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On view at TrépanierBaer Gallery.
Like the other paintings in the Phoenix series, Phoenix 8 is a reworking of an earlier painting. Painted in 1982 Handcuffs (below right) was one of ten 24 x 24-inch paintings that used plastic and pressed tin children’s toys as subjects. Four of these paintings have been reborn as trompe l'oeil works that celebrate the conventions of that genre using 17th century northern European, 19th century North American, and 20th century painting paradigms.
The paintings in the Phoenix series also contain references to earlier works of mine. Phoenix 8, for instance, uses a piece of weathered cardboard upon which is attached a Kewpie doll and a rose. This is a direct reference to my 1971 painting Doll (shown below), a very large painting of a Kewpie doll flanked by two artificial roses on a background of weathered cardboard. In Phoenix 8, there is a painted photograph of the studio in which Doll was painted, and a second painted photograph of the original 1982 painting Handcuffs.
—John Hall, 2020
acrylic on canvas, 64" x 162"
Collection of the National Gallery of Canada
John Hall's career spans nearly 60 years, commencing with his 1965 graduation from the Alberta College of Art and a year in 1966 at Instituto Allende in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico Hall was introduced to the relatively new medium of acrylic paint by Ron Spicket during his undergraduate degree at ACA. As a young artist, he was keen to use this new medium though the Realist painters he admired all used oil paint. Determined to paint Realist still lifes in acrylic, Hall forged ahead and developed his own unique method for the medium. Always wanting to distance himself from pre-twentieth century European paintings, Hall felt that, “acrylic seem[ed] a decidedly North American medium and to use it is in some small way to position one’s work apart from paintings from the past that might ordinarily seem quite similar.”
As a result of his mastery of the acrylic medium, Hall’s paintings are easily recognizable—highly realistic, they lack any indication of the artist’s hand, and the quality of light all but glows off the canvas. Likened to an urban archaeologist, Hall’s works mine the rich complexity of contemporary urban life. Throughout his career Hall has focussed almost exclusively on still lifes—pop culture, trinkets, sweets, polished stones, objects found in domestic life… and the list goes on.
But for Hall, what is important is how the light falls on these objects. Early on in his career, Hall set up maquettes and painted exclusively from life. But it wasn’t long before he saw the promise in taking advantage of photography—he realised that the camera could capture the minute details, tonal shifts and light that the naked eye can’t always see. As the medium of photography evolved, so did Hall’s approach. Today he uses digital photography and Photoshop to manipulate compositions and adjust dramatic lighting before projecting the image onto canvas and outlining the composition in pencil.
Over time Hall has become incredibly skilled at trompe l’oeil. Initially he avoided this “deception” by painting in his typical hyper-realistic manner but in such large scale that his subjects could not be mistaken for the actual objects depicted. In more recent years, Hall has embraced the trick of the eye in his Framed series.
A professor of painting and drawing from 1971 to 1997 at the University of Calgary, Hall was awarded Professor Emeritus status in 1998. He also held academic positions at the Ohio Wesleyan University (1969 – 1970), the Alberta College of Art (1970 – 1971) and at the Okanagan University College in Kelowna (2003 – 2004). Hall was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1975 and in 1979 spent a year in New York working at the Canada Council’s PS1 studio. For a decade during the 1990s he and his wife, Joice lived and worked in San Miguel, Mexico for part of each year.
Hall’s work is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, Art Gallery of Ontario, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Winnipeg Art Gallery, Glenbow Museum, Art Gallery of Alberta, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Mendel Art Gallery, Kitchener/Waterloo Art Gallery, Confederation Art Gallery and Museum, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Memorial University Art Gallery, University College of Cape Breton Art Gallery, University of Calgary, Canada Council Art Bank, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. He is also represented in numerous corporate and private collections including Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, the Royal Bank and Cineplex Odeon, among others.
Over the course of his career, Hall has exhibited widely in Canada and internationally. Notable among his numerous solo exhibitions are John Hall: Paintings and Auxiliary Works at the National Gallery of Canada which toured nationally in 1979, and in 1993 a major retrospective, John Hall: Traza de Evidencia at Mexico City’s Museo de Arte Moderno. In 2016 to 2017, another major retrospective, Travelling Light: A forty-five year survey of paintings was shown both at the Kelowna Art Gallery and the Nickle Galleries in Calgary.
John Hall currently lives and works in Kelowna, British Columbia.