When exhibition reviews in the early 1960s complained that Kurelek’s art was overly macabre, fixated on global calamity and righteous indignation, the artist extended his creative repertoire to include scenes showing human determination, cooperation, and the shared sense of meaning that unfolds from community.
The paintings featured here explore issues of human belonging, images Kurelek derived from both personal memory and the experiences of other people. He had been acutely aware of being an outsider for much of his early life. Yet, following his introduction to caring medical practitioners during his struggle with mental illness, his discovery of a faith community after his conversion, and the attention he received from members of diverse ethnic organizations across Canada for his representations of various immigration and settlement histories, the theme of belonging became increasingly resonant in Kurelek’s painting.
Some of Kurelek’s most popular works appear in this section. However, always “the messenger,” Kurelek often succeeds in imbuing even those paintings that seem the most light-hearted with greater moral and religious meaning.