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Jack Bush

Born 1909, Toronto. Died 1977

Jack Bush studied at Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Earning his living as a commercial graphic artist for much of his life, Bush is nevertheless known today as Canada's leading exponent of North American colour-field painting. In 1953 he was a founding member of the 'Painters Eleven', a group of Canadian artists who sought to explore the potential of abstract art.

A distinct form of abstraction, colour-field painting, as its name suggests, privileges colour as the most important element in the construction of a visual language. An encounter with the American critic Clement Greenberg had a deep impact on Bush's artistic direction. Instrumental for Greenberg was the 'self-refinement' of painting. Painting, said Greenberg, ought only to explore within its practice those properties uniquely its own; the flat surface, forms and (most importantly for Bush) the fundamental qualities of pigment.

In a gesture similar to Greenberg's preferred artists - Jules Olitski, Kenneth Noland and Morris Louis - Bush moved away from thickly textured brushstrokes to an immediate encounter with colour and light. Using a technique called 'stain painting', familiar to these artists, Bush applied paint directly onto an 'un-primed', raw canvas. The absence of a prime coat of gesso in this method means that the paint is absorbed into the fibres of the canvas. In Bush's work, colour no longer sits on the surface of a canvas; it is part of what structures and is embodied within the material itself. With Bush, the result is a sensuous, almost satiny, finish. A good example of this use of pigment is the Sash series of the 1960s.

An excellent discussion of the context of Bush's interpretation of colour-field painting and its relation to other types of post-painterly abstraction is present in Daniel Wheeler's Art Since Mid-Century, London, Thames and Hudson 1991. For a more specific study of an individual work from the Sash series see

Due to copyright restrictions, we are unable to publish images of the artist's work online.

Red Sash, New York
Charcoal Band
Joseph's Coat
Nice Pink