Esther Warkov: Paintings, 1960s-1980s

Esther Warkov, Canadian, b. 1941, Untitled, c. 1975–1980, oil on canvas, 107 x 61 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Gift of Judy and Phillip Adam, 2010-23 Photo: Leif Norman

The WAG presented Esther Warkov’s first solo exhibition in 1964. Since then, the Gallery has acquired nearly 50 works by Warkov, spanning her career as one of Manitoba’s most distinctive artists. In recent years the Gallery has received a number of Warkov’s large multi-panelled paintings, a body of work that earned her national attention beginning in the 1970s. This exhibition showcases one of her most celebrated and defining periods of creative production.

Subtly psychedelic, Warkov's stylized motifs reveal the influence of the Eastern European community into which she was born. Her motley scenes integrate a recurring and morphing array of images—townsfolk, historical figures, insects, and engine parts—appropriated from the old photographs, postcards, medical textbooks, and department store catalogues the artist scavenged from local junk shops and second-hand stores. 

Warkov’s refreshingly idiosyncratic paintings engage with matters of race, ethnicity, social history, and cultural memory. At the same time, her work does not correspond to specific intentions, revealing no coherent stories. “When most people look at my work,” Warkov told Maclean’s in 1977, “they want to know what the symbolism is—and the truth is I don’t have any.” In the absence of an encompassing narrative, Warkov invites the viewer to meander, as one might through a found box of nameless photographs, and simply revel in the partial, provisional, and ultimately inarticulate strangeness of her painted worlds.

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Esther Warkov (Canadian, b. 1941), Dreams of a Distant Summer, 1982–1983 oil on canvas 183 x 229 cm Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery; Acquired with funds from The Winnipeg Foundation, G-83-63 Photo: Leif Norman

Related Programs & Events

Past Programs & Events

  • Opening: Marc Chagall & Esther Warkov

    Join us to celebrate the opening of three new shows – Chagall: Daphnis & Chloé, Chagall & Winnipeg, and Esther Warkov: Paintings, 1960s-1980s

    Saturday, May 28, 2016 from 7pm to 10pm

  • Nuit Blanche 2016@WAG

    Unleash your inner night owl and head to the WAG for an epic Nuit Blanche celebration of contemporary art, music, dance, film, and more!

    Saturday, October 1, 2016 from 6pm to 4am

  • Weekend Drop-In Tours

    Saturdays & Sundays at 2pm.

    Saturday, November 18 to Sunday, April 29

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