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Current Exhibition


  • the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

    the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

  • the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

    the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

  • the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

    the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

Wild Hearts Wandering:

the nomadic art of Allen Smutylo

May 18 - July 15, 2018
Opening: May 26, 2 - 4 pm

Throughout the past four decades artist Allen Smutylo has traveled to the remote corners of the earth where he has immersed himself in the life of some of the last remaining nomadic cultures. Not content with a mere tourist’s view he casts aside his Western comforts and shares in the daily existence of the nomads. In a nod to the explorers of the past, during his travels and extended stays in some rather inhospitable landscapes, Smutylo chronicles his hardy hosts’ lives in watercolour and photographs, which then inspire the creation of etchings, collages and paintings upon return to his studio in the little hamlet of Big Bay, Bruce Peninsula.

It is tempting to romanticize the life of cultures who live so close to nature, such as the Inuit in the Arctic, the rebari nomads in the desert of Rajasthan or the less familiar Kharnakpa, a Tibetan Buddhist tribe living in the Himalaya mountains of Lhadakh. But life is often harsh, whether the cold, thin air, and lack of vegetation in the mountains or the withering heat and dryness of the desert. Yet Smutylo reveals a wellspring of not only courage, perseverance and resilience, but compassion and contemplation as well. Perhaps in part because of Smutylo’s mastery of sketching in watercolour, in his portraits he is able to capture the inner resolve and peaceful core of his subjects.

Our own biases and preconceptions are not easily shed, and often, however inadvertent, we tend to undervalue those quickly vanishing cultures who have not yet succumbed to contemporary consumer culture dominated as it is by technology and consumption, however, as Smutylo himself reflects upon the time he spent with the Kharnakpa, “Over a six-year period as I made my way from my culture into the nomads’ and back again, I began to see their stories had a surprising degree of contemporary relevance. In contrast to the tenets of our society, I saw compatibility with the environment, inclusiveness in spirituality, and an emphasis on non-material things. On one level their world was rugged and archaic, but wrapped inside that was a disarmingly impressive philosophy.”

Those living close to the earth, in harmony with the transience of life and the cycles of nature seem to share a humility born from an understanding of the fragility of life and how small their place in the world actually is, an understanding that is not merely intellectual but woven into and from the very fabric of their existence. Yet this acceptance is also the source of what we might call their “self-assurance”, an innate dignity and an openness to the world and others, whether familiar or foreign.

As contemporary society encroaches, the environment ravaged by modern society’s insatiable need for resources and the climate changes wrought by their consumption, the old ways are becoming less sustainable, and ways of life that had remained largely unchanged for thousands of years are quickly vanishing. Hence one can also sense a certain nostalgia in the frayed fragments of handmade fabrics, decorative motifs and weathered faces that Smutylo so deftly assembles in his collages and compositions. Perhaps in contemplating them we will come to recognize the fleetingness of our own ways, of our own lives, and in doing so touch that silent core common to all life that pervades not only the wildest places and the wildest hearts, but our own as well. - Michael Tweed


Born in Toronto in 1946, Allen Smutylo is an Ontario College of Art honour graduate and a member of the Ontario Society of Artists. For the past 40 years, his writing and his visual art have been based on experiences in some of the most remote places in the world. This includes sea kayaking and backpacking expeditions throughout the Canadian Arctic, Greenland, the Himalaya, Rajashtan, the Ganges, to name but a few. Smutylo’s artwork is included in over 300 corporate and public collections. His work has been exhibited in dozens of solo shows and countless group shows nationally and internationally. He is represented by Mira Godard Gallery in Toronto, Thielsen Gallery in London, and Circle Arts in Tobermory. His books include: Wild Places Wild Hearts – Nomads of the Himalaya – written from his experiences from over 8 years of living and traveling with these iconic and little known people. The book won the Best Travel /Adventure Book Award at the Banff Mountain Book Festival. The Memory of Water, his second book, was short listed for: The General Governor’s Literary Award in Non-Fiction.
www.allensmutylo.com