The Gallery has been a matrix for many projects over the last fifty years including the development of a Canadian art collection containing the twelve works presented in Big Art, Big Idea. The ambition and optimism evident in the architecture of the Gallery and the development of its art collection are matched by the aspirations seen in these works created between 1965 and 2005. Scale, and how it served the artist, was a key factor in selecting this exhibition. I was also intrigued by how inter-generational and inter-regional links between artists and subjects might be evident in the contemporary visual art collection. Stretching the formal limits of painting, drawing, and sculpture, these encompassing works of art range from abstract to representational to conceptual and are often comprised of components. They have subjects as varied as the 1970 October Crisis, the environment, cultural spectacle, social inequity and the gift economy. The artists have used both traditional materials and media including oil on canvas or charcoal on paper, and they have used innovative ones such as PVC plumbing pipe, neon light, and time-based media (recorded sound or sequential text and photographic images) in addressing contemporary concerns.
Interestingly, many of these acclaimed artists also teach, write, create music, or perform, and their visual art demonstrates a clear widening of art practices in the later decades of the 20th century. It also foreshadows the current prevalence of inter-media art making. These big works of art are significant markers in our cultural timeline, engaging for their formal aesthetic qualities and the big ideas they so convincingly embody for our consideration.