The quintessential Bloore image may be the star burst circle. Mandalas abound in art and indeed in much of Bloore's art, but these radiating discs are almost a trademark. A number of them pop up here and there in this exhibition. But the very first and purest form of what he referred to as simply the "sun" motif is the one we see here and in three other paintings from the year 1960.
The precise order of their execution is a bit unclear. There is a 4 foot square with a single disc in the National Gallery dated June 1960. The similar, privately owned "White Sun Green Rim", also 4 feet by 4 feet, is listed in a number of exhibition catalogues only as 1960, which is also what it says on the back of this 2 foot by 4 foot "Study". The large 4 by 8 foot "Double Sun Painting", shown on the right, is in the estate collection and it has "May 1960" written clearly on the back. (The "title" is not.)
The double sun drawing at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, shown here on the left, and the nearly identical drawing at the Mackenzie Art Gallery are both just from 1960. But the single sun drawing at the Art Gallery of Peterborough is dated "Lac LaRonge July 1960." Bloore has said that that drawing was to be another Double Sun but he messed up the second disc, so he cut the paper in half, punched a hole in each corner and called it complete.
We can assume this study precedes the larger version. And the large double ante-dates the single rayed disc in Ottawa. The disc surrounded by a dark border is clearly a later development. So the first conception the artist had for using the motif was as a pair arranged horizontally, the singles happening later. This seems corroborated by the examples of so many double disc drawings - a third one is known to exist in a private collection in Toronto
So then this was the first of these very important paintings which hung everywhere from Vancouver to San Paolo, Brazil, from London, Ontario to London, England. All four of them hung at some point in the Dorothy Cameron Gallery in Toronto. Three of the four were included in the nationally travelled retrospective of 1974 because, as the curator of the exhibiton Ted Fraser wrote in his catalogue essay, "The sun pictures are magnificent works of art." The small double disc here in this show, unique in the group for its soft colouring, hung over the bed in the homes of Ronald Bloore and Dorothy Cameron.
So what happened? Fellow Regina painter and instructor of art at Regina College Art McKay was as struck by these circles as anyone. So he just started doing them too. Bloore was furious. He and the few other local abstractionist painters were often sharing tricks and techniques but you draw the line (so to speak) at stealing someones compositions. McKay thought they were different enough, which when viewed side by side was quite true. Indeed they shared very little in terms of content. But Bloore knew that their similarities would cause an association for viewers which would derail their direct experience. The format was conceived to not resemble anything they had seen before.
In 1961 McKay included a dark single mandala in the historic "Five Painters from Regina" show and it shared space amicably enough with the large white double sun and the AGGV double sun drawing (left). The exhibition which was toured by the National Gallery caused a sensation in Ottawa and all across the country. McKay then insisted on sticking with the discs and they were a great hit for him. Bloore had to seek out another direction, which he did and it was a great hit for him.