Contemporary, Toronto-based artist Shary Boyle discusses how Christiane Pflug’s Cottingham School with Black Flag, 1971 was a seminal inspiration for her as a student. Boyle reveals her fascination with Pflug’s unique, intense, graphic artworks and how they made her feel that becoming an artist was possible.
Shary Boyle works across diverse media, including sculpture, drawing, and performance. In 2015 she performed at Luminato Festival, Toronto, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; created a commissioned sculpture for the Musée des beaux-arts de Montreal; and presented Universal Cobra with artist Shuvinai Ashoona at Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal. Her work is exhibited and collected internationally, and is currently on display in Art et céramique – CERAMIX – De Rodin à Schütte, at Sèvres – Cité de la céramique and La Maison Rouge, both in Paris. She is the commissioned artist to design the 2016 theatre set for Voix de Ville at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre, St. Catharines. She represented Canada at the Venice Biennale in 2013. Shary Boyle lives in Toronto.
The precise, mysterious painting style of Christiane Pflug has led to her categorization as a magical realist. A devoted mother of two, her subject matter was often dictated by the objects and viewpoints available to her in her domestic space. Themes of nostalgia, melancholia, and tradition occur throughout her work.
Born in Germany in 1936 to a single mother, Pflug spent most of her young life in foster homes in Bavaria, Germany and Austria. Her mother had volunteered as a Red Cross nurse, sending a four year-old Christiane away to keep her safe from the violence of Berlin. Regine, a fashion designer by trade, encouraged her daughter to be creative and artistic, and once the family was reunited in the late 1940s, Christiane worked in her mother’s studio. In 1953 she relocated to Paris to study at the fashion institute of Ecole Baziot. It was in Paris that she met Michael Pflug, a young doctor whom she would eventually marry.
The two were married in 1956, moving shortly thereafter to Tunisia, for Michael’s work. There, the couple had their two daughters, Esther and Ursula. They and their toys become some of Christiane’s frequent subjects (Kitchen Door and Esther) (Kitchen Door in Winter II). In 1959, they moved to Toronto, Canada.
In Canada, Pflug enjoyed considerable success. She was represented by Avrom Isaacs’ Gallery from 1962-1967, and had retrospective exhibitions of both her drawings and paintings at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Hart House, and the Sarnia Art Gallery. She sold every one of her paintings exhibited in her first show with Isaacs (1962), and received Canada Council grants in 1967 and 1968. Christiane Pflug ended her life at Toronto Island’s Hanlan’s Point in 1972.