Gathie Falk

About the Artist

Gathie Falk is an innovative artist whose artworks draw upon the objects and activities of everyday life. ‘The  venerationThe act of venerating, or the state of being venerated; the highest degree of respect and reverence; respect mingled with awe; a feeling or sentimental excited by the dignity, wisdom, or superiority of a person, by sacredness of character, by consecration to sacred services, or by hallowed associations. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of the ordinary’ is the phrase often used to talk about her work. Her versatility, ambition and talent as an artist are evident through the acclaim she has received through her work in sculpture, painting, ceramics,  installationAn art work specially designed to fit in or to make use of a specific type of space. It usually consists of more than one element and relates to the space in which it is displayed.  and  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  art.

Falk was born in Alexander, Manitoba, in 1928. This was shortly after her German-speaking Russian Mennonite parents immigrated to Canada to escape religious persecution. She was ten months old when her father died of pneumonia, leaving the family destitute. Writer Elissa Barnard quotes  curatorAn individual or group, who conceives an idea for an art exhibition, selects the art works, plans how they will be displayed and writes accompanying supporting materials for the ideas presented. A curator can work freelance or be affiliated with a gallery, and serves as the link between artists and gallery.  Bruce Grenville‘s summation of Falk‘s early years: ”It was a childhood filled with great struggles and hardships to find ways to survive. “(Barnard, 2001) The upside of her early experiences, John Bentley Mayes writes, is that “…she will probably never lose the cheek and idealism that growing up poor on the prairies gave her and her art.” (Mayes, 1990)

At age sixteen Falk started working in a packing plant during the day, completing high school by correspondence in the evenings. When she was nineteen the family moved to Vancouver, British Columbia where Falk worked in a luggage factory and enrolled in teacher training. From 1953 to 1965 Falk taught elementary school and was able to begin her formal education in art at the University of British Columbia. Her early influences were artists Emile Nolde and Ernst Kirchner. She received a Bachelor’s degree with a double major in  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  and ceramics.

In 1962 Falk started exhibiting her paintings in group shows, and in 1965 she had her first  solo exhibitionA public showing of artwork by one artist.  at the Canvas Shack in Vancouver. At the age of forty, Falk decided to became a full-time artist and began a career that beat all odds. In 1966 she switched her practice from  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  to  ceramicPottery or hollow clay sculpture fired at high temperatures in a kiln or oven to make them harder and stronger. Types include earthenware, porcelain, stoneware, and terra cotta. (Artlex.com)   sculptureA three-dimensional work of art, or the art of making it. Such works may be carved, modeled, constructed, or cast. Sculptures can also be described as assemblage, in the round, and relief, and made in a huge variety of media. A sculptor is one who creates sculptures. (artlex.com)  and was influenced by Pop and  FunkAn art movement in the 1950’s and 60’s that grew from a reaction against abstract expressionism. In California, the Funk Art movement was embraced by clay artists who were instrumental in moving clay from it’s traditionally functionally role to that of a sculptural art form. Artists often combined a play on words (puns), the popular culture and their own environments as inspiration for their often humorous imagery.  art, as well as the pottery of Bernard Leach. In 1968, Falk was introduced to  performanceAn art form in which the actions of a person or group in a particular place at a particular time constitute the artwork; all works of performance art therefore incorporate time, space, the performer’s body, and the relationship between performer and viewer.  art by dancer Deborah Hay and for the following nine years she created and performed fifteen different ‘theatre art’ performances in venues across the country.

Falk has had numerous commissions, and her paintings and sculptures have been exhibited in many major exhibitions. Her works are included in many public collections. In 1990 Falk won the Gershon Iskowitz prize for her contribution to Canadian art, and in 1997 she became a Member of the Order of Canada. A  retrospectiveAn exhibition of work by a senior artist representing all the stages of the artist’s career.  exhibition of her work, organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada, toured Canada in 2000-2002.


Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning