Alex Janvier is one of Canada’s foremost contemporary artists. The National Gallery of Canada recently held a major retrospective of his work: Alex Janvier: Modern Indigenous Master. His works combine influences from his Dene Suline and Saulteaux roots, including his mother’s beadwork and birch bark basketry, with those from modernists such as Paul Klee and Wasilly Kandinsky. The result is an eloquent blend of abstract and representational images with bright, often symbolic colours, which speak to his lived experience as a First Nations person emerging from a history of oppression and struggles for cultural empowerment.
His commissions include Morning Star, the 418 square metre work featured in the dome of the Canadian Museum of History as well as Tsa tsa ke k’e (Iron Foot Place), the tile floor mosaic unveiled in 2016 at the Winter Garden of the Rogers Place arena in Edmonton. He is a Member of the Order of Canada, a Member of the Alberta Order of Excellence, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee award recipient, and recipient of the National Aboriginal Lifetime Achievement Award.
Alex was raised in the nurturing care of his family west of Cold Lake in Alberta until the age of eight. At that age, the young Janvier was uprooted from his home and sent to the Blue Quills Indian Residential School near St. Paul, Alberta. Unlike many aboriginal artists of his time, Janvier received formal art training from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary and graduated with honours in 1960. Upon graduation he took up an opportunity to instruct at the University of Alberta.