Tale of a crazy Canadian artist | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, February 10, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 10, 2018

Tale of a crazy Canadian artist

In conversation with Charles Pachter

Charles Pachter - a painter, printmaker, sculptor, designer, historian, and lecturer, is one of Canada's leading contemporary artists. Born in Toronto, he studied art history at the University of Toronto, French literature at the Sorbonne, and painting and graphics at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, USA.

His artistic whim ranges from finding the cultural identity of his country to the proof of the others side of the tales. From his expressionist works of the 1960s to the cool icons of recent years, Pachter's art covers an enormous range of content and style.

His work has been exhibited at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the McMichael Gallery. He is represented in public and private collections throughout Canada and internationally. He has held solo exhibitions in France, Germany, Japan, the UK, India and Bangladesh. An Officer of the Order of Canada, a Chevalier of France's Order of Arts and Letters, a member of the Order of Ontario, Pachter holds honorary doctorates from Brock University, OCAD University, and the University of Toronto. He is a recipient of the Queen's Golden and Diamond Jubilee medals.

Bangladesh National Museum, in association with the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka and the Canadian Community Arts initiatives (CCAI) organised a retrospective exhibition titled “Quintessential Canadian” of the artist at its Nalini Kanta Bhattasali Gallery in the capital. The exhibition is open from 10:30am to 7:30pm from Saturday to Wednesday and from 2:30pm to 8:30pm on Fridays till February 18. In a recent conversation with The Daily Star, he shared many aspects of his life, career and his impression of being here in Dhaka. Excerpts: 

“It's been an amazing experience to be here in Bangladesh. Canadians are somewhat naïve and don't know much about Bangladesh. We know about the War of 1971 and the recent Rohingya issue. But I wasn't prepared for the size of Dhaka - how big it is, of course the traffic, and the fast-changing infrastructures. The sounds of the horns are quite interesting. Canada is the second largest country of the world after Russia and we have 35 million people in the whole country. You have 200 million people: that is almost six times of Canada's. I don't know how Bangladesh functions with so many people.”  

“I drove across Canada alone when I was 26. Because I was an artist, I was overwhelmed by the size of the country and the emptiness that I became fascinated with trying to make some human observation about the country in my works. Don't forget, I grew up in an era of pop art of artists like Andy Warhol and David Hockney. One of Canada's greatest dilemma was a post-colonial nation that still has the Queen of England is our head of state. So I had done lot of mischief and satires in my works. I had fun making fun of the monarchy. I am a grassroots Canadian boy; I am not a French or British origin.”

“We are one of the most multicultural cities in the world. Canada has become a destination for so many people because it is safe, law-abiding, easy to adapt with the culture.

“I was able to feature these mischievous images about colonialism and how the British conquered Canada and the undeveloped countries of the world. But it is interesting how they impacted various countries with different personalities. You have your different personalities from India and Pakistan. Now you have your own identity. I will go back to Canada as an ambassador for Dhaka and Bangladesh as it's a great place to visit. It has lot to see and explore.”

Pachter, through symbolic and allegorical images of Canada, has satirically depicted many themes like Moose, Red Barn, Red Bard Green Field, Portraits, Figures, Flags, Bay Watch, and landscapes in his works. “Many years later, when I was in London for the opening of Canada House, the Queen came to cut the ribbon. I said to her, 'Your majesty, forty five years ago, I painted you as the Queen of Canada sited on a moose and a horse. She just said 'How amusing!' She was okay with that and knew that I was a crazy Canadian.”

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