May 13 - June 3
Public Reception: May 13, 1pm-4pm with an artist's talk at 2pm

To celebrate her 90th birthday, Pat Fairhead is marking the occasion with a retrospective exhibition of work her 60-year career as a painter.  

Born in Hull, Yorkshire, England, Pat came to Canada at the age of ten when her mother married a Canadian. As a child, Pat fell in love with the wilderness of her new country, adopting the pastimes of hiking, camping and canoeing. She remains to this day, a dedicated outdoorswoman, taking inspiration from an active participation in nature, while sketching and photographing the scenic wonders of the landscape that are later developed as large-scale watercolours in her Bracebridge studio. She has been to the high Arctic nine times, paddled the west coast of British Columbia and explored the rugged island of Newfoundland. Pat has also travelled the world for inspiration. “I’ve camped in the Amazon rainforest, and hiked the back country of Australia. I’ve done Namibia, Botswana, South Africa, Egypt, Europe, New Zealand and on and on,” Pat recounts.


Pat says she was born to be an artist and it has been her only career for the past sixty years. She attended the Ontario College of Art where her teacher, Franklin Carmichael, the youngest member of the Group of Seven and the head of the Graphic Design and Commercial Art had a great influence on Pat pursuing an artistic profession. “Carmichael called me into his office and I thought I was to be reprimanded,” Pat recalls. “It was exactly the opposite. He told me I was doing well and he urged me on.”


After graduating in 1947, Pat later received her Master of Education from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in 1973, then her Master of Arts from Goddard College in Vermont, U.S.A. in 1975. Pat’s education is an ongoing process to this day. “I am constantly learning,” remarks Pat who is challenged by new projects and new places to paint. “How can I get my idea out? What medium, surface and materials will be best suited to get at the idea that I have? I am always looking for something to explore. My goal is to keep going, to keep looking, to keep painting and to get on with my life as a painter.”


Sixteen years ago, Pat closed her studio in Toronto and moved to Muskoka. “The Toronto studio was so noisy – trains, streetcars and more – that I couldn’t work. I’ve known Muskoka since I was ten and always wanted to be here. My studio is now quiet.”


Pat’s work is included in more than 200 corporate, national and provincial collections in Canada and the United States. One of her watercolours is in the Royal Collection of Prints and Drawings in Windsor Castle in England.


Pat’s large-scale paintings are instantly recognizable with their abstract framework of bold, roughly rectangular colour areas with broad sections of boldly blocked colour, often separated by narrower bands of a contrasting hue. “I am known as an innovator, a colourist, always pushing the edge, to see what I can do. I love transparent vibrant colour, beautiful papers and big sizes. The thrill and challenge of painting a five-foot piece of paper is my idea of cloud nine,” says Pat.  

Preparing for a retrospective show that spans six decades has been a mammoth task. “There was so much to choose from,” remarks Pat. “It took two months to go through 2,000 pieces. Included in the exhibition will be a selection of work from the 1950s to the present along with memorabilia from her illustrious 60-year painting career.  

“I hope that people enjoy my work and get to know it better. I would like the work to make them stop, look and see if there is something that they can relate to or ask about. Some of it is challenging to look at,” says Pat.  

A public reception for Pat Fairhead at 90 will be held on Saturday, May 13 from 2pm to 4pm with an artist’s talk at 2pm. The exhibition continues at the Chapel Gallery until June 3.

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