Androgeny (1983) by Norval Morrisseau and the Governor General of Canada (2008)

Androgeny

Norval Morrisseau
1983

Less than one year ago, in December 2007, we lost Norval Morrisseau, one of the most remarkable Canadian painters of the last 50 years. A source of inspiration to generations of artists and of pride for Canadians, his work is celebrated beyond our borders for its singularity and its powerful impact. Morrisseau was a passionate interpreter of the myths and legends of the Obijway nation. In his famous, coloured dreams, he illustrates indigenous stories and gives them new life, and a foundation and relevance in the heart of today’s realities, showing us their undeniable, universal significance.

Last March, when I went to see the National Gallery of Canada exhibition dedicated to the recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts, I also went through a gallery with an incredible selection of works by Norval Morrisseau. I was struck by one piece in particular, a striking, luminous and monumental painting of staggering vivacity that Morrisseau donated to the people of Canada in 1983 through the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada’s Indian and Inuit Art Centre.

The title itself, Androgyny, is an invitation to dive into the vision he had of the fusion of beings and elements, the harmony that exists between people, the complementarity of the meeting of civilizations. (Art guides us through the opaqueness of life; this gives it power and makes it essential.) Morrisseau the shaman travels between different worlds to ward off fate and adversity. With Androgyny, he invites us to join the conversation and shows us that when One unites with Other, they become One.

The time has come to return Jean Paul Lemieux’s Charlottetown Revisited to the Confederation Centre of the Arts. It has been on loan to us for two years and I had it installed in the Rideau Hall Ballroom, where we hold ceremonies and public events. It is now Androgyny’s turn to become one of the most visible paintings in the country. It will speak eloquently of our strong ties with the First Nations, those who have our deepest roots in Canada.

Our decision to exhibit this painting takes into account a recommendation made by a participant at the national Art Matters forum held in Banff last April, that is, that we support the capacity of First Nations artists and communities to create, produce, distribute and participate fully and fairly in the arts community. The installation at Rideau Hall of an imposing piece bequeathed to us by one of Canada’s greatest artists speaks loudly of the presence of Aboriginal peoples, of their priceless contribution to our culture, and of the meeting of civilizations so prevalent in our history.”

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean
C.C., C.M.M., C.O.M., C.D., Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada