Experiment with Life, 1983
oil on canvas
62.1 x 82.4 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 28244)
A pioneering figure in early Canadian avant-garde filmmaking, Wieland produced a vast oeuvre, cast across painting, sculpture, printmaking, quilting, drawing and film. She initially gave up painting in the late 1960s, returning to the medium in the 1980s with viscerally charged canvases. Wieland expressed her concerns over women’s struggles in both life and art, and is often regarded as Canada’s “first feminist artist.” She explored her politics through provocative invocations of feminine sexuality, hysterical passion, bodily violence, and the trappings of duty and domesticity. The latter themes are most certainly suggested in the artist’s frenetically paced Experiment with Life, in which a burning woman runs from houses in the distance, some of which are also engulfed in flames.