I don’t need to be helped along'”

She left her teaching job and – unusually for a woman at that time – travelled throughout Europe. In the late 60s she made the switch from painting to ceramic sculpture, completing a critically acclaimed installation titled Living Room, Environmental Sculpture and Prints (1968) (retitled Home Environment).

Repetition and architectural form are the hallmarks of other series of ceramic works that Falk created in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Gathie Falk, Picnic with Birthday Cake and Blue Sky, 1976. Image: cybermuse.gallery.ca

In 1968, Gathie Falk was introduced to performance art by the New York dancer, Deborah Hay. As in her sculpture, repetition and the everyday are the principle themes of Falk’s performance pieces. Between 1968 and 1972, Falk created fifteen works, which she performed until 1977.

Gathie Falk, Picnic with Fish and Ribbon, 1977. Image: cybermuse.gallery.ca

She described her performance works as follows: “From my perspective, to make a performance piece is to put together, or choreograph, or compose a work of art that has a beginning, an end and a middle, with preferably, but not necessarily, a climax or several climaxes.

Sometimes a piece works in a linear way with one event following another…sometimes choreography is worked out like a fugue in music, with one event beginning close upon the heels of another, and a third event intertwining with the first two…. The events or themes I like to use are, guess what, activities of ordinary everyday living: eating an egg, reading a book, washing clothes … together with slightly more exotic events such as shining someone’s shoes while he is walking backwards singing an operatic aria …”

Gathie Falk, 30 Grapefruit. Image: lac-bac.gc.ca

Gathie Falk received the fourth annual Gershon Iskowitz Prize in 1990, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1997.

Falk is represented by Equinox Gallery, Vancouver. Click HERE for gallery website.

Read an article on Gathie Falk by Ray Cronin, HERE.

6 Responses to “Underrated Canadian artist: Gathie Falk”

  1. steve smart says:

    Gathie Falk is an amazing talent. The fact that she has worked so persistantly and with imagination over such a long career is fantastic. What is also shocking though is the small audience that exists for her work in central canada. Apart from the years in the past when Av Isaacs showed her work I do not know of any commercial gallery that has brought the work of this canadian star to toronto or montreal. amazing!

  2. Agreement in order! With Steve Smart, absolutely correct, Gathie has been absent from the Eastern scene for too long, blame that on not a lot of work, but also on the exclusive private gallery system of Canada, one that holds so tight to artists, and sell close to home, to their collectors only. I know why they do it for many reasons but disagree too. In this great big country, art needs to be seen across the breadth, especially the great ones like Gathie Falk. So dealers must be more responsive to each other, organize shows and not be so exclusive.
    Another great forgotten woman artist, Aganytha Dick
    of Winnipeg.
    Finally, thank god for the Toronto Art Fair it gives one a chance to see art in context from across the country, this year was the best presentation of good art, and great galleries.
    Now lets make sure the public who need to know get to know.
    Media ! pay more attention !

  3. I too love Aganetha Dyck, but she’s hardly a forgotten artist, she won the Governor General’s award in 2007.

  4. andi argast says:

    Thanks for this post! I saw a retrospective of Gathie Falk’s work at the National Gallery several years ago, and was immediately captivated by the range and depth of her work. I agree she deserves more recognition.

  5. Bill Moore says:

    Very interesting stuff, especially as performance art.Why is the “picnic” theme so pervasive? I include her on my latest blog entry on Picnics: Plenitude, Landscapes with Blankets at my blog:
    Bill Moore
    Charlotte, NC

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