Steven Brunelle: Sun Dance

June 24 - August 18, 2023



Listen to  Steven Brunelle and John Hartman in conversation


Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce Sun Dance, a solo exhibition of new paintings by Steven Brunelle. This is Brunelle's first exhibition with the gallery. The exhibition will open on June 24th and run until August 18th. John Hartman will lead a Q & A discussion with Brunelle on Saturday, June 24th at 12 pm and a public opening reception will follow from 1 - 3 pm. 


"Steven Brunelle was born on December 30, 1964. His father, Richard Brunelle, was raised in Lafontaine, Ontario, and is descended from the Drummond Island Metis. Steven’s mother, Marie Brunelle [nee Chausee] is from the Kitigan Zibi First Nation and was fostered as a young teenager to a family in Lafontaine. Having been separated from her birth family, Marie nonetheless devoted her adult life to learning the traditional crafts of quill work, moose hair tufting and beading design. She passed her knowledge on to her children.


Steven’s path as an artist took a circuitous route and until the fall of 2021 it proceeded in fits and starts. Then something quite remarkable happened. When Steven came to my studio in the fall of 2021 and showed me images on his cell phone of three new paintings he had made, I understood immediately that these were powerful images. The works were beautifully composed and while influenced by earlier artists in the Woodland School of painting, they stood very much on their own. I was curious about how Steven had arrived at a point where he was painting with such consistency and apparent ease. The truth appears to be that these paintings had been gestating for more than thirty years.


Remarkably, in his very first painting, Sun Dance, Brunelle arrived at a working method that he followed with variations for this entire series. He paints the image in outline with black paint, understanding that the final shapes will float on the white space of the canvas. He then paints different story elements in colour into the centre of the overall image. Steven then works back into these areas with black paint defining more precisely the coloured internal shapes. As these internal images develop they give a density and visual weight to the overall form. As viewers we intuit that there is a story being told in each painting, but we are left on our own to float through each one, making our own discoveries.


In the winter of 2022 I curated an exhibition of sixteen of these paintings at the newly created Gallery of Indigenous Art at the Midland Cultural Centre. The work was enthusiastically received.


Since then, Brunelle has completed the new paintings featured in Sun Dance. He now paints back into the areas of colour several times. The colour is more intense with a higher chroma and it plays a bigger role than before - just look at that glorious burst of purple above the head of the awakened giant Kitchikewana. It’s not only that there is more pigment, Brunelle has become more confident, adventurous, and expressive in his use of colour.


The stories have also become more apparent. Not that the meanings are more obvious, but rather the fact that each painting is centered on a narrative. It makes me want to spend time with each painting and enjoying the glorious colour is just a bonus."


- John Hartman

Lafontaine, Ontario

June 2023