Exhibit features Canada’s great athletes
Art: Turner Valley artist’s Canadian Sport Heroes Collection on display June 13
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 11, 2014 08:28 am
The faces of some of Canada’s greatest athletes will look out from the walls of the Okotoks Art Gallery the next three months.
Turner Valley artist Gordon Milne captured 15 Olympic medalists, world champions and other Canadian athletes on large scale acrylic portraits and his Canadian Sport Heroes Collection will be on display in Okotoks June 13 to Sept. 6.
Milne began the project in 2000 by cold-calling Canadian athletes he was interested in painting, setting up a meeting to draw them and creating portraits based on what he learned about each person. His first subjects were Olympic boxer Willie De Wit and decathlete Michael Smith.
“I wanted to work on a project with athletes I really admired and respected when I was growing up,” he said. “While I’m drawing we chit chat back and forth and I try to get a sense and feeling of who the person is. It’s an honour for me because I love sports and these are iconic people.”
Milne started seeking sponsorship for the project and in 2002 it was commissioned by the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary, now the Canadian Sport Institute.
The Canadian Sport Heroes collection was officially unveiled during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and also features curler Kevin Martin, equestrian team athlete Ian Miller, swimmers Mark Tewkesbury and Alex Baumann, figure skater Kurt Browning, hockey player Cassie Campbell, speed skaters Catriona Le May Doan and Gaetan Boucher, alpine skier Nancy Greene, cross country skier Beckie Scott, rower Silken Laumann, high jumper Greg Joy and pentathlete Diane Jones Konihowski.
“I found virtually everybody to be extremely welcoming,” Milne said. “They were honoured to be a part of this program and were very down to earth.”
The exhibit is now on display at Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame at Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. It was initially unveiled at the opening of the new 40,000 square foot facility in 2011, which features more than 50 interactive exhibits, and has been on display since.
“We are the grateful home for the collection,” said Mario Siciliano, president and chief executive officer with the Canada Sports Hall of Fame. “For Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame there is a great affinity with the collection itself. Not only is it beautiful and a distinctive style, but the fact a great number of the subjects are honoured members is why we are engaged to partner with promoting the exhibit and its viewing across the country.”
The exhibit won’t stay stationary for long, said Siciliano.
“It’s been great to have it here, but we are also excited to see the collection go out and be seen by others as well,” he said. “Now that the hall has established its operations we are looking to have it moved around.”
After its exhibit in Okotoks the collection will be moved to Strathmore and then various other locations across Canada, Siciliano said.
With such a strong response to Milne’s captivating Canadian Sport Heroes Collection, few would guess he had very little painting experience when he took on the project 14 years ago.
Although he attended the art program at McMaster University in Ontario, Milne dabbled mostly in printmaking. It wasn’t until the mid-’90s when he decided to pursue another art form.
“At a certain point I just got tired of that and dissatisfied with what I was doing and wanted to change,” he said. “I wanted to start using really expressive colours so I thought I would just go for it. I had no formal training as a painter.”
Milne said he created his own style of painting, rather than choosing to be influenced by others.
“I just started painting the way I wanted to,” he said. “I don’t pay much attention to what other artists are doing or follow those trends.”
What Milne quickly realized was shapes and colours really fascinated him and he focused on both when creating his portraits.
“I use a lot of contrasting colours,” he said. “They just naturally make each other look better. I want to represent feelings more than an actual reproduction of what a person actually looks like – a sense of who the person is and their personality. When I start a painting nine times out of 10 I have no idea what colours I’m going to use. I just learned to trust my own instincts on that.”
The Canadian Sport Heroes Collection is an ongoing project for Milne, who continues to seek sponsorship as he adds more sport heroes to the collection.
“There’s no end of athletes in Canada who are deserving to be in a collection like this,” he said.
An opening reception of Milne’s Canadian Sport Heroes Collection will be held at the Okotoks Art Gallery on June 13 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
To learn more about the Canadian Sport Heroes Collection go to www.gordonmilneart.com