Special Web Site Ensures Lasting Legacy for William Kurelek: The Messenger

While most art exhibitions have a limited life span of only a few months, thanks to the Department of Canadian Heritage, the William Kurelek: The Messenger exhibit will live on at www.kurelek.ca for at least five years as a captivating resource for the public, in particular students, educators, and researchers. While the exhibition has been a collaborative effort with the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Art Gallery of Victoria, the WAG spearheaded the bilingual web site project and is proud to announce that it is now up and running.

“This is the first time the WAG has had a companion website to an exhibition, and we are very excited about the possibilities it opens up,” says Director Stephen Borys. “William Kurelek: The Messenger is the largest Kurelek exhibition ever mounted, and with the web site people now have the opportunity to see works that have rarely or never been publically exhibited in Canada at the click of a mouse.”

Borys adds that the WAG is also developing a separate website for its 2012 centenary.

Andrew Kear, WAG Curator of Historical Canadian Art, speaks for his co-curators Mary Jo Hughes (AGGV) and Tobi Bruce (AGH). “We are thrilled that people across the country, indeed around the world, even if they are unable to physically attend the exhibition, will have unfettered access to what we hope is a thoughtful, and perhaps even controversial, selection artist’s most important paintings.”

The web site is home to more than 80 paintings, a complete representation of the physical exhibition which is touring Canada in 2011-2012. The site renders all the images in high resolution with the ability to zoom in on the rich detail that is characteristic of Kurelek’s work. Within each gallery, select images have hot spots with additional text and imagery that enriches the experience. Most importantly perhaps, there is a discussion button allowing visitors to leave comments about their impressions of the art work serving as a conduit for expression and dialogue.

Aside from the art work itself, the web site is a rich resource which includes a 1975 interview Kurelek had with the late Winnipeg author, historian, and educator Michael Ewanchuk. This 90-minute recording, courtesy of University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections, includes fascinating reminiscences of Kurelek’s childhood in Alberta and Manitoba, as well as his later time in England.

The web site also houses a video of Kurelek’s unique home basement studio, as well as a video trailer for the The Maze: The Story of William Kurelek, a 30-minute documentary by filmmaker Robert Young. Originally completed in 1970, it is being reissued as William Kurelek’s The Maze in an expanded and re-mastered form. Its Canadian premiere takes place Thursday, October 13 at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

An interactive timeline with personal photos and milestones are sure to fascinate and educate. The Look and Learn section of the web site provides an educational resource for elementary and middle school students and teachers. It engages with a particular series of prairie paintings, The Ukrainian Pioneer, through a variety of activities, prepared questions, and maps.

William Kurelek, born in Alberta, grew up Stonewall which he later called his “spiritual home” and his first major solo exhibition was held here at the WAG in 1966. The exhibit covers many divergent topics. Andrew Kear comments, “What makes Kurelek’s art so special is that it was and remains at once polarizing and accessible. His output is, simply put, disarming. Some of his paintings induce a sense of horror and revulsion, others cultivate nostalgic, almost childlike, reverie, and a few actually manage both at once! He was one of those rare artists who could captivate everyone from the artistically uninitiated to the director of New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Audiences won’t always agree with, or even like, what they see in Kurelek’s art, but they also won’t be able to ignore it. Kurelek is unforgettable.”

William Kurelek: The Messenger is generously sponsored by the Department of Canadian Heritage; Manitoba Culture, Heritage and Tourism; Mayberry Fine Art; Ukrainian Canadian Foundation of Taras Shevchenko; Wasyl Topolnicky Memorial Foundation, Inc.; Pattison Outdoor Advertising; and Hot 103.
 

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