Honorary degree citation - Paterson Ewen*
By: Sandra Paikowsky, June 1989
Mr. Chancellor, I have the honour to present to you, the eminent Canadian painter, Paterson Ewen. Mr. Ewen occupies a unique position in the contemporary art milieu of this country. He has won the admiration and respect of the entire Canadian art community for his achievement and his commitment.
In a word, he has revitalized the tradition of Canadian landscape painting by turning nature inside out. And through his images of the cosmic laws of nature beyond our control, we can begin to understand our own place in the world. Ewen's evocative and emotionally charged images of natural phenomena provide us with both the richness of the pure visual experience and the resonance of the life of the spirit.
Born and raised in Montreal, Mr. Ewen studied art at McGill under John Lyman and at the School of Art and Design with Goodridge Roberts. Here, in the 1940's, he was introduced to the ambitions of modern art. Throughout the next two decades, he joined forces with Montreal's Automatiste and Plasticien movements and shared in their investigation of abstract art. His work of the 1950's and '60's shows a restless exploration of abstraction's plastic means. Yet allusions to the presence of the landscape can be readily seen in the organic structures and the tactile surfaces of these early works.
In the 1970's, after moving to London, Ontario, his painting on large, gouged plywood sheets led him to a return to figuration and a new resolved subject: meteorological phenomena. Paterson Ewen's emphatic colour, intentionally awkward drawing and eccentric compositions create a world of noise, energy and light. And we joyously share in the painter's atavistic response to nature. His wonderment at the world beyond our immediate grasp evokes, within each of us, the memory of our own childhood discoveries of the natural and cosmic universe.
Mr. Ewen has been the subject of several national retrospective exhibitions. Most recently, one dealt with the work since the 1970's and another, which was shown at the Concordia Art Gallery, dealt with his Montreal years. Both are testament to the remarkable vision of Paterson Ewen.
Mr. Chancellor, it is a privilege to present to you, on behalf of the Senate and by the authority of the Board of Governors, Paterson Ewen, so that you may confer on him the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa.