Tony Tascona was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1926. At the age of twenty, after a brief stint in the army, he enrolled as a diploma student at the Winnipeg School of Art, where he graduated in 1950. His style was fresh – rich with glazes and impastos, and bold with diverse surface textures and open compositions. The resulting work was loose and expressionistic. At the age of twenty-eight, Tascona had his first exhibition in the Spring Show at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. In the years to follow he exhibited frequently in both group and solo shows. To support himself and his art-making Tascona took a job with Canadian Aerospace Industries and, later, with Trans-Canada Airlines (now Air Canada). It was here in these industrial environments that Tascona became interested in plastics, metals, and lacquers: the synthetic materials and industrial products that went on to inform his work.
As he commented: “I don’t buy this business of being in the mood. You create it simply by starting to work. You draw on your own resources, all your experiences” (in Rosalie Woloski, No Matter If You Fail, Just Trying Is Success, 1974). Tascona explored and exploited the manipulative possibilities of industrial materials, appropriating their visual and practical elements and combining them with a graphic sensibility. He worked with brilliantly coloured printer’s inks, including fiery reds, acidic purples, and lucid greens. In 1962 Tascona relocated to Montreal, meeting Guido Molinari and Claude Tousignant, whose hard-edge colour painting intersected with his own interest in geometric work. His work moved away from its dense, organic nature to a more crisp definition of space. Lacquered forms took shape on the slick surfaces of aluminum with clean lines and resonating colours. After two years in Montreal, Tascona returned to Winnipeg and began to simplify his compositions, aiming at absolute control of forms. He continued his exploration of shape and space on into the 1970s, introducing sculpture, and diverging only to resurrect and reintroduce shapes as modified, simplified, or refined variations of the absolute form. Tascona continued to exhibit throughout the 1980s. He sat on the Board of Trustees at the National Gallery of Canada from 1997 to 1999. He lived and worked in Winnipeg until his death in 2006.
Text by Erin Fitzhugh
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