In 1971, only two years after the first moon landing, Paterson Ewen (1925–2002) painted Solar Eclipse. It is one of the first explicitly celestial pieces he produced and one of many uncommon celestial objects he chose to depict; others include the constellation of Pegasus (though only the four stars that form the quadrangle part of the constellation), Comet Morehouse, galactic cannibalism, and solar eruptions. Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), one of Ewen’s favourite artists, likely inspired his use of astronomical subjects. Van Gogh painted many night skies, including his most famous, The Starry Night, 1889.


Paterson Ewen, Solar Eclipse, 1971
Paterson Ewen, Solar Eclipse, 1971
Acrylic on gouged plywood, 121.9 x 243.8 cm, Vancouver Art Gallery

Solar Eclipse is Ewen’s first gouged plywood work. As the story goes, he took a four-by-eight-foot sheet of plywood and started carving circles into it using hand tools with the intention of producing a large woodcut print. As he inked the wood, however, he realized that he did not have to do anything further: Ewen had created a new hybrid medium combining relief sculpture, painting, and printmaking, with which he is now uniquely identified.


This Spotlight is excerpted from Paterson Ewen: Life & Work by John G. Hatch.

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