In Good Company
In 1953, bank manager and artist Dr. John Snow discovered that a Calgary commercial printing company had discarded two lithography presses and some printing stones in their back alley to be hauled away. Dr. Snow purchased the presses for fifteen dollars and set them up in his basement studio. At the time, no one in Alberta and very few people in Canada were using lithography for art-making purposes. After seeking training from an experienced American printmaker, Dr. Snow further relied on books from the library along with trial and error to better learn the multi-step process.
Lithography is a long, involved, and complicated process, but at its essence is based on the simple premise that oil and water do not mix. Once the flat limestone slab is smoothed and prepared with a special grit, a greasy material (a waxy ink known as tusche) is used to “draw” on the clean, flat slab of limestone. The slab is then wetted and inked up, and the paper is then run through the press one layer at a time.
It was not long before Dr. Snow mastered lithography and began to use it for its aesthetic potential. Each lithograph included in this exhibition combines rich layers of saturated colours and simple patterns and textures created using found objects. His subject matter, a combination of portraiture and still life, is traditional, but he represents it through a modernist lens. Colour is used for its expressive potential and his flat, asymmetrical backgrounds are characteristic of post-impressionist artists, as well as the contemporary American avant-garde artists of his time. The figurative artworks in this exhibition are not indicative of a specific place. Instead, they were created using a composite of memories.
Dr. Snow’s initial investment in the two presses yielded a significant return. Throughout his fifty-year career, he created hundreds of expressive prints and acted as a mentor to many of his contemporaries. "In Good Company" reflects Dr. Snow’s innovative use of the lithography printmaking process and the lasting “impression” he had on printmaking in Alberta.
The Library's gallery space is available for local emerging artists to display their work free of charge.
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