IceBear's aboriginal culture forms the underpinnings of his art, but not in any traditional way. From depictions of the great polar bears who inspire his totemic name to wide abstract canvases suggesting the beginnings of our universe, IceBear takes one on a journey into Imagination.
He leads you to the door to that magic place, unlocks it and allows the viewer to enter alone, to see and feel the spirit of that place according to his or her individual experience.
IceBear Studio a brief portfolio
Ice Bear's fine art has evolved over the past 15 years, from a graphic style
that combined the forms and shapes of traditional Ojibway art, to a free flowing
technique which provide richly toned paintings that can change colour and
depth as sunlight moves, and day turns to night. His many years as art director,
and over 5 years as muralist have given him a great interest in technique; how
paint 'works', colour, brush-strokes, and layering, some Ice Bear paintings have
close to 20 layers of paint and medium.
Ice Bear is also a sculptor, working in diverse materials, cedar, winterstone, resins, natural stone, and has just introduced his first 3 limited edition bronze sculptures. He has also pioneered a modern revival of an ancient technique, combining sculpture and fine art painting in a number of murals and large paintings, providing a bas relief effect that has viewers reaching out to touch.
Chris has been called 'the wizard' by clients commisisoning his talent, for his unique ability to listen, to understand and share a client's vision, and to bring it to reality, even when the client is not fully able to express that vision in words.
About the Artist:
Ice Bear (Chris Johnson to his friends) is a status member of the Chippewas of Nawash at Cape Croker at Georgian Bay in Ontario. For most of his childhood he was in the care of Indian and Northern Affairs. He credits his art and the strength of the visions the Spirits and the Creator have always given him for his survival of those early years.
Thanks to the foresight of an art teacher, and funding by Indian and Northern Affairs, he attended the Toronto Artist’s Workshop, and later Sheridan College. Chris supplemented governmental support by creating paintings that friends sold on city streets. His first public art “commission”.
He left Sheridan after one year and joined the art department of the Hudson’s Bay Company. He soon moved on to further his practical education at a series of different positions in commercial art and design, eventually opening his own design boutique. He moved to Vancouver in the early ‘80’s, to continue as an independent designer specializing in unique assignments.
With his arrival on the west coast, and his acclimatization to the west coast lifestyle, his early love for fine art started to re-assert itself. Over the past decade, he has felt a growing need to follow his dreams, fulfill his “responsibilities” and give the visions the chance to materialize. He moved to Vancouver Island in the early 90s, adopting the name Ice Bear for his art, and made a personal commitment to pursue his fine art career, accepting only a few, specialized commercial commissions.
Ice Bear’s work reflects his beliefs about the necessity of understanding the natural world around us, and learning to respect both this Earth and all our fellow travelers on it. Other themes are related to these beliefs, reflecting his cultural heritage, the mythologies of aboriginal peoples, and the conundrum of being aboriginal in a technological world.
Ice Bear's huge public art works (created between 1992 and 2001) have been extensively covered by local media, been front page photos and TV and newspaper headlines several times. Chris also received the 1999 Community Arts Award runner up prize for the contribution he and his public art made to the Capital region.
Ice Bear and his work are inseparable; art is his reason for being. But he does not take credit for his talent, or ‘gift’, as he prefers to call it; he says it was given him as a tool by the Creator so that he can fulfill his responsibilities: giving reality to the visions the Creator sends him. He signs the art ‘Ice Bear’ to separate himself as an individual from the Creator’s artistic gift.
Exploration and experimentation are crucial to him, to be an artist, he says, one must never stop learning and growing, expanding abilities and horizons.
IceBear accepts private or public commissions for paintings and sculpture. Commissions are sometimes very specific in requirements, other times, the artist creates a piece after extensive interviews with the clients. IceBear art is shown and collected internationally. Over the years, his work has morphed across the gamut of artistic expression from graphic and representational into impressionistic and abstract compositions he is currently creating. He is not tied to any specific genre.