Michael James Aleck Snow
“My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter, music by a filmmaker, paintings by a sculptor, sculpture by a filmmaker, films by a musician, music by a sculptor” Michael Snow, Statements! 18 Canadian Artists, Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, 1967.
Born in Toronto in 1929, Michael James Aleck Snow has led an influential and explorative career featuring artworks across a range of media. From experimental film and visual art to sculptural and sound works, Snow has created an extensive and indelible oeuvre.
Snow’s exposure to the diversity of artistic practice started early. After studying at the Ontario College of Art and traveling around Europe in a jazz band, a selection of Snow’s drawings exhibited at Hart House in 1955 gained him a position at Graphic Associates; a Toronto animation firm. During his time there, Snow was introduced to film operations as well as to his first wife, Canadian artist Joyce Wieland. Their partnership lasted until the late 1970s.
Snow and Wieland relocated to New York City in 1962, which exposed both artists to the world of modern art and experimental filmmaking. Throughout this period, Snow created over 200 renditions in various media of what would become the iconic Walking Woman series, which depicted a silhouetted profile of a woman in motion. Notable usages of the Walking Woman include Snow’s 1964 experimental film, New York Eye and Ear Control, which situated the figure within various city locales, and Expo Walking Woman, a series of stainless steel cut-out figures created for Expo ’67.
Snow is internationally regarded for his seminal experimental films, Wavelength (1967) and La Région Centrale (1971). Wavelength debuted Snow’s innovative interplay of sound and image as the film features a 45-minute zoom across one room set to steadily ascending synthesized tones. La Région Centrale is another visual investigation into camera movement and accompanying synthetic soundscapes. Set within the desolate landscape of Northern Quebec, the camera in La Région Centrale revolves in all directions while recurring electrical tones accompany the immersive, kinetic visual experience.
After returning to Toronto in 1971, Snow continued to his explorations of conceptual art, technology, musical compositions, written works and film. Additionally, many of his public art installations remain fixed within Toronto’s public art landscape such as Flight Stop (1979) - 60 sculptural geese suspended in the atrium of the Eaton Centre.
Michael Snow’s works have been exhibited across Canada and internationally at the Art Gallery of Ontario, The Power Plant (Toronto), the National Gallery of Canada, the Centre Georges-Pompidou (Paris), the Venice Biennale and the Museum of Modern Art (New York), among many others. Snow is also the recipient of numerous awards such as the Guggenheim Fellowship (1972), the Order of Canada (1982), the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts (2000), and the Gershon Iskowitz Prize (2011). He has been granted honorary degrees from several Canadian universities and received an honorary doctorate from the Université de Paris I, Panthéon-Sorbonne.