A COMMISSION CASE STUDY

The commission outlined in the following images called upon Christopher Walker's extensive knowledge of an iconic Canadian symbol, the prairie grain elevator.

While in Winnipeg during the spring of 2013, Sir George and Lady Gwynneth Bain paid a visit to Mayberry Fine Art, and were drawn to Christopher Walker's depictions of prairie grain elevators. Born and educated in Winnipeg, Sir George had relocated to the United Kingdom in 1962 after winning a doctoral scholarship to Oxford. What was originally to have been a 2 or 3 year stay turned into a permanent move. Although, now long-established in Ireland, the couple still actively maintains ties to Manitoba, and as avid art collectors, were in search of a painting to remind them of the Canadian prairies.

Bill Mayberry suggested a commission and the gallery facilitated a correspondence between the Bains and artist, Christopher Walker. originally, Sir George and Lady Gwynneth were contemplating a painting which depicted the landscape around Matlock where their daughter has a cottage. However, the artist, with his knowledge of Manitoba grain elevators, suggested the elevator at Snowflake, in southern Manitoba. its setting in a nearly, abandoned town made it symbolic of the plight of the grain elevator as a vanishing feature on the prairie landscape. Also significant was the town's strong connection to L.L. Fitzgerald, the well-known Winnipegger and Group of Seven member who once made Snowflake a regular sketching destination. The Bains readily agreed that the Snowflake elevator was the perfect subject to capture the prairie spirit they wished to take back with them to Ireland. With the decision made, Chris Walker began work on the painting, with the intention to complete the commission by mid-August, when the Bains were scheduled to be back in Winnipeg. All went according to schedule, and the unveiling took place on August 8, 2013.

THE PAINTING IN PROGRESS

Once the final decision had been made, Christopher was able to get started on the panel. The photos (below) give us an overview of the artist’s working technique.

THE UNVEILING

Once the painting was complete, the clients traveled to Winnipeg for the August, 2013 unveiling.

A WORD FROM THE ARTIST

Back in 2005, Bill and Shaun Mayberry asked me if I would be interested in painting the vanishing grain elevators of Canada and produce a series of formal, large scale paintings depicting these structures. I have since completed 17 grain elevator panels and visited over 42 prairie towns and grain elevators. It is my intension to continue documenting these dwindling cathedrals of the prairies. Thanks to the assistance of Ed Ledohowski (Municipal Heritage Consultant, Manitoba Historic Resources Branch), I was able to obtain the historical background of each grain elevator which lent integrity to this group of paintings.

I first visited the town of Snowflake in 2005 and had recent photos, showing the current condition of the Federal Grain elevator, sent to me by Rob Harms (owner of Pool a elevator) and Landon Friesen (local farmer). Noticeably weathered in appearance, this distinctive wooden crib structure still stands boldly on the prairie landscape attesting to a former time when this nearly abandoned town was bustling with activity and cultural diversity.

Knowing that L.L.Fitzgerald of the Group of Seven painted the region of Snowflake and had his ashes scattered there after his death adds a sense of commemoration for me to honour his legacy as a painter to document the Federal Grain elevator which I am sure he knew of quite well.

- Christopher Walker

Artist Christopher Walker was born in Montreal, Quebec. As a child, his oil paintings depicting the rural Quebec landscape gave birth to his love and dedication towards art and the environment. A traditional, yet distinctively contemporary approach, encorporating poetic observations of the human condition and profound environmentalism have combined to produce Walker’s own progressive brand of realism. On August 22, 1994, the C.C.G.S. Louis S. St. Laurent and the U.S.C.G.S. Polar Sea icebreakers became the first North American surface vessels to reach the North Pole. As the Canadian Archives Ships’ Artist, Walker’s work depicting this historic expedition has been featured on the AandE Network.

His paintings are found in private and corporate collections in Canada and around the world, including the United Kingdom, Germany, New Zealand, Japan, Norway and the United States. Walker continues his conceptual development at his studio on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.