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Terrence Syverson, Tri-infinity II Brown Study, acrylic and varnish on canvas over plywood with alder twigs, Photo: Peter Walker
The turning point in the Saskatchewan-born Terrence Syverson's life came when he befriended the American modernist Barnett Newman at Emma Lake in 1959. By 1962 he was painting in New York and by 1964 had participated in the 14th Annual Guggenheim International Awards exhibition. Like his compatriots Robert Murray, Michael Snow and Joyce Wieland, Syverson achieved recognition in his homeland by building a career in New York. But, like some of his American colleagues, he sought relief from city life in Cape Breton. Syverson has lived reclusively since 1976 in the village of Cape North, Nova Scotia. The monumental shaped paintings of the 80s and 90s are luminous, mono-chromatic fields, often pierced in the centre and bounded by built-up edges resembling torn flesh. The smaller, more recent works are composed of wrapped and painted alder twigs woven with visceral effect onto stretchers turned canvas-side to wall. Syverson invents within a rigorously reductive paradigm. He achieves dimension without illusionism, figure-ground relationships without figures on a background, and expressive content without recourse to gestural brushwork of depiction.