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Murray - Bloore Interview, 1978

Relating to the Murray / Bloore interview, subjects in that text which are cream and turn blue are elaborated upon with some facts below. Those that turn red are commented on with opinions. The subjects here link back to the interview text.


How did you get to Regina?

This gets answered by Bloore in his usual manner, which is to say, in such a discursive and disjointed way that it is almost impossible to follow. Here is a chronology of some of the subjects.

At the end of high school Bloore enlisted in the armed forces to get out of Brampton. At the end of the war, having not gone overseas, Bloore was given tuition to university as a veteran.

1946-49 - U of Toronto, B.A.
1949-51 - New York U
1951-55 - Washington U in St. Louis, M.A.('53)
1955-57 - U of London, Courtauld Institute
1957-58 - teaching at U of Toronto
1958 - attends Museum Directors meeting as a prospective member
1958 - first white, first scraper, first non-representational painting
1958-66 - U of Regina and the MacKenzie Gallery
1961/05 - The May Show, hosts Museum Directors meeting
1961/11 - Five Regina painters in Ottawa, visiting Barney in New York
1962-63 - Painting and studying in Greece (along with Ted Godwin)
1966-86 - York U, with Doug Morton


My art historical background is overdone. It's absolutely overdone. I saw something in some English publication the other day and it said, ‘Erudite images'. So I called a whole series of paintings Byzantine Lights...

He means overused in interpreting his work. In no way did he feel his education was exaggerated or over valued in terms of how it informed his understanding of the making of art and the meanings expressible in art. He is opposed to his historical techniques being taken as historical references.

Again, Bloore's constant theme when talking about art, is that exclusive knowledge does not elevate art nor privilege its appreciation.


And then there's a point, whether you're going to go towards painting or you're going to go towards art history and I always play everything safe, very conservative. Regardless of my NDP membership.

When he decided he would be an artist, the first thing he was told, by his dear mother, was that there is no money art. That story is told in the Ron Moore interview. He'd need to play life safe in order to paint as he liked.


It's just like going through the sound barrier.

Bloore and his second wife, art dealer Dorothy Cameron, were wont to fly to Europe at the time of this interview on the Concorde supersonic.


I'm going to give a talk called “Giotto's Error”. The whole mistake of Western Art was made by Giotto: He painted the sky blue.

Terrence Heath summarizes and discusses this idea and the 1980 lecture itself in his 1990 Not Without Design catalog essay.

And there is nice description of this idea, with images, in the Knapik interview, also from 1990.


I don't know whether that person failed or not. The idea was to simply pass him on to somebody else and he'd never graduate. That kind of person - I knew from my experience in the United States - inevitably graduates. Same rationale: “get him out of my hair.” But that's all and well.

Bloore thought this was anything but “all and well” and he makes that obvious here while also making it clear that it is a subject not to be gone into in the interview. Probably best not here either.

By 1978 he had been fighting a losing battle against this problem at York for a dozen years. At that point it had become very difficult to give even the lowest grade student a low grade and by the time of his retirement in 1986 it was virtually impossible. And then things became much, much worse.


Somehow or other along the way, because I'd worked as staff at New York University for a while on one course [back in 1952]. In fact I was the first grad-year student [to lecture a] course at New York University. I didn't know what the hell I was getting into. Everybody came!

And here I throw up my hands. Even I who made a career of explaining to attentive, perceptive people that what Ron Bloore just said did make an interesting and amusing kind of sense and did in fact relate to the topic of conversation, must concede defeat on this one. If I ever hear the actual tape recording, and that is likely, I expect I can work it out.


They had some vaque knowledge of who I was. I said, “I have a wife and kid and I'm looking for a place to stay.” I ran into a white fag and [a blank stare].

He may have ran into a white FOG. But the transcription says fag. Both do fit but I'd have to say the latter is a better fit. If I ever hear the actual tape recording - and again, that is likely - I shall find out what he said and also what he said next and how close it was to my guess of “and a blank stare.”


He knows quite a bit about colour because when Greenberg came along he could buy it.

That is, Ken now supposedly knows about colour because he just bought into all of Clem's high-flown and misguided concepts about colour, the well-formulated and appealing ideas of a failed landscape painter turned critic.


Then I started to cancel the exhibitions. Wow - the lines burned between here and New York and Washington. I thought this is an academic institution - academic in a way - and we have a responsibility to offer people a multiplicity of choice. Not straight down the bloody line. I got a little bit difficult, a little ecstatic - had to go see my old friendly druggist and get some tranquilizers from under the counter to survive. It was pretty rough. You don't take on that without complications. The senator thought the whole roof was going to fall in on him. We have met two or three times. Those are nasty stories, some of them. Best to forget about them. Ten or fifteen years later they are fun.

In 1978, fifteen or so years later, in Toronto Bloore plays down the Washington angle, though he does at least mention it, and completely skips the Toronto one. There is a deeper but narrower look at this issue is in Heath's Not Without Design essay, Chapter Two. It omits those two factors entirely, and wisely.

As a director and curator Bloore had not encouraged the Social Realism that was favoured by the current socialist Saskatchewan government because it was propagandistic. Bloore was then, and to his dying day, a democratic socialist and he was pleased to be part of Regina's “progressive” political experiment. But Social Realism, he knew, was an utterly regressive movement artistically.

Washington - and we do not mean here Washington University nor Washington State. We are now talking about Washington DC - was in those days gung-ho on the New York School of Abstract Expressionism. Getting this influence inside Tommy Douglas's Regina and into the grass roots art culture at Emma Lake was, they believed, in their national interest. But as the gallery director made abundantly clear, he would not hand over his entire exhibition schedule to a single, foreign, highly questionable and narrow art theory. It amounted to propaganda of another sort.

The workshops at Emma Lake were always in Ken Lochhead's hands. And by that point Lochhead was in Greenberg's hands. He and McKay were highly touted by Clem and included in his big - and it turned out, only - show, mounted in Los Angeles and Toronto. Bloore knew the workshops would now flounder in productive mediocrity.

But he would not compromise his gallery. He declined offers of post-painterly abstractions that could be purchased at below market value. He was told he would never be shown anywhere in New York if he insisted on this, and he never was. And he was told that he would also never be shown at the Art Gallery of Toronto which was New York controlled, and he never was, even though he lived in Toronto and painted there for the last 43 years of his life.


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