Charles Pachter is and always was a painter. You see it in his fingernails. When he was two years old, his babysitter found him one day spreading doo-doo on the walls, “with great glee”. At that point, his parents decided he would probably remain that way. His work materials have since grown up, and his technique has improved a bit too. Evidently, he was meant to be an artist. If you need more proof, you can be referred to his Queen’s Jubilee Medal. He’s also an Officer of the Order of Canada. Those are some damn good credentials.

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Known for his work in pop-Canadiana, he’s notable for the fierceness of his patriotism and his commitment to developing Canadian culture as something more than a foil to Americanism. If you’re local, you’ve almost certainly come across his work. Those ubiquitous moose statues are his idea, and the mural in the College St. subway station is also by his hand (“Hockey Knights in Canada”). His paintings hang in the Toronto Stock Exchange, as well as Canada’s American embassy. Aptly, for a man who names most of his pieces with puns, his subjects are playful and understated. It seems like a conspicuous affront to the more pretentious side of the art world. Recalling his University of Toronto years, he brings up a saying he used to use when handing in assignments:

[quote]I made a fake phrase about art… which you could say about everything, whether it was impressionism or Greek sculpture. It went like this – the eye is drawn upward by the monumentality and the tonality of the orchestration of colour and the positive and negative balance. Always on your essay you’d get, B+, very readable. It was total nonsense.[/quote]

His distaste of critics hasn’t changed much since, though he notes that they’ve grown more respectful as he approaches an age where he might… expire. Such is life. In lieu of pandering to cultural elitism, he’s a man very much defined by pragmatism. He advocates “making peace with the fact that it’s not a sin to make art that middle class wealthy people will want in their home.” At the risk of getting speculative, this might be informed by a healthy background in business. At one time, Charles owned 14 properties in the GTA. Though the recession of the early ‘80s ruined him, he’s rebuilt part of his empire since; and his talking points are free of lofty artist-isms.

All things considered, Charles’s work succeeds in that it has the audacity to be 100%, unequivocally Canadian. That’s an important feat in a country where national identity seems to be something artists are afraid to embrace. Sure, to some, his Canada may seem a bit outdated, even anodyne. His Canada is that of his generation, and the country is ripe for redefinition by a new wave of artists. What he captures though, is a Canada that was, one that was overlooked, but one that still reverberates in our culture today.