SAW Project Space


Arthur II

Opening reception Friday, February 23, 7PM-midnight
8PM-midnight Performances by Bucko and Osita. Catering by BanhMiYes

Influential Ottawa-based artist Arthur II inaugurates SAW’s new project space with a solo exhibition entitled Crucible. In March 1973, Arthur II was awoken by a raging fire in his shared studio space on Sussex Drive and barely escaped the blaze by running through a burning door. His new series of 12 large paintings looks back at this haunting and surreal moment that catalyzed the creation of SAW, one of Canada’s first artist-run centres.

Buck-naked, the artist was able to rip off the cushion of a lobby chair, turning it into a big diaper to greet the firefighters who quickly arrived to extinguish the flames. So began SAW’s storied history, as Arthur II and his studio mates Alyx Jones, John Garner, Brenda Lamb and Peter Lamb scrambled to find a new space to work. It was not long before Le Hibou Coffee House owner Pierre-Paul Lafreniere came to the rescue by offering the artists the second floor of his establishment to run a gallery, printmaking shop and painting studio. Named Sussex Annex Works, the space became the organization now known as SAW.

To celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2023, SAW commissioned Arthur II to produce all new works for this exhibition, which will be presented to the public for the first time. This exhibition is presented alongside Art Thou the Accuser of Thy Brethren or Art Thou the Inspiration of Their Heart by Edmonton-based textile artist Richard Boulet.


Arthur II was born in Ottawa in 1951, where he still lives and works. He is a painter, printmaker, musician and songwriter and has worked in the Ottawa region for over five decades. In 1973, he and fellow artists John Garner, Alyx Jones, Pierre-Paul Lafreniere, Peter Lamb and Brenda Lamb founded the artist-run centre SAW (originally named Sussex Annex Works), which opened above the legendary Le Hibou Coffee House on Sussex Drive. He has had many exhibitions over the years at SAW. He was a set painter with the Stratford Festival, the National Arts Centre and Landmines Action Canada. He was also a courtroom artist for constitutional hearings at the Supreme Court of Canada and the R. v. Morgentaler case. Arthur II has produced countless posters for bands, solo artists and organizations, notably the National Arts Centre, John Prine, Bruce Cockburn, Valdy and the Hometown Band, the Tuukag Theatre of Greenland and Le Hibou. He was a fixture in the Ottawa and larger Canadian folk scenes, designing dozens of album covers, including for Blackie and the Rodeo King by Willie P. Bennet, Lost & Found by David Wiffen and Sawdust by Sneezy Waters. For almost two decades, he also facilitated community mural projects at the Ottawa Folk Festival, the Winnipeg Folk Festival and the Folk Alliance, Memphis.

Funders and Partners  Canada Council for the Arts, Ontario Arts Council, City of Ottawa, Government of Canada, Government of Ontario, Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ottawa Community Foundation, Bilingual Ottawa, Association des communautés francophones d'Ottawa