Too bad Winston Churchill never met Canadian artist Charlie Pachter. The British WW2 Saviour of the Nation might not have given up on aging liberals so quickly when he reportedly opined that "any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has no heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains".
If you work in the Canadian Art milieu you have will have met Charlie Pachter and seen his work. His huge Canadian Flag Paintings, The Queen on a Moose, the Pope nose-to-nose with a Moose, the Canadian Moose on a Hudson Bay bag, Hockey Legends. And, of course, Trudeau - younger and elder please.
Charlie Pachter with his Canadian flagpaintings
He is one of the most recognized contemporary artists and best selling authors, in part because of his passion to use Canadian icons, symbols and faces in the creation of his quirky masterpieces. He is 74-years old searching for meaning in this conservative Trump era world while his paintings and sculptures are rooted in the egalitarians ideal of Yorkville and the 60's.
Because of my involvement with the Canadian culture industry I have known Charlie for almost 20 years. We meet at events - from retirement parties to his own book launches. Now and then I work on projects involving the artist himself. I helped promote the gifting of his iconic Painted Flag canvas to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection five years ago. A year later I worked with filmmaker George Socka to record the artist and author Margaret Atwood talking about their collaboration in the publishing of an illustrated poetry book. ("The Journals of Susanna Moodie " was a poetry book Atwood wrote in 1970.
Almost 30 years later Charles created silkscreen art pieces based on her poems for a limited edition reissuing of that original Atwood work.)
I have aged with Charlie. And we both bemoan that some of our contemporaries have gone over to the Dark Side - anti-Muslim leanings, anti-Immigration rhetoric, anti-anything involving the redistribution of wealth.
Charles Pachter (l) delivers a painting to PAMA.
His partner Keith Lem and art expert Tom Smart (r) are honour guards!
Photo by Weir.
On January 1st, Charlie did his own wealth redistribution by donating to the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives (PAMA) in Brampton, Ontario. It wasn't a piddling gift. To date he has given 56 works of art - two paintings, 52 prints, one sculpture, and one limited edition Pachter/Atwood book that we filmed the pair talking about a few years ago.
Those donated works of art are now on display at PAMA at a show that Charlie calls What Makes This Country Tick? The exhibition says as much about Charlie's progressive ideals as they do about his artistic expression.
"I have spent nearly five decades of my work trying to explore the Canadian psyche," he told me, again on tape. " I see us as the world's last best hope. Canada is a safe haven. Canada is inclusive. Canada is tolerant. We are the luckiest people on the planet. We should never take our freedom for granted."
It is free to see What Makes this Country Tick because of the generosity of the Sikh Heritage community. Charlie's show shares space with three exhibitions installed to mark Sikh Heritage Month in Ontario.
Charlie is in love with the juxtaposition. "In fact we are all immigrants. I am the grandson of poor immigrants who came to Alberta in 1915, I made up the name of a new group because in school the official teaching was that Canada was made up of first nations, French and English, but they left out a fourth group that I made up an acronym: Peeved - Practically Everyone Else Vaguely Ethnically Defined "
"I am very proud of my roots," he concluded. "Now at the age 74 (I find myself) thinking back on how I spent a lifetime trying to figure out Canada's ethos. Who are we? Where did we come from? Where are we going?"
The answer from a liberal hippy who is aging wisely? Well that is What Makes This Country Tick!