Joyner’s Canadian Art Auction

May 25, 2012

LOT 138

Lot 138


Lot 138 Details


mixed media on Harumi paper
signed with the artist’s stamp and dated April 8, 1987 - Sept 27, 1987, enclosed within the artist’s frame
77 ins x 48 ins; 192.5 cms x 120 cms

Estimate $25,000-$30,000

Realised: $42,480
Price Includes Buyer's Premium ?

Lot Report


Wynick/Tuck Gallery, Toronto.
Private Collection, Toronto.


Robert Fones, “When Form Becomes Content: Remarks on Three Works by Greg Curnoe”, M5V #1, 1991.
Sarah Milroy, “Greg Curnoe: Time Machines”, Greg Curnoe: Life & Stuff, Toronto, 2001, page 101.
David W. McFadden, “In a Sentimental Mood”, Excerpt from an interview with Missing Jacket #1 [David Collins], October 1995.
Dennis Reid and Matthew Teitelbaum, Greg Curnoe: Life & Stuff, Toronto, 2001, page 99 for a colour reproduction of “A List of Directors” and “Dubs” (9 April 1987).
Greg Curnoe, Interview with Artviews [Fred Gaysek] about the I Tell Stories exhibition, December 1987.


I Tell Stories, YYZ, Toronto, November 25-December 19, 1987.
Greg Curnoe: Recent Works, Wynick/Tuck Gallery, April 6-27, 1991.


In an article discussing Wynick/Tuck’s exhibition of Curnoe’s work in 1991, Robert Fones describes that in works such as “Dessin Anime”, “the rubber-stamp letters used [are] resurrected from Curnoe’s work of the 1960s, [and] have a close affinity with printing type…Black ink is applied to reversed type and an impression made on paper. As a result, these texts convey literary content more effectively than Curnoe’s painted letter works.” Sarah Milroy also references the artist’s return to large-format stamp works, which were “made with the same custom set he had used in his earlier lettered works for Sao Paulo.” Curnoe had exhibited a fantastic array of lettered canvases at the 1969 X Bienial in Brazil. Milroy notes that in the 1980s “the old magic, it seems, was still in [the stamps].”

“Dessin Anime” is a list of twelve cartoon character names, aligned flush left on thickly painted Harumi paper. Here, Curnoe proves his mastery of media, experimenting with watercolour, stamp pad ink, gouache, pastel and pencil crayon. He uses these media on a grand scale typically reserved for works on canvas. Four dates in 1987 inscribed in pencil suggest that the artist returned to “Dessin Anime” on four separate occasions, reworking his composition. Atop the stamped letters, Curnoe writes the names of animators of each of the cartoons, listing such notables as Herce, Tex Avery and Ub Iwerks (creator of Mickey Mouse). David McFadden recalled that his friend Curnoe, “liked film noir and Louise Brooks and animated cartoons from the forties, particularly Daffy Duck…[Greg] was always making lists…lists of things he liked.” A second work in this series now housed at the Art Gallery of Ontario is “A List of Directors & Dubs” (1987); it includes twelve film director names, many working in the film noir genre. A third work in this series entitled “Before Marks” (1987) lists twelve pigment names, the title referring to the completion of the work before blue paint marks were streaked across the surface of the paper. His list cleverly examines the origins of pigments, with small blue handwritten text that highlights their main ingredients or personal associations for the artist.

Greg Curnoe commented on this 1987 series, noting the viewer’s double process of reading and seeing: “I was brought up on comic books and children books with captions. It was so natural for me to associate type and text with a picture…By using a stamp set of big letters and also by using a sans serif typeface, I have made the text awkward to read...The letter’s stick out, they don’t disappear. It makes you look and read at the same time. You can’t just take it in, partly because the letters are very large…”

“Dessin Anime” underscores Curnoe’s signature translation of the commonplace into the extraordinary. He painted the details of his environment, revealing his personal history and impassioned belief in the inseparability of life and art.


For condition information please contact the specialist.

LOT 138

About Condition Ratings

  • 5 Stars: Excellent - No discernable damage, flaws or imperfections
  • 4 Stars: Very Good - Minor flaws or imperfections visible only under close inspection using specialised instruments or black light
  • 3 Stars: Good - Minor flaws visible upon inspection under standard lighting
  • 2 Stars: Fair - Exhibits flaws or damage that may draw the eye under standard lighting
  • 1 Star: Poor - Flaws or damage immediately apparent under standard lighting (examples: missing components, rips, broken glass, damaged surfaces, etc.)

Note: Condition ratings and condition details are the subjective opinions of our specialists and should be used as a guide only. Waddington’s uses due care when preparing condition details, however, our staff are not professional restorers or conservators. Condition details and reports are not warranties and each lot is sold “as is” in accordance with the buyer’s terms and conditions of sale. In all cases the prospective purchaser is responsible for inspecting the property themselves prior to placing a bid.