“Art is art. Everything else is everything else.”
– Ad Reinhardt
Born in Montréal in 1954, Blair’s early life can best be described as nomadic, with frequent moves across Canada and overseas. He arrived in Ottawa in 1973.
His childhood interest in art as a means of investigating the universe became a serious preoccupation in his late teens. He completed his ‘A’ Level in Fine Art (University of London Board), followed by an innovative Post ‘A’ Level fine art programme, at Kent School, Germany. Meanwhile, living in Düsseldorf provided ample gallery-going opportunities for the curious fledgling artist.
This period was followed by studies at the Ottawa School of Art (then the Ottawa Municipal Art Centre), notably with distinguished artists Richard Gorman (1935–2010) and James Boyd (1928–2002), where Blair immersed himself in the problems of figure drawing and experimental painting.
Blair credits his time spent in Germany in the studio and in the public galleries of Westphalia as the most formative period in his education as an artist. He is especially grateful to Mick Arnold, the first of his ‘three wise men’, for his innovative and personal approach to teaching art.
Over a career spanning five decades Sharpe has exhibited widely, with numerous solo shows in Ottawa and Toronto, as well as group exhibitions across Canada and abroad. A major mid-career survey in 1989 at the Ottawa Art Gallery, then known as The Gallery at Arts Court, was a significant milestone.
His work is represented in many public, corporate and private collections. His publicly commissioned works include the mural Ouananiche at the Jack Purcell Community Centre and the site-specific floor work, River’s Invitation (currently awaiting extensive restoration), at the Smyth Transitway Station in Ottawa.
In 2011 he was awarded an Honorary Diploma in Fine Arts by the graduating class of the Ottawa School of Art where he has taught for many years. In 2014 the OSA recognized him for 40 years of excellence in art education.A gifted colourist, Sharpe’s work is rooted in the rigorous traditions of formal abstract painting while maintaining a strong affinity to nature and natural process. His most recent works, the extended On Some Faraway Beach series, focus on the physical and formal attributes of composition while simultaneously engaging the spaces, edges and boundaries of the the known and unknown. These imaginary ‘beachscapes’ provide an excellent opportunity for reflection, contemplation and escape.
His upcoming exhibitions, “Tell Me What You Really Think”: Selected Paintings 1975–2016 at the Ottawa School of Art Gallery, Byward Campus, and lie Low Lie low at Wallack Galleries, should be an exciting way to kick off the 2017 art calendar.