RESEARCH: Digitization of Jack Shadbolt’s holding in the SFU Art Collection

Christina Hedlund | August 4, 2017

Over the course of July we documented the SFU Art Collection's substantial holdings of Jack Shadbolt's (1909-1998) artwork. Thanks to a BC History Digitization grant, that SFU Galleries received from UBC's Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, we have been able to begin the process to expand on one of Canada's significant artists' online visibility.

SFU Galleries has held copyright for the Shadbolt Estate since 2011. Many of these works are on display across campuses while others are stored within the vault. Some of the themes that Shadbolt addresses draw from social and political conflicts that have taken place in BC, such as the imposition of colonial power on First Nations and the environment. In addition to the many themes he dealt with, his work underwent a constant metamorphosis: paintings of street scenes and portraits, to surrealist landscapes, including his melancholic accounts of the postwar period. As Robert Linsley writes, "Shadbolt has not searched for a successful style; he has searched for ways to address the big questions at the root of the development of abstraction in the 1950s." [1] This search has resulted in a multifaceted practice that we've been fortunate to view as we sort through the many works we've gathered across SFU campuses. 

The process of digitizing the extent of Jack Shadbolt’s works was a large endeavour. More than a dozen works are installed in various SFU Vancouver campus buildings, while the remainder of over 200 works are stored in the vault or on display around the Burnaby campus. 

For this project, the majority of works located at SFU in Burnaby were moved to SFU Gallery where a temporary photo studio was set up by Victor Ballesteros who diligently went through the process of documenting them all. A few works were too large to move to the gallery and had to be photographed in situ which includes the works located at Vancouver campuses. This project was also made possible given the help of Jessica Chu, Collections Assistant.

By 2018 Jack Shadbolt's artworks within the collection will be accessible online.