Living Out West & Magiciens de la Terre

Life in British Columbia

In 1989, Morrisseau is living out west in British Columbia with his adopted son Gabe Vadas.  He also meets Cory Dingle, a young student at the time, who becomes close friends with the artist. Today, Dingle is the director of the Morrisseau Estate.

Morrisseau was chosen to represent Canada along with artists Jeff Wall and Paulosee Kunilusee in a global exhibition mounted in Paris called Magicien de la Terre. Morrisseau visits Paris during the exhibition, sponsored by INAC/DFAIT, and accompanied by Gabe Vadas.


Magiciens de la Terre

Magiciens de la Terre was curated by Jean-Hubert Martin, who selected over 100 artists globally chosen for the exhibition.

Canada was represented by Norval Morrisseau, Paulosee Kuniliusee, and Jeff Wall.

This photo was published in the retrospective catalogue (p.179) and comes from the Estate Collection.

Magiciens de la Terre argued for the universality of the creative impulse and endeavoured to offer direct aesthetic experience of contemporary works of art made globally and presented on equal terms.

Magiciens de la Terre, Installation shot, Centre George Pompidou

… the progressive transformation of Magiciens de la Terre – from an exhibition that, in 1989, only claimed to be “international,” into a global forum of debates – forces us to examine it through a much more complex lens than at first appeared, because it addresses the symbolic production, the geopolitical order and the intellectual comprehension of our world altogether.

For more information take a look at the exhibition's website: Annie Cohen-Solal

Installation view of two works by Morrisseau in Magiciens de la Terre, Life Regenerating and The Great Flood, 1989.

Installation view of two works by Morrisseau in Magiciens de la Terre, Life Regenerating and The Great Flood, 1989.

Catalogue page from Magiciens de la Terre (1989), p. 205.

    This painting was displayed at Magiciens de la Terre in Paris in 1989. The work demonstrates the connections between sacred water beings.

    The trout in the centre of the painting is carrying eggs and connected to turtle, loons, and other water fowl, linked through line and energy bundles.

    Norval Morrisseau, Life Regenerating, 1977.

    Norval Morrisseau, The Great Flood (Design for City Hall Mural Competition), 1976.

    This work was also titled The Great Flood 1975 and appeared in the 1979 publication The Art of Norval Morrisseau.

    Morrisseau created this work as a maquette for a large mural competition for Toronto City Hall. Although he was unsuccessful, they purchased this work.

    It was displayed in Paris at the Magiciens de la Terre exhibition in 1989. This striking piece displays aki and nebi with sacred beings and animals interconnected through line and colour.

    Don Robinson visited Morrisseau in White Rock, BC. in 1990 and signed him with the Kinsman Robinson Gallery, in Toronto, ON. Kinsman Robinson represented Morrisseau for the remainder of his life.

    Robinson mounted an exhibition of the artist’s intensely colourful works, and Morrisseau travelled to Toronto to attend the event. Kinsman Robinson published two books and several exhibition catalogues of Morrisseau’s work before the gallery closed in 2022.

    Though suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Morrisseau continued to paint with the aid of apprentices through the 1990s.

    Exhibition Catalogue for Travels to the House of Invention, Kinsman Robinson Gallery, 1991.

    Norval Morrisseau, Grandfather Sharing Stories with All Living Beings, 1989.

    In this drawing that uses line to communicate story, completed late in Morrisseau’s career, the artist continues to foreground the importance of intergenerational storytelling.

    Norval Morrisseau, Onaman Legend, 1989.

    While Morrisseau only uses red and black inks in this late-career drawing, he conveys the spiritual significance of the onaman as well as the coloured sands from the story he shared in his 1965 book Legends of My People. Thunderbird is pictured transporting the beaver, puncturing its body with the blood spilling onto the sand below. Morrisseau includes energy lines between the wings of Thunderbird and the mountains.

    Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Giants Travelling), 1989.

    This drawing, completed late in his life expresses many of the storytelling elements Morrisseau used early in his career. During this period the artist includes more detailed visual descriptions of place, including mountains and trees, and uses a greater depth of field.

    Drawn in registers, at the bottom of the drawing he includes sacred fish, on the land, shaking tents and ancestor figures and above are giant figures with shamanic hair adornments who tower over the mountains and connect to the sky.

      Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Phallic Shaman), 1989.

      Morrisseau presents a shaman with a powerful phallis that is surrounded by seven phallic symbols connected by line and colour. The background includes the two shades of blue to visually express the spiritual nature of this union.

      Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Grandfather Snake Water), 1990.

      Painted late in his career, the horned serpent displays many of the same attributes of the horned serpents that Morrisseau created forty years earlier.

      In this later version, Morrisseau creates a waterscape with islands and ancestors in canoes. In the far left of the painting the artist includes a tent and a Grandfather-shaman and youngster communicating with the medicine snake.

      Norval Morrisseau, In Honor of Native Motherhood, 1990.

      Morrisseau often celebrated the significance of motherhood in his art. This work, painted in the 1990s expresses the powerful bonds that resonate through all humanity and beyond.

      Norval Morrisseau, In Honor of Native Motherhood, 1990.

      Morrisseau included a description on the back of this canvas to help express the work’s meaning:

      "Mother and Child motif: In Honor to all Native Motherhood

      and Grandson.

      To all First Nations People’s is a gift of spirit.

      Teach these Little One’s, Elders.

      For we as Elders must learn there Childlike simplicity."

      Handwritten explanation in pencil on back of painting, Norval Morrisseau 1990

        Why am I alive? To heal you guys who’re more screwed up than I am.

        Norval Morrisseau in Christopher Hume, “Morrisseau’s New Colors Dazzle,” Toronto Star, 7, 1991.

        Norval Morrisseau, Flowers Yellow Birds, 1991.

        Painted later in his life, this colourful work celebrates kinship ties between birds and flowers.

        Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Two Men Blues), 1991.

        During the final years of his career, Morrisseau continued to explore sacred and sexual relations. This work includes the two shades of sacred blues gifted to Morrisseau and in this work, a sacred bear transformation is part of this union.

        In this painting created in the early 1990s, Morrisseau returns to the concept of love medicine, and depicts male and female union. The figures are enveloped with flora and fauna. The background colour shifts from darker to lighter blues–acknowledging the sacred colours gifted to the artist.

        Norval Morrisseau, Untitled (Male and Female Blues), 1991.

        Norval Morrisseau, Grandfather Tells of Giant Bear, 1992.

        Morrisseau paints the giant, sacred bear late in his career. Living on the west coast, Morrisseau places the white bear nestled in the mountains. A family, situated below the bear and mountains, is involved in ceremony within a tent, surrounded by ancestral figures.

        Pulsating with colour, Morrisseau combines spiritual teachings in the paintings created later in his career. In Thunderbird Man Child Yellow Portal Red, the Thunderbird is seen transporting the man and child to an astral portal. The sphere that frames the beings connects the birds, fish and animals.

        Norval Morrisseau, Thunderbird Man Child Yellow Portal Red, 1993.

        Photograph by Fred Cattroll, permission granted by Indigenous Art Centre Collection, CIRNAC, Ottawa, ON.

        Photograph of Norval Morrisseau surrounded by his collections of art and collected possessions in 1997.

        Norval Morrisseau, Thunderbird and Canoe in Flight, Norval on Scooter, 1997.

        This painting was completed late in Morrisseau’s career when he was suffering from Parkinson’s and includes a small cameo of himself seated on a scooter. Morrisseau also includes a red VW bug in this painting–one of the only paintings that include vehicles.

        Morrisseau includes a number of his earlier motifs such as Thunderbird, and the birchbark canoe that is often seen in his paintings about migration. We also find sacred fish moving from one spiritual realm to another.

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