Kenneth Lochhead was an Ottawa-born artist who made himself at home on the prairies for twentythree years. He developed a unique voice in painting and left an indelible mark on the face of Canadian art. Lochhead spent fourteen productive years in Regina beginning in 1950, when he became the director of the School of Art at the University of Saskatchewan’s Regina campus. In this position, Lochhead played an integral role in launching the Emma Lake Artist’s Workshops and cultivating their programming. In 1960, he founded the Regina Five, with fellow abstract painters Ted Godwin, Arthur McKay, Douglas Morton, and Ronald Bloore.
When it came time for a change, Lochhead moved not back to Ottawa but to neighbouring Manitoba. He carried on an active correspondence with Clement Greenberg, the infamous art critic, with whom Lochhead discussed his artistic development long past his involvement in the Emma Lake workshops. In Winnipeg, Lochhead rented a second-storey loft spacious enough to unroll large swaths of canvas for his experiments in shape and scale. His active engagement as an associate professor of fine art at the University of Manitoba did not preclude him from taking on major commissions and developing his practice. For one local commission, Lochhead produced a series of 84 × 420-inch banners. He created the canvas for Yellowscape, presented here, on nearly the same scale as these larger banners, in this manner elucidating his interest during this time in the aesthetic possibilities of the horizontal.
Lochhead said, “Landscape is an organic reference that suggests the widest possible alternative. . . Landscape provides freedom to deal with the exploitation of shape, colour, light, and space.” This soft-hued canvas elicits impressions of the expansive prairie landscape. By no means a political painter, Lochhead’s allusion to a specific place and space within the Canadian psyche nonetheless arouses notions of community and national identity. Rooted in the representational, yet exhibiting the freedom of colour-field and post-painterly abstraction, Yellowscape reifies the sublime in nature.