Norval Morrisseau explained his understanding of the spiritual world and its many planes of existence this way: “There is a museum of the astral world that each individual goes to by his own free choice…to pick up some energy.… All the things that men will create are already up there.” Morrisseau also described this place as a “House of Inventions” and believed that he visited astral planes where spirits guided him to intuitively conceive of his paintings.


Art Canada Institute, Norval Morrisseau, Observations of the Astral World, c. 1994
Norval Morrisseau, Observations of the Astral World, c. 1994
Acrylic on canvas, 236 x 514 cm, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

In this painting, the many ideas of personal and spiritual transformation that Morrisseau explored during his career culminate in a mature visual style. In the spheres or bubbles that encapsulate the different astral planes of this composition are the iconic images of animals, plants, humans, shamans, and spirit-beings that Morrisseau always painted. However, the clear lines and light-coloured palette are hallmarks of his later style, which, as art dealer Don Robinson notes, gives “viewers an overall impression of peace, harmony and the existence of a unified life force.” A calm has descended on this painting that reflects the sense of quiet that the artist achieved in his sixties and seventies. Morrisseau has found balance in his personal life, and this symmetrical painting attests to that fact.


This Spotlight is excerpted from Norval Morrisseau: Life & Work by Carmen Robertson.

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