“Art brings order to chaos. It gives it voice; it gives it a language.” – Eric Fischl
In September 2015, artist Eric Fischl travelled to Ottawa to participate in the third installment of Contemporary Conversations, a series of public events organized by Art in Embassies (AIE), the Embassy of the United States in Ottawa, and the National Gallery of Canada (NGC). Launched in February 2015, Contemporary Conversations brings internationally recognized artists to the NGC for public discussions about a variety of topics that transcend borders, teach, inspire, and create connections. The first Contemporary Conversation featured Marie Watt, and the second featured Nick Cave
Fischl, an internationally acclaimed painter, sculptor, and printmaker known for the way his work conveys psychological nuances of the human condition while highlighting particularities of the body, has been hailed as one of the most influential figurative artists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In the early days of his career, from 1974 to 1978, he taught painting at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in Canada.
A large watercolor painting and a small glass maquette by Eric Fischl, both depicting his iconic Tumbling Woman figure, are featured in the Art in Embassies exhibition at the residence of U.S. Ambassador to Canada Bruce A. Heyman. Additionally, in conjunction with Fischl’s cultural exchange, a life-sized, translucent, cast-acrylic version of Tumbling Woman was brought to Ottawa for temporary display. It was exhibited first at the NGC and then later in the atrium of the U.S. Embassy.
Fischl’s cultural exchange program in Ottawa began with a roundtable discussion entitled “Why Painting Now?” hosted by the Canada Council Art Bank on the evening of September 9, 2015. Moderated by Carleton University Professor of art history Ming Tiampo, Fischl spoke with six emerging Canadian artists about why art – specifically painting – still matters in today’s world.
The following afternoon, Fischl met U.S. Ambassador Heyman at the NGC for a brief one-on-one video interview. Seated together before the installation of Tumbling Woman, the artist described how the work was first created in response to the events of 9/11. While the original Tumbling Woman was cast in bronze, he explained that since 2001 he has gone on to depict the figure in a variety of other media including watercolor, bronze, and glass.
On the evening of September 10, Mrs. Vicki Heyman, whose focus on cultural diplomacy has been a driving force behind the Contemporary Conversations series, introduced Fischl and Director and CEO of the NGC, Marc Mayer, to a full house in the NGC’s auditorium. Mayer and Fischl proceeded to discuss a variety of topics including Fischl’s early career in Canada, his rise to international success as a figurative painter, his artistic approach to public memorial, as well as his recent philanthropic efforts to endow a series of art scholarships.