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Roy Kiyooka

Alternate Names:
Vital Dates:
Born: 18 January 1926
Died: 4 January 1994


Born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan in 1926, Roy Kiyooka grew up in Calgary during the pre-World War II years. He studied at the Alberta College of Art in the 1940s under Jock MacDonald and Illingworth Kerr. In 1955 he won a scholarship to the Institutio Allende in Mexico, where he studied under James Pinto. During the summers between 1956 and 1960, Kiyooka attended the Artists’ workshops at Emma Lake, Saskatchewan, where he worked under two American leading abstract artists: Will Barnet and Barnett Newman. In the early 1960s, Kiyooka moved to Vancouver and soon became a leader in the city's emergent artistic community. In the next two decades, he embarked on a remarkable career as an artist, and traveled across Canada to Calgary, Regina, Halifax, and made many trips to Japan.  

He became a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1965, and represented Canada at the Sao Paulo Biennial in Brazil, where he was awarded a silver medal. In 1967 his work was exhibited at Expo in Montréal and in every major centennial show across Canada. 

Moving to Halifax to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design also coincided with Kiyooka’s long-standing disaffection with the prevailing politics and morality of the art establishment, and his decision to distance himself from the studio. Kiyooka never did return to painting after 1969: he continued to teach painting and remained a visual artist in other media until his death in 1994. He also attained standing as a highly respected poet and was an influential figure in local and national art circles. His importance was recognized with membership in the Order of Canada in 1975 and with status as Professor Emeritus in the Department of Fine Arts of the University of British Columbia. In the course of his career, he generated a body of multimedia and interdisciplinary work that encompassed acrylic paintings, oil paintings, watercolours, prints, photography, collages, photomontages, sculptures, films, and poetry.

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