Canadian High Commission
London SW1Y 5BJ
Wednesday March 16 2016
Today’s return trip had been arranged to fit within two galleries’ opening times so we met, as last week, on the steps of Canada House’s Gallery which lies to the side and handily opposite the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. Before we were allowed in we had to go through airport type security with a baggage control and security arch – no sniffer dogs or patting down though.
The whole of Canada House has had a ‘makeover’ and apparently the public can have a conducted tour to the rest of the premises via booked visits on a Friday afternoon ; we were informed of this as someone, clearly Canadian, came through the gallery to exit.
For us today this was the only access allowed, but with a nice bench and a high quality exhibition guide we were very happy. The dozen or so paintings were all of women by a woman – the featured artist Marion Wagschal – although born in Trinidad her surname betrays the German refugee status of her parents and a move to Canada in 1951 validates the exhibition here and she has very much been claimed as a Canadian feminist artist.
The room has six large canvases and a group of six smaller ones – these are portrait heads while the larger ones are full length. The only picture which left us luke warm was that entitled ‘Tales of the Schwarzwald as told by my Mother’: it looked dream-like and as in many dreams rather jumbled and hard to interpret. (Where’s Freud when you need him? In Hampstead.) The portraits are unflinching but not unkind and show real rather than idealised subjects, mainly women – in fact it was almost as though we recognised them as ‘old friends’... The catalogue notes compare her to both Lucien Freud and james Ensor and this seemed very valid. Jo liked the ‘Song for a dead Coyote’ whereas I rated both ‘Sleep’ and ‘Death’ (clearly the same person – her mother?) and the commanding presence of the subject in ‘Woman with Still Life’ .