Wanda Koop, Standing Wishtanding, 2020, acrylic on canvas, 50.8 × 40.6 cm, courtesy of the artist, Photo: William Eakin, © Wanda Koop
Wanda Koop: Lightworks
May 21 – October 30, 2022
Wanda Koop (b. 1951) is one of Canada’s leading painters, her works appearing in the galleries of Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles, New York and Houston. Though she has had a more than forty-year career as an artist, the presentation at the McMichael catches Koop in a late-career moment of glory as she continues on her bold path of experimentation. Based in Winnipeg, Koop has created a body of work that attests to her astute observations of contemporary life, responding to such issues as climate change, Indigenous land rights, and the digital media environment in which we are immersed, as well as the transcendent beauty of the natural world.
Since her earliest days, Koop’s work has engaged with abstraction, as she stripped away inessential detail to create strikingly pared down compositions and combinations of colour. In her more recent paintings, though, Koop is increasingly exploring colour and light as subjects in themselves, masterfully engineering her canvases through the application of dozens of layers of deftly controlled pigment. The resulting surfaces seem to glow from within, suggesting euphoric states of vision.
Through the arrangement of these recent works into an ensemble of rare beauty, Koop introduces visitors to realms of light as never before, offering a rare glimpse into her deepest sources of inspiration. In addition to her paintings on canvas, the exhibition also includes two of her new Light Sticks installations—suites of long, thin, shaped works that bear strips of intense colour and patterning, arranged sculpturally against the wall—a breakthrough by the artist into the third dimension.
“Throughout her dazzling career, audiences have come to know Koop primarily as a figurative artist,” says Chief Curator Sarah Milroy. “But abstraction is a painter’s language that runs throughout all of Koop’s works. This show explores her recent push even deeper into the frontier of pure colour and light. Here we see Koop creating layers of colour to bottomless effect, evoking expanses of light that evoke her euphoric experience of the beauty of nature.”
Wanda Koop: Lightworks is curated by McMichael Chief Curator Sarah Milroy. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with contributions from Milroy, award-winning novelist Miriam Toews and director and Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Müller. The latest in the McMichael expanding lineup of award-winning publications, Lightworks also features photography of Koop’s studio space by William Eakin.