There are lofty ideals behind the work of Ottawa artist Ed Ambrose. While his mixed-media creations combine colourful images of family units with a rich, glossy texture, the ultimate goal is to create "social art."
"I consider the family as a unit extremely important to the development of all nations," says Ed about themes embodied in his semi-abstract paintings. "The cohesiveness of the family (is so important); that the parents help the children and the children realize the importance of the parents."
Even a casual observer would likely see that Ed paints with a positive eye; much of his work uses colours that appear to have come right out of a sunset, with striking shades of red and orange. He also uses black sand imported from the Hawaiian Islands to produce a unique texture in his mixed media creations. Many Ambrose originals are also resin-coated, giving them both an appealing shine and soft-to-the-touch feeling that imparts tactile life to the ideals they represent.
Ed also works one-on-one with clients to create custom designs pieces for their home or office. "I look as a designer to the interior and I design pieces that fit colour-wise or subject-wise," he says about these decorative creations.
Over the years, Ed has developed a loyal following and many pieces by the energetic painter are included in private and corporate collections throughout North America and Europe. He's also represented by Koyman Galleries in Ottawa and Ed says his association with Koyman had "innocent beginnings." After selling three-dimensional steel pieces in a space at the Rideau Centre in the early Ď80s, Koyman's took over the store. A gallery rep soon got in touch to say that they saw potential in his work and, a quarter of a decade later, Ed remains a client. "In 25 years with them, I think I've sold over 14,000 pieces of art," he says with a characteristic grin.
The artistic impulse comes naturally to Ed; his mother was a beloved opera singer in his native Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). His uncle, Antonin Belc, was an acquaintance of Picasso, as well as being a renowned painter in his own right. The well-regarded artist was also an anti-fascist political cartoonist who satirized Adolf Hitler in European publications during the infamous dictator's rise to power and during wartime in the pages of The New Yorker. "He was known to Hitler," says Ed. "He left (Czechoslovakia) on the last boat out."
Like his uncle before him, Ed left Czechoslovakia on the heels of an invasion - in his case, the coming of the Soviet occupation. He spent some of his early years in Canada working in service industry jobs; quite a contrast for a man who was a well-regarded film actor and emerging rock star back home.
Ed then embarked on a nearly three-decade long teaching career that saw him head up the art department at Colonel By Secondary School and he also imparted his acting experience to students at the University of Ottawa
After a long and varied career, Ed is quick to express gratitude for what he has been able to accomplish here and the many inspirations Canada's capital city provides. While his personal work tends to the abstract, Ed does dabble in both rural and urban landscapes that are motivated by his adopted country. "I get inspired by the Gatineau Hills in the fall; the fall colours. I use quite a lot of warm colours" he says, adding that the future continues to look bright. "I've been moving through this art field and there's no end to it." Written by Steven Fouchard