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Thinking About Lyndal Osborne

Researching the Alberta Women artists in the University of Lethbridge Art Collection allowed me the opportunity to make some amazing discoveries. Speaking directly to artists and hearing how they created those pieces made the works even more impressive to think about. Even when experimenting with new ideas, artists come away with fantastic stories about where they started and where they ended up. Hearing those stories can enrich and even change how we look at something they’ve made. This week’s artist, Lyndal Osborne, provided some amazing behind-the-scenes information about her artworks in the U of L collection that I couldn’t have imagined without reaching out to her. It only made sense to share those insights.

Work in Progress (detail), 2016. University of Lethbridge Art Gallery photograph. This exhibition was an examination of the artistic process from beginning to end and everything in between.

Lyndal Osborne was born in Newcastle, Australia and completed a Bachelor of Arts at the National Art School in Sydney. A fun fact from my research is that this is an art school tracing its history back about one hundred and fifty years, long before formal art education was happening in Alberta. The Newcastle School’s true golden years were in the 1950s and 60s. The art education system here in Alberta was just beginning to thrive in those same years. Osborne moved on to complete a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Wisconsin and has been based in Edmonton since 1971. Her influence as both an instructor and practicing artist cannot be understated. She has been included in more than three hundred and sixty exhibitions throughout her life! For thirty-five years, Osborne was also part of a University of Alberta Department of Art and Design team that won awards for teaching excellence in printmaking.

When speaking with me, Osborne referred to the years in which she taught as ‘the halcyon days for education’—adequate funding and the administrative support for all activities to be offered at the highest possible level of quality. Many of Osborne’s students went on to teaching careers themselves. Now Professor Emeritus for the department, she continues to produce installation and multimedia works. Her art practice utilizes found and recycled materials, altering their shape, colour, and context. Undertaking these types of methodical projects requires a great deal of forethought. This attention to detail can also be seen in the prints housed with the University of Lethbridge Art Collection. There are sixty of Osborne’s works housed here, which made it tricky to narrow down what to show off.

“Peppermint Pillows”, 1980, ink, by Lyndal Osborne (Canadian, 1940- ). University of Lethbridge Art Collection, gift of the artist.

Of course, the fun lithographic screen print Peppermint Pillows needed to be shared, especially once I knew the story surrounding it. This was a new subject for Osborne at the time. She was working on incorporating personal ideas in her art—here the boiled candies anticipated around the holidays—and had just completed a series of airbrushed drawings with narratives reflective of her childhood. Images of these projects live on Osborne’s website, and I highly recommend taking some time to explore what is collected there. She was also experimenting with largescale offset printing combined with screen printing. The images are transferred from plates and onto the final printed surface, and while the offset work was completed in Toronto the fabulous pops of colour were produced by Osborne herself. The amazing story about this print is that it was chosen for presentation to the ministries of countries attending the 1981 G7 Summit in Ottawa. Osborne was one of three print artists selected to provide work there. A print of these candies was also given to Jimmy Carter. What surprised me here is less that he received a copy, but that Osborne later found out that he opted to keep the print in storage rather than have it displayed!

“Chrysalis”, 1989, ink, by Lyndal Osborne (Canadian, 1940- ). University of Lethbridge Art Collection; gift of the artist, 1994.

The second print example I want to share was created on lithographic limestone. Chrysalis is composed of more than fifteen separate drawings and colours. I had initially chosen to show the print off because it left me a jittery feeling I wasn’t quite sure about. Now that I understand the level of work involved in its production that creepy-crawly feeling has vanished. Osborne said she was inspired by a plague of tent caterpillars in the summer of 1989. She recreated their cocoons with a grass ball maquette wrapped with handmade paper strings. To end up with such an intricate final print, it seems suitable that the delicate models would be equally as impressive. According to Osborne, as the Edmonton summer went on and the caterpillars left their trees, she added layer upon layer of drawing to create the finished cocoon ball. The border was a final addition that gives it an iconic presence and ties it all together. Going from that organic inspiration to the gossamer tendrils of this ball, there truly is a sense that something ordinary was translated into an inked icon.

Kelsey Black

Collection and Outreach Assistant

Acknowledgements and Sources

Many thanks to Lyndal Osborne for providing me with information and allowing the inclusion of her artwork. Check out her website and these other links for more of her work:

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