“The development of my art has been an exploration of the complex visual dimensions contained within language.” (1986)
Dennis Tourbin was a painter, poet, performance artist, novelist, poetry magazine publisher, and arts activist. His art blended the colourful stylistic influences of American pop art with the nationalist concerns of Canadian regionalism. His best known works address the October Crisis of 1970.
A self-taught artist and poet, Tourbin obtained a diploma in social services at Centennial College, Toronto. He played a part in the cultural explosion of late 1960s southwestern Ontario. Many of his stories and poems were published in 20 Cents Magazine. He was a founding member of the Niagara Artists Company and Artspace, and a spokesperson for Canadian Artists Representation Ontario. In 1982, Tourbin spent a year in Paris as artist-in-residence at the Canada Council’s Paris studio. Here, he embraced new visual imagery in his characteristic collage style.
Tourbin often thought about the October Crisis. “It changed the way we saw ourselves,” he wrote. “We entered a new age, the media age.” He began to explore the concept of television as poetry through a multimedia art form he called painted plays. They included reading his poetic texts on a stage set with painted poems and props, images and sound. After a heated response from one of these plays, Under Interrogation, Tourbin decided to explore further the topic of the October Crisis. The result is La crise d’octobre/Chronology, 1990. The Dennis Tourbin Fund for Emerging Artists was established in his memory.