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A Sociological Sensiblity
William Featherston - 1927 - 2009 :January 17 - April 18, 2015
In her obituary of Featherston in the Globe and Mail Sandra Martin wrote, “ Politically engaged – enraged might be more accurate – artist Bill Featherston didn’t believe in subliminal messages.
William Lorne Featherston, who was born in Toronto in 1927, forged a birth certificate when he was 16 so that he could enlist in the Royal Canadian Navy midway through the Second World War. He served in the Atlantic and the Pacific and, after his discharge in 1946, worked at a series of numbing jobs.
Eventually he got a grant from Vetern’s Affairs to complete highschool and earn a teaching certificate, which led to a job in a reform school. While teaching for the next five years, he completed a B.A. at night and in the summers and went breifly to the Ontario College of Art before leaving Canada in 1958 and settling in St. Ives, Cornwall.
Living in that thriving art community, and associating with the likes of Francis Bacon and Barbara Hepworth, was the beginning of his real vocation.
He returned to Canada in the early 1970’s, taught for a decade at the Vancouver School of Art, where his students included the likes of Attila Richard Luckas, Angela Grossmann and Laurie Papou, exhibited at local galleries and was given a retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
As an artist, he moved from abstraction to representational modes and played with colour and texture.
But it was his social conscience, as a peace activist and left-leaning political advocate, that drove him to make paintings that derided capitalism and imperialism and exposed the horrors of torture and social and political injustices”.
Paul Crawford’s introduction to the exhibition William (Bill) Featherston: New World Order (2008) provides excellent background and curatiorial insight into Featherston’s life and work www.pentictonartgallery.com.