Ian Shatilla

Home: Montreal QC
Title: Voice of Fire
Media: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 76 x 61 cm

Artist Statement

This year marks the 50th anniversary of EXPO 67. Barnett Newman’s 18ft tall Voice of Fire stunned and awed the audience that entered the American Pavilion. The painting would become synonymous with controversy when the National Gallery of Canada, in 1990, purchased the piece for $1.76 million.

The many historical facets of this painting have inspired me to respond to the social and political climate we all face every day. We read the news and are transported to Syria, or Korea, or Russia and lately, very much to the United States. It’s so easy to feel voiceless and powerless. A rubber mask is pulled over our eyes and speaks and stands for things that fill us with anger and confusion. Fifty years later, the simple idea of progress feels anachronistic.


Although my main subject of choice is portraiture, I find myself painting a bit of everything recently. In 2007, I painted a series of brightly colored paintings that critiqued the ongoing atrocities of war in the Middle East. With my recent work, fuelled by Trump’s inauguration, I have gone back to a more political palette, posing questions about many topics, and our role as Canadians and global citizens.