ALEX COLVILLE AND THE SHINING

Just in time for one of our favourite holidays, Halloween, we focus on the connection between Alex Colville (whose work is currently being featured at the AGO and is highly recommended) and Stanley Kubrick.

Stanley Kubrick, a filmmaker as obsessive about detail as Canadian painter Alex Colville, included reproductions of four of Colville’s works in his masterpiece of horror The Shining. 

Colville’s “Woman and Terrier” appears at 0:10:57.  In this scene, Jack Torrance has just been told that he has gotten the caretaker job at the Overlook Hotel.  He then proceeds to call his wife (played by Shelley Duvall) to relay the good news.

As Shelley Duvall sits down to speak to Jack Nicholson, Colville’s “Woman and Terrier” is clearly visible along the back wall, above a black and white television set. Andrew Hunter, who curated the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Colville show, was interviewed by Brian Bethune and explains that:

There’s “Woman with Terrier” [sic], one of The Shining four, which Colville once jokingly described as “my Madonna and Child; of course in my world the child is a dog.” Colville had “a peculiar idea of dogs,” Hunter adds. “They are sentient but incapable of evil – they can see. People and dogs in his art represent distracted and hyperaware capacity for evil and innocence. The woman’s face, unsurprisingly, is hidden by the terrier. “Colville’s averted faces implicate viewers in his works, make us feel like voyeurs. When someone in a Colville looks directly at the viewer,” Hunter continues, “it’s as though you have interrupted him or her, broken in on a private scene.”

Here, Kubrick uses Colville’s painting to foreshadow the coming events.

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Colville’s Horse and Train is centrally positioned in a critical opening scene. Appearing in the film at 0:14:31, the Art Gallery of Ontario’s exhibition text explains:

The iconic painting of a black hose galloping toward an oncoming locomotive is one of Colville’s most reveting.  The tension is palpable as you become witness to an impending disaster.  It’s no wonder director Stanley Kubrick chose to include it in an important early scene in his famous film. The works appears just as the main characters, a young family, are about to make a choice that sets them on a path to tragedy.  

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Colville’s painting “Moon and Cow” is featured in another scene as Wendy runs up a stairway. See below.

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The painting titled “Dog, Boy, and St. John River” also makes an appearance.

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Stanley Kubrick has famously remained tight-lipped about his motivations for the inclusion of Colville’s paintings, and the AGO exhibit pushes the viewer to speculate.

So based on our experience and new found knowledge, we’re watching the Shining at the TIFF Lightbox on Halloween to “speculate” for ourselves.

Happy halloween!

Read more about the Shining and Alex Colville here

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