Regional Identity

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Early Mercantile Setting
Gorenko, pictorial, pictorial style, border, minimal, horizon, shapes, silhouette, outline, town, communal landscape, geometric, square, red, line, painting, acrylic, oil, wood panel, simplified form, prairie landscape, satire, frame, regional, regional identity, 2D art, two-dimensional , shapes, horizon, landscape, painting, symbols,

This work is an excellent example of Gorenko’s  pictorialOf or pertaining to pictures; illustrated by pictures; forming pictures; representing with the clearness of a picture; as, a pictorial dictionary; a pictorial imagination. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  style. While he has removed detail and provides us with a minimal composition, he nevertheless manages to convey a legible, comprehensible image.

In Early Mercantile Setting, a blue-tinted square floats in the middle of a red square. The hazy blue square, with crooked and clumsy edges set against the starkness of the red border, contains further shapes; three rectangles, with other shapes bent into them, sit on what we may presume to be a horizon.

Given the work’s title, this image conjures memories and impressions of settlement, and of commerce. The three shapes act as silhouetted buildings, even though they are outlines, and each bears its own mark and particular shape, not unlike the various storefronts of a small town.

Significantly, Gorenko has placed these buildings - if we are willing to see them as such - in, effectively, the “middle of nowhere.” Nothing surrounds them but the hazy blue and red fields and the  lineA mark with length and direction(-s). An element of art which refers to the continuous mark made on some surface by a moving point. Types of line include: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, straight or ruled, curved, bent, angular, thin, thick or wide, interrupted (dotted, dashed, broken, etc.), blurred or fuzzy, controlled, freehand, parallel, hatching, meandering, and spiraling. Often it defines a space, and may create an outline or contour, define a silhouette; create patterns, or movement, and the illusion of mass or volume. It may be two-dimensional (as with pencil on paper) three-dimensional (as with wire) or implied (the edge of a shape or form). (  of the horizon. Gorenko has managed to synthesize our stereotypes of prairie life, paradoxically suggesting cohesion within isolation.
It is this cohesion, of family, community, town, etc., that made prairie survival possible during settlement. In Saskatchewan, the socialist tendency common on the prairies is particularly important as it led to the creation of such things as the Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and public health care. It may be no coincidence, then, that Gorenko chooses to place his buildings in the middle of a large red square, a  symbolVisual image that represents something else.  of socialism for decades in politics and art.  (See Kazimir Malevic at Wikipedia for further examples.) Gorenko has therefore created a wry artwork that images the location of capitalist (“mercantile”) values within a communal landscape, and where advertising and business are surrounded by our need to rely on each other.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Using only the very simple shapes of rectangle, triangle, and circle, what images can you create? Do these geometric forms make it easier to produce images of buildings and machines, or of people?
Online Activity
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Have you ever heard the phrase "a prairie icon"? The image in the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (  here is considered to be one, although very few exist now. Join the dots to see the complete image.  Make sure to start with number 1, and work your way through in numerical order!

Studio Activity
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Describe and draw using text messaging

Work in pairs

  • Your choices are to describe one of the images shown here, choose a painting from anywhere on the ARTSask website, or find one from an alternate source.

In your message consider:

  • location
  • colours
  • season
  • view (close up, middle distance, or long shot)
  • background, middleground and foreground
  • Do not use judgment phrases (for example, this is “cool”) but try to be specific.  Like Gorenko, you are practising economy, only with words instead of with paint.
  • Exchange your messages. Do not show the image you have chosen to your partner.  Next, using the description given to you by your partner, draw or paint the image as you imagine it, as described to you by the text.


Early Mercantile Setting

Gorenko presents prairie landscape in a simplified cartoon-like style. You might describe his way of  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (  and painting as one using economy. In the painting featured here, there are just a few lines and colours, and yet he is able to convey with very little a  conceptAn idea, thought, or notion conceived through mental activity. The words concept and conception are applied to mental formulations on a broad scale. (  and idea about what “prairie” has represented in the past, and still does represent for many people today.


Author unknown.  The Art Bank visits the Prairies.  News Releases, Canada Council, September 4-28, 2001.  Retrieved from the Internet on July 28, 2008 from:

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