GORDON MCKINLEY WEBBER
oil on canvas
24 ins x 26.25 ins; 61 cms x 66.7 cms
An early influence on Gordon Webber were the contemporary Mexican muralism movements. He made several trips to Mexico in the 1930s, where he met with several Mexican artists and had the opportunity to study the frescoes and mural traditions. He returned with a sense of the rhythmic relationships between labour and the country, and the capacity for the social significance of painting: “Upon returning to Canada I realized for the first time that in our own country there is a different tempo of life and custom that we can develop as artists and teachers”.
Undoubtedly those lessons were quickly applied to his domestic work. Here we are shown a mythic scene of nation building among nature. A bright brick building of red and yellow is erected on a landscape characterised by muddy grey snow banks and bare, swirling trees. Workmen fade into the background, echoing both the gouged landscape and the manufactured materiality of brick and metal. Branching tendrils from a central tree stream across the canvas, stitching the disparate elements together in an all-embracing screen. This can be read as almost a pleading - the death throe of nature in the face of industry - or a Madonna-like maternal sacrifice to the progress and nation-building. Almost abstract in composition, Under Construction is an excellent example of Webber’s early interest in the social possibilities of art.
Family of the Artist, Kitchener, ON