While Curnoe's family, friends and surroundings became subjects of countless paintings, watercolours, collages, drawings and prints, they also became occasions for painting about painting - about perspective, colour, ornament and narrative. As his career progressed he became increasingly interested in how printed words could function in a painting, and created numerous paintings of words and sentences, some of which incorporated large rubber-stamp fonts. Among his last works were a series of rubber-stamp and watercolour "auto-portraits" that reflected on cultural perspectives through depictions of the phrase "It is me" in various European and Native languages. His 2 encyclopedic writing projects, Deeds/Nations, a biographical directory of the mostly First Nations inhabitants of southwestern Ontario from 1750 to1850, and Deeds/Abstracts, a history from 8500 BC to the present of the land on which his studio stood, were published posthumously in 1995.
His most important works include the painting/construction Kamekaze (1967), the analytic View of Victoria Hospital Second Series (10 February 1969-10 March 1971), the 194 drawings illustrating David McFadden's The Great Canadian Sonnet (1970), the watercolour Homage to Van Dongen No. 1 (Sheila) (1979-80), his large watercolours and plexiglas silkscreens of his racing bicycles, including Mariposa T.T. (1978-79), and the watercolour and rubber stamp Organic Pigments (1987).
In 1981 Curnoe had a major retrospective at the NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA and in 1985 a large exhibition at La Galerie Esperansa in Montréal. Extensive collections of his work are held by the National Gallery, the ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO and the London Regional Art Gallery.
Curnoe was killed in a bicycle-truck collision while riding the Mariposa T.T. near Strathroy with his London Centennial Wheelers cycling club.
Author FRANK DAVEY