In 1958, Ronald Bloore, a painter and art historian, was appointed director of the Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan. The gallery had opened five years earlier as part of Regina College. Bloore stayed there seven years before returning to Toronto. An active advanced-art scene had already begun to develop in the city, made unique by the Emma Lake Workshops. These workshops had been initiated in 1955 by Kenneth Lochhead, director of the art school at Regina College...
[In 1961], Bloore organized an exhibition at the Norman Mackenzie to show the work of five Regina painters Lochhead, Art McKay, Ted Godwin, Doug Morton, and himself and an architect, Clifford Wiens. This exhibition, minus Wiens's contributions, was circulated by the National Gallery as “Five Painters from Regina.” It brought these artists to national attention and showed that, in awareness and quality, their work was as challenging as that being done anywhere in the country.
White Line Painting No.2 1962, 122x199cm, National Gallery of Canada
(A photo of this painting accompanies this text in Burnett’s book)
The Regina Five were a group because of where they lived and because of the experimentation of their work, but not by adherence to a common program. Such a notion would have been unthinkable to Bloore who, for more than thirty years, has pursued a rigorous and personal direction. In his catalogue statement for “Five Painters from Regina” he wrote: “I am not aware of any intention while painting with the exception of making a preconceived image function formally as a painting. By this I mean that the appearance of each work has been consciously determined in my mind before executing it, and the general concept is not significantly altered by the requirements of material limitations.”
Painting No.11 1969, 122x244cm, National Gallery of Canada
This was striking at two levels, particularly in the context of the time. First, the idea of beginning with a “preconceived image” went against the current notion of intuitive expression. Second, for most abstract painters, the activity of painting was a determining factor in the outcome of a work. Bloore's position is underscored by his repeated contention that nothing new in painting has been achieved since Cimabue, the great master of the Italian thirteenth century, in the sense that all the essential issues about painting as such had been formulated by that time.
Bloore set rigorous parameters within which to work: a surely constructed abstraction limited in colour - white, blue, red, but above all, white and using with it a simple range of geometric forms. Many of his paintings comprise only linear forms; others include stars, circles, arches, or triangles, forms he has described as “symbol-like elements,” not because he proposes specific meaning by them but because they are forms deeply embedded in the history of art. In structural terms, he has been greatly influenced by architectural forms, particularly those of ancient civilizations, whose currency has never been devalued.
Untitled 1990, 244x366cm, National Gallery of Canada
NOTES: The first three reproductions above were produced by the National Gallery. They have eleven Bloore works. Such extremely high quality photography is no small achievement and they are to be thanked and commended. The last photo was taken by Eberhart Otto for the catalog of the touring exhibition Not Without Design.