“If my painting works, it will excite the viewer into a state of suspended animation. It will make him react just as I reacted to the instant of the original phenomenon.”
Jack Chambers was a painter, film maker and artist activist. He was the founder and first President of Canadian Artists’ Representation (CARFAC).
Jack Chambers (born John) was born in London Ontario. At the age of 12 Chambers won a drawing contest, first prize was a set of oil paints. Three years later the London Public Art Gallery exhibited one of his paintings. Notably it was the first abstract piece the gallery had ever displayed. Chambers would go on to take commercial art courses at the H. B. Beal Technical and Commercial High School in London, Ontario. In 1949 he travelled to Mexico living there for six months. Upon his return to London he enrolled as a General Arts student at the University of Western Ontario. After one term he left the school and worked a variety of jobs, but remained unsatisfied.
In 1953 Chambers would use all of his saving to travel to Europe where he visited Italy, Austria, and France, where he had a brief encounter with Pablo Picasso. Chambers eventually made his way to Spain where he attended the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Madrid, graduating from the school with a doctorate degree. His time in Spain had a great impact on his personal and artistic life. It was there that he converted from the Baptist Faith to the Roman Catholic and also where he met his future wife Olga Sanchez Bustos. She would later be featured many of his artworks such as Olga along the Thames / Olga sur le bord de la Thames
. Chamber’s family would often make an appearance in his artworks, such as in Messengers Juggling Seeds / Messagers jonglant avec de la semence
which features portraits of his parents.
Chambers returned to Canada in 1961. That same year he began to work with film, The Hart of London
/ Le cerf de London
. He would go on to found the London Film Makers Co-op in 1967 to encourage the making and distribution of films. While Photography had played a role in Chambers painting practice since his time in Spain its importance to his work was further solidified in 1969 with the publication of his article on his theory of Perceptual Realism in ArtsCanada
Chambers believed strongly in the professional standing of artists, so much so, that he and fellow artists Tony Urquhart and Kim Ondaatje lead the charge to form Canadian Artists’ Representation. Founded in London, Ontario CARFAC is an organization, still functioning in 2010, which works to improve the professional standing of artists in Canada by collectively demanding recognition of artist copyright and associated fees.
In 1969 Chambers was diagnosed with Leukemia, though given only months to live, from the initial diagnosis, he went on to battle his illness for nine years. During that time he would twice set record sale prices for artworks created by a living Canadian artist; receive an honorary degree from the University of Western Ontario; be celebrated with a retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario and at the Vancouver Art Gallery; teach at the Banff School of Fine Arts and receive the University of Alberta’s National Award in Painting and Related Arts. Jack Chambers is an elected member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.