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B.C. Artist invited to represent Canada @ 2006 Winter Olympics

July 22, 2004

It’s Official:

B.C. artist Gordon Halloran, whose vast abstract paintings on large ice surfaces, inspired by the backyard hockey rinks of his boyhood, has been invited to represent Canada at The Cultural Olympiad of the XX Winter Olympics in Italy in 2006.

In a letter from the head of Arts and Culture for the Organising Committee for the XX Olympic Winter Games, Halloran, whose creation has been called ”the quintessential Canadian art form” was finally (after three years of correspondence) officially invited by Piero Addis: “We are pleased to invite you to take part to the Cultural Olympiad, the artistic and cultural festival that will be held in Torino and the surrounding mountains on February and March 2006, for the XX Olympic Winter Games.”

“There’s tremendous excitement about the idea of taking Canadian art to the birthplace of the Renaissance,” Halloran enthused, “to put it on a world stage at the home of western art in Italy -- at an Olympic event. Although I am an athlete, I am well past the age to compete, and yet have never been more primed to present this art form, never more ready to represent my country at the Olympics. It’s an experience of a lifetime -- to take an art form developed here, inspired by the Canadian landscape, by my experiences playing hockey as a boy, and to display it in the context of all the great art of the past 500 years. I am honoured.”

An indoor-outdoor painting is planned which will use portable ice and will stretch up and down the Olympic Valley near Turin. The paintings will be centered in a series of historical forts and buildings, on floors, steps and up walls. There will be a "live" section of the painting: each day these sections will change, melting and freezing into different shapes, colours and depth.

Like an athlete qualifying to complete at the Olympics, Halloran must finance his own way there. With only 568 days to go, he must raise $125,000 to create the installation in Forte di Fenestrelle, the location slated for his installation.

With the creation of the Ice Painting, Halloran challenges the use of the competitive space and transforms it into a creative space, where volunteers make the paintings in cooperation with the artist. With all Halloran’s installations, the opening features a performance which culminates in audience and performers skating on the paintings.

The Cultural Olympiad is a festival instituted by the Greek government with the support of UNESCO, the United Nations and the Olympic Committee in 2001, whose focus is to put the cultural aspect of the Olympics on the same footing as the games. The aim is to promote peace and reconciliation through the universality of culture.

The artist received the letter of invitation after 3 years of work with Gabriella Massa, a Canadian curator from Quebec living in Italy who was the go-between. Halloran had news of the invitation for almost a year, but did not receive the official letter until yesterday, as security and venue concerns had to be worked out in the Olympic valley. Ms. Massa, who speaks primarily French and Italian, corresponded with the artist through his wife, who improved her French through their correspondence, by telephone, e-mail and the post since 2001.

“Canada is a big country, why not make big paintings?” Halloran asked himself as he began his journey into the creation of this new art form in the early nineties. His work has been featured at The World Figure Skating Championships, the Calgary Olympic Plaza, Richmond’s Minoru Centre, Vancouver’s West End Community Centre and other rinks in Canada. He uses many techniques to create these paintings - hoses to airbrush paint, pebbling with ice and paint, carving patterns in the ice with skates, using the Zamboni as a palette knife and creating smaller paintings in freezers which he then trucks to the site and embeds into the ice like mosaic like patterns.

As a further manifestation of The Ice Painting Project, Halloran created The Ice Painting Challenge™ event, the first of which he produced on The Sunshine Coast in the Sechelt arena on New Year’s Eve, 2003. These events involve the community, reflect the spirit of cooperation and creativity in a team environment and give participants an opportunity to “get up and do something creative -- and physical”. Ice Painting Challenge events invite local teams to work with him to learn the techniques of ice painting, to develop their own huge ice paintings and to create them in a community event. These Ice Painting Challenge events combine art, recreation and physical activity. Each challenge has a physical element, such as a relay or a choreographed skate which all team members must participate in. The whole event is suggestive of the Olympics -- but gives ordinary people a chance to participate in the excitement of being on a team and presenting their best creative efforts to their community. Halloran hopes to mentor local artists in the techniques of making these paintings so that the Ice Painting Challenge™ events can continue on a grass-roots level.

The Ice Painting Project Society is planning a number of Ice Painting Challenge events in the Lower Mainland for the fall and winter of 2006.

Municipalities, organizations and groups interested in participating in Ice Painting Challenge events, contact the artist at (604) 886-3634 or email

"As Canadians, we have a personal and collective experience with ice and cold which is unique. We take pride in the beauty of our landscape, at the same time, make peace with its harshness. We stare down into a piece of frozen ice and see ourselves reflected clearly in a mirror the size of the sky."

- Gord Halloran, creator of the ICE PAINTING, the 'quintessential Canadian art form'