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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street
Vancouver, Canada
Admission always free

Today's hours
12 pm - 6 pm
19 Nov 10until9 Jan 11

Elizabeth McIntosh

Violet's Hair

B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries

An image of painting composed of vertical rows of purple, blue, green, yellow and orange triangles.

Elizabeth McIntosh, Differences of Lines and Rectangles, 2010. Courtesy the artist and Diaz Contemporary, Toronto

The title Violet’s Hair alludes to something concrete. It denotes a subject and specifies an attribute, but who is Violet and what are the qualities of her hair? It also references a colour, but this colour is not characteristic to the work in the exhibition. Yet the seemingly allusive title still offers some keys to Elizabeth McIntosh’s process. While her paintings often formally hint at tangible objects and spaces, they are predominantly located in the realm of abstraction. And despite the apparent simplicity of McIntosh’s formal language, there is often a textural richness that arises from the application of multiple layers of paint, allowing for trial and error, shifts in pattern and colour and leaving a visible reworking.

Although McIntosh is primarily known for her painting, she also works in collage. Violet’s Hair, for the first time brings together her work in these two distinct mediums. As well as exhibiting five recent paintings in the B.C. Binning Gallery, she builds two large-format collages: one wrapping the exterior of the gallery, using the window vitrines, and the other filling the Balkind Gallery in a unified form. This is not the first time McIntosh has worked with collage in this scale, but it is the first instance in which she has built a structure as the ground. The collages and paintings carry a similar language, one of solid planes, layered forms and bold colours. They inform each other, running in tandem, offering a visible language that simultaneously exemplifies the flexibility with which McIntosh handles many possible choices and the solidity of her final decisions.


Elizabeth McIntosh (b. 1967, Ontario, Canada) is widely regarded as one the most important abstract painters practicing in Canada today. While her paintings are primarily located in the realm of abstraction, the careful organization of forms sometimes alludes to elements of the real world and creates the illusion of three dimensional or even architectural space. Despite the apparent simplicity of McIntosh’s formal language, there is often a textural richness arising from her artistic process, which involves the application of multiple layers of paint and allows for trial and error, visible imperfections, and areas of painterly expression. Although she is primarily known for her painting, McIntosh has also been exploring the art of collage making. Recent solo exhibitions include A Good Play, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto (2010); Cut Out, Goodwater, Toronto (2009); Fire at Full Moon, Blanket, Vancouver (2007); Young Night Thought, Diaz Contemporary, Toronto (2006); and Clementine Gallery, New York (2002). In 2010, Emily Carr University Press in collaboration with Diaz Contemporary published a monograph of McIntosh’s work entitled A Good Play, which includes essays by Jan Verwoert and Monika Szewczyk. She has also been featured in Canadian Art Magazine and The Globe and Mail. McIntosh lives and works in Vancouver, where she is also a respected educator at the Emily Carr University of Art + Design. She is represented by Diaz Contemporary in Toronto.