“Do we have more than four people? This is Jack Chambers, for God’s sake!”
These are the words of a bewildered Art Gallery of Ontario foot soldier, uttered moments before the nearly media-less media preview for Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place, and Life, the gallery’s expansive tribute to Canada’s best-known artist outside the Group of Seven. I was surprised too — Chambers should not be a tough sell.
In the ’70s, Chambers became the highest-earning painter in Canadian history and the closest thing to a Continental master this country had ever seen. He also defied nature by fighting acute myeloblastic leukemia — a cancer that kills in about three months if untreated — for ten years. Chambers was a spiritual locomotive fuelled by love for his wife and two sons. He worked constantly to ensure their financial security. The artist churned out dozens of jewels in his London, Ontario studio, only to sell them immediately. In her essay “Unfinished Business” — about Chambers’ incomplete masterpiece, Lunch — from the January/February issue of The Walrus, Sara Angel writes that he was a man of immense passion. Until death, he “remained keen to stay a part of the world he had rendered.” So, had the media lost its mind? (more…)