Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Yesterday Norval Morrisseau passed away, leaving behind some of the most colourful and spiritual art of the mid to late 20th century. Admittedly I didn't know much about him and didn't follow the details of his life too closely, however, some of his vibrant paintings are familiar to me and have left an permanent mark on my imagination. To me his paintings are a physical manifestations of the world of dreams, where our bodies, minds and souls are inseparable from the rest of the universe.

What struck me most when learning more about Morrisseau was that he professed quite matter of factly that he has often dreamed in technicolour. Looking at his painting it is hard not to believe this . Like a Shaman gifted with true sight, he saw magnificent colour in his dreams that revealed new possibilities. All of this despite having endured the degradation of the Catholic residential school system as a young boy, and battling other demons throughout this life.

To me this is a wonderful metaphor for the type of vision we need more of in this century; the ability to see endless shades of vibrant colour and bold new textures despite of, and perhaps in defiance of the pain and suffering that accompanies this life. Too many of us retreat into the safety of a black and white landscape as the world around us becomes increasing more confusing and troubling.

To be gifted with technicolour dreams in this context is a true blessing. This gift may not be bestowed upon all of us, though sometimes when we squint and look closely at the beauty around us wild colours will momentarily drip onto our own canvass.

Morrisseau didn't have to squint though, the colours were an inseparable part of his spirit and imagination. For those of us cursed to dwell in a black and white world he fulfilled his destiny as the wild shaman, showing us bold new landscapes, bright possibilities and the importance of wild and fantastic dreams. This was his gift, offering us a glimpse of his own colourful universe.

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