Joseph (Joe) Plaskett (Canadian, 1918–2014, born New Westminster, BC) earned a degree in history at the University of British Columbia (1939) before he turned his attention to art, under the encouragement of the Group of Seven painters Lawren S. Harris, G.G. Sedgewick, and Jock MacDonald. Plaskett had his first solo exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery, in 1941 and in 1944. In 1946, Plaskett was awarded the first Emily Carr Scholarship, on which he spent a year in San Francisco studying art with Clyfford Still and others, before travelling to New York, where he studied with Hans Hofmann. With the encouragement of Hofmann, Plaskett developed the representational art style that he employed over the course of his long career. In 1947, Plaskett returned to Canada briefly, before leaving to study in London, UK. After settling in Paris, France, Plaskett began to paint still lifes in pastels and oils, works that have garnered comparisons to such French still life painters as Matisse.1
Buddleia, Red Rose, Green Vase (2001) recalls Plaskett’s earlier explorations of still lifes in pastel and exemplifies his skill as a painter. As a representative example of the aesthetic shifts that mark his late works, the painting shows the development of his practice through the late 1990s and early 2000s, demonstrating his continued engagement with the still life genre, but with compositions that, as arts writer Brian Brennan argues, are “concentrated on isolated objects” as opposed to “the former abundance of forms.”2
In a lecture given by Plaskett at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 1998, the artist pinpointed the shift in his work from situated still lifes to isolated objects against abstracted backgrounds: “When, in March, 1997, I began to paint in oils after a lapse of six months, I found myself at a loss … I used to paint everything in sight … Now … the wonders of natural appearance, the glory of light, beauty in nature or beauty in art did not come to my aid. I soon found out … energy must come from the act of painting itself, from the blank canvas, from the pots and tubes of colour … from elements that help make this century’s art ‘modern.’”3
Plaskett’s work has been shown in more than sixty-five solo and group exhibitions since the 1940s, including the Art Gallery of the South Okanagan’s Reflections and Shadows exhibition (1994), which toured to the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Kamloops Art Gallery, and the MacKenzie Art Gallery. Other notable solo exhibitions in which Plaskett’s work has been featured are Joe Plaskett and His World (1971–1973), a touring exhibition organized by the Fine Arts Gallery, University of British Columbia, and sponsored by the National Gallery of Canada, and The World of My Window (1978), which toured to the Canadian Cultural Centre in Paris, France, and the Canada House Gallery in London, UK.
Timothy Long, Head Curator
1 Brian Brennan. “Homage: Joe Plaskett.” Galleries West magazine (2006): 67.
2 Brennan. “Homage.” 68.
3 Joseph Plaskett. “The Expanding Vision.” Transcription of a lecture at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. 20 Mar. 1998.