"Amaryllis" by Alex Liros (1943- )
Acrylic on canvas
30" x 24"
Signed on Back "Liros '91"
In 1973 I first attended the Ottawa [Ontario] Municipal Art Centre where I was much influenced by Pat Durr, my life drawing teacher. I also took classes in oil painting and sculpture. I followed this up by auditing an anatomy class at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Ottawa. Personal interest then took me to Amsterdam, where I took part in life-drawing workshops and taught a class in life drawing.
On my return to Montreal in 1978, my mother and her husband and I moved to Toronto, where I put to use my degree in library science and worked as a librarian part-time. This was a period of identify politics, with gay activism following on the heels of feminism and the civil rights movement. Two artists and I formed a collective called JAC and we "documented", in our collaborative way, the goings on in the gay community, be it beach scenes, picnics, dances, as well as ideas as AIDS, relationships, sexual practices. We also ran a gay drawing workshop. We showed widely in Toronto, once in Chicago, and were given a Canada Council grant to exhibit in an Ottawa gallery and give a demonstration of our method of working. JAC existed between 1980 and 1988.
By this time I had also begun to build up my own body of work, in acrylic painting and wood sculpture (really assemblages, sometimes painted). One big theme that caught my imagination was the Old Testament story of the life and fall of King Saul which I pursued in all media. And it was at this time that I met my life partner, also an artist, and we had a series of two-man shows (where I showed my King Saul work), at Kozak Gallery in Toronto, and Sydenham Gallery north of Kingston, where I installed, outdoors, a large sculpture and several large paintings on galvanized steel distributed on a wooded slope leading to the lake.
My partner was widely knowledgeable about art and we travelled around the U.S. visiting museums. Back in the studio one project that kept me busy for a while was a commission by a man whose partner died of AIDS: he wanted to commemorate him by a painting of a man on a swing. By the time I finished the project he too had died. My attention then shifted to what I saw around me in the studio: pots, an iron, chairs…especially chairs. I used charcoal on large sheets of paper for this work. Painting soon followed when a friend brought me a stunning amaryllis which I painted many times, and then turned to paint my collection of house plants. And I also found life outside the studio when I began to cycle to the north shore of Lake Ontario and paint everything around me on small primed boards. Painting en plein air was exciting and rewarding.
Towards the end of the 1990s I shifted my focus to family history. Two large shows came of this: one of long painted and stamped banners and another of small and medium sized drawings/watercolours with mixed media At this time I also started my many rounds of chemotherapy until I had a stem cell transplant in 2004 (thanks to brother Serge's stem cells). My work shrank to smaller works on paper, and my interest shifted to man and technology, using pen and ink with collaged images pulled off the web. These works were shown in Gallery 1313, a space run by an artists' collective (I joined in 1999). My second in my pipeline series was shown there in June 2013, in one of the smaller spaces.
Toronto, June 2014