Cradle to Gravy




Cradle to Gravy

Apr 1 – May 7 2022


artist in attendance
Sat Apr 2 | 1-5 pm
[ masks required ]


Norberg Hall is pleased to present Cradle to Gravy, a not-quite retrospective of the
not-quite-done-yet beloved senior artist, John Will. The work in this exhibition encapsulates
the past
25+ years and serves as a glimpse into the mind of this Canadian
art legend and an excerpt from his expansive career.


Please note | The health + safety of our artists, visitors + staff is still a top priority. Out of an abundance of care + concern for the exhibiting octogenarian artists, we require the use of masks at all time during their attendance this Saturday, Apr 2 between 1-5 pm.


inquire about availability


john will 2022 show 23

The work in Cradle to Gravy is text-based, expressive and laden with poignant and playful truisms.

Language based visual art has roots in the Feminist movement as well as the rise of Conceptual Art in the 1960’s. Functioning aesthetically, then comes an added layer of definition and analysis when reading text-based artwork; the inherently political nature and nuanced handling of language can appear very clear yet very opaque. The relatable nature of John’s pieces allow them, in many cases, to transcend context and become symbolic of the human condition. At times John’s work seems directive but there is always space left for interpretation and subjectivity, whether through obstructed lettering, misspelled words, pop culture or philosophical allusions, the viewer fills in the blanks and in turn completes the work by ascribing meaning.

John’s work is humble, accessible and whip smart. He remains an intellectual with an aptitude for humour and cultural critique into his 80’s.

Juxtaposing “old” and “new” canvases and works on paper in a salon style installation highlights John’s range in medium, scale and evolving attitude through the years. Whether drawerly, dripping, graphic or googly eyed, the artwork remains as snappy and relevant as ever. John is a master of playing with language. Layering text and imagery he disrupts hierarchies of information and how they are consumed in Western culture. The objecthood of the lettering itself becomes important here as the text will initially be read for what it says but how it is written informs the tone, stance and messaging; a visual onomatopoeia.

Mr. Moron | 2022 | mixed media on paper | 22 x 30 in.

Some of John’s pieces are self deprecating as he often pens ideas in the 1st person – but they speak to the proverbial “I” and “we”, addressing the existential questions, self doubt and small failures we each stumble through daily – although he is comfortable being the butt of his own tongue in cheek musings.

Chatting with John about the canon of text based work has been endlessly fascinating, tangential, hilarious and went something like this:

Chloe: In some cases it seems like you employ a minimalist approach, for example using single words as your subject. Do you think that helps with the longevity and potential universality in the work? In the sense of freeing it of too much context?

John: I can’t help that! I may have made the work responding to something historically but who cares. I don’t overthink it…sometimes I don’t think at all, which in many cases is when I do my best work. I don’t want to give away the full picture because I don’t know what the full picture is. Please ask a different question.

Chloe: I will not. If the work changes along with the times then I think that helps maintain relevance, albeit a bit of ambiguity. If its not static and we can find evolving meaning in your balance of: gesture + restraint, aesthetics + politics, critique + humour, then perhaps thats why people don’t tire of your work.

John: That’s debatable.

We’re born, we make our mark, then we die… it’s all gravy.

text by Chloe Kinsella
Artist Statement | 2022 | mixed media on paper | 22 x 30 in.
john will 2022 show 15
“Conceptually, this series of works are obviously text-based and the messages take
care of themselves,
but being a visual artist, I try to determine the success of
thesepictures on how they 
– John Will


John Will is a senior painter, printmaker, and performance artist with a career that spans nearly 60 years.  Born in 1939, in Waterloo, Iowa, and educated at the University of Iowa (MFA 1963), he moved to Canada in the early 70’s and taught across Canada before settling at the University of Calgary Fine Art Department. John has exhibited internationally and his exceptional list of exhibitions, performance projects, writings, videos’, articles and awards knows no end.

His work can be found in collections of Art Institute of Chicago, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the New York Public Library, the Museum of New Mexico, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Alberta, the Glenbow Museum, and many, many more.

John Will 2022 Cradle to Gravy Exhibit
John Will | Pay For View | Bean Can

NH Fine Frames | Comfort ➕ safety are still a top priority for everyone these days. At NH Fine Frames, we will continue framing consultations on an appointment-only basis. We’ve found this to be a better experience for everyone, allowing more time ➕ attention for each individual client ➕ their unique framing needs, as well as maintaining ongoing safety measures. 30 min – one hour framing appointments may be booked between Tue – Sat | 11 – 4 pm.

Email or call for all inquiries ➕ bookings

Email | Phone  403-206-9942

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