Jeffrey Spalding

“Some of my work, I suppose, could be considered to be landscape work, but I don’t think I’m a landscape artist. I paint the landscape, but I think those paintings are more about human nature, about dreaming, wishing, desires and inevitability.” — Jeffrey Spalding

Jeffrey Spalding is a Canadian painter, multi-media artist, writer, curator, teacher and museum director, whose artistic practice has contributed to the evolution in Canada of video art, conceptual art and abstract painting, as well as the resurgence of romantic landscape painting. 

Spalding immigrated to Canada as a child. He obtained his BA in Fine Arts from the University of Guelph (1973), his MA in Art Education from Ohio State University (1975) and his MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1976). In his early conceptual paintings from the 1970s, he explored colour theory and painting processes in a structured, systemic approach, applying thin layers of paint for his black painting series, and scraping it off in his removal series. The layers of paint were symbolic of layers of meaning in the human psyche. 

After 1978, when Spalding moved from Halifax to Calgary, his paintings shifted towards figurative representation in domestic interiors and nature scenes, with more heightened psychological overtones. In 1979 he created a series of abstract paintings based on personal subjects, and in 1980, he began a series of depictions of Niagara Falls, in a range of sizes, exploring the tradition of romantic landscape painting – the sublime – and the imprint of humans on the popular tourist site. Many of his works are infused with a sense of mystery, foreshadowing or ambiguity. 

Spalding has exhibited his work since 1970 in solo and group exhibitions across Canada, notably in a one-man exhibition of his video art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (1997). 

His works are in numerous Canadian collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Alberta, Glenbow Museum, Mendel Art Gallery, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and The Canadian Embassy, Washington. 

He has taught studio art, art history and museum studies at numerous universities, in Canada, the U.S. and Japan. Among his many administrative and curatorial positions, he was a senior curator at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, as well as serving as director of the Glenbow Museum, the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and the Appleton Museum of Art in Florida. 

Spalding has organized many exhibitions, including Canada’s representation at Expo '93 in Korea and is the author of several books, exhibition catalogues and essays. He served as president of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts from 2007–2010 and was recipient of, among other honours, the Order of Canada (2007) and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal (2012).