Wednesday 12 May 2010

"A Separate Reality" (1984) Norval Morriseau

"So if I am here in this World to deliver any messages I wouldn't want to be a preacher...I would want to be a painter!"

Norval Morrisseau
"A Separate Reality"
Norval Morrisseau
1984 - Acrylic on canvas, approx. 10' x 21'

In this 1981 video Norval Morrisseau interprets symbology from the magnificent mural, "A Separate Reality", which is permanently displayed in the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

I had the privilege of assisting Norval in creating the background to this painting. It was very unusual to get a 10 foot high roll of canvass, so this painting was always special. This roll was picked up in the States by Paul Gwartzman (of Gwartzman's Art Supplies, Toronto). Paul was always looking for something special for Norval. They appreciated each other for decades as "professionals".

To paint the wash background we laid out the canvass on the grass outside Norval's Buckhorn studio/farmhouse/bat cave (another story). Norval directed action on a blistering hot summer's day from the second floor balcony while I used two feet, two hands, large brushes and tons of paint to create the Astral Universe. Acrylic paint is mud. It doesn't go far. If diluted it loses its pigmentation. Its better to get it in there, let it stain the canvass, and get rid of the excess. It was great fun. By the time Norval was happy with it the background was heavy laden in paint.

We left if outside for a week or more to dry..., through rain, wind and storm, ...until the next blistering hot day dried it out, leaving what still shines through today.

Ritchie Sinclair


  1. what a great story!

  2. Thanks for sharing your experience with Norval... Must have been some fun making a huge universe on a 10 foot canvas!

  3. As a final touch, Norval threw containers of paint at it from the second floor!

    There's no such thing as a "mistake".