Memories of Northern Ontario Artist

Memories of

Northern Ontario artist Bert Weir


CBC Radio Morning North

Curator at the Art Gallery of Sudbury

Demetra Christakos

speaking with CBC’s Kath Rutherford

April 3, 2018

A lot of people in Sudbury remember Bert Weir an artist who dedicated his life to painting the spirit of the Northern Ontario bush. Now he was based in Parry Sound but travelled through out the northeast. His paintings can be found in the Art Gallery of Sudbury collection and at the J.N. Desmarais Library at Laurention University.

Bert Weir died recently at the age of 92.  Demetra Christakos is the curator of the Art Gallery of Sudbury and she spoke about Bert with CBC reporter Kate Rutherford.

C.D. My impression was he was a very vigorous committed artist who had an astounding output of work and he that was a great collaborator in the presentation of his work as well. 

 K.R.  How would you describe his work.

C.D His work, Bert worked on a large scale producing works of size that aren’t that common in Northern Ontario.  He organized his studio and his life as a professional artist kind of without respect to the containment ideas or the limitations of working in Northern Ontario at that time.  He was a really visionary artist and his work was a really lyrical response I think to the landscape and to everything that he really felt when he was painting.  He painted almost like a dancer because he was working on such a big scale.  At that time this lyrical approach and even painting the use of colour that Bert was working with was not really what was not the norm in the painting world or the art world.  So he had a great sense of self-confidence and you can see it in the work. 

K.R. What are the holdings of his in the art gallery and where are they?

C.D. The collections include more than 20 works by Bert. There are diptychs and triptychs by him on display up at Laurentian University in the library. These are works that were produced in the late 80’s from his Wave series. So we’ve had a very strong relationship with Bert Weir even visually. I am not sure everyone would recognize that those are the works they are seeing up at the University but they were acquired specifically to be installed in that space.

KR Would you say his work is connected to the north?

C.D. Yes the works are deeply connected to where he painted and where he travelled to paint.  He really responded to his environment.  These works are almost transendential.  His approach is very much influenced by light, you can see the impact of wind you can also just see this sort of shimmering vibration of the trees moving in the landscape.  They’re not realistic they’re impressionistic highly expressionistic but there’s this real sense, of it’s not capital T transcendent ion but if you spend time with the works you can sense this experience of the artist almost disconnected from the earth and transmitting that feeling of being air bound in his paintings. 

K.R. That’s a great description.  What do you think his legacy will be?

C.D. I think his legacy is already being appreciated by and has been appreciated by serious painters in Northern Ontario.  He has a relationship to other regional galleries in Ontario and I think he’s appreciated as a painter’s painter.  Some body who was a bit fearless in following his own style when perhaps it wasn’t popular or it wasn’t current at that time in the sense of the art community or the critical community.  I think there will be a significant appreciation of his work moving forward and he left a lot of big work so there will be a lot of public collections like our own that will be able to give access to his practice going forward. 

K.R. Wonderful. Is there anything you think I should know?

C.D. Just that Bert was a friend to us as well and a friend to many artists.  His family is feeling sad.  His children continued in the arts so he has a strong legacy there.  There are a lot of people missing him.