Memorable Manitobans: Elaine Gloria Kowalsky (1948-2005)
Born at Winnipeg on 24 September 1948 to Rosemary Stephens (1920-2006) and Clifford Kowalsky (1915-2004), she attended Dieppe School and Charleswood Collegiate. In her youth she was active in Brownies, Girl Guides, Canadian Girls in Training, the Kairos youth group, and she also took dance lessons. In 1968, she assisted in starting up the Roblin Park Youth Drop-In Centre. Like her mother, she was a gifted artist and in 1971 earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours) degree at the School of Art, University of Manitoba. Shortly after that, she immigrated to England to take a postgraduate course in printmaking at St. Martin’s School of Art (1973-74), and to study at Brighton Polytechnic. At London, she pursued what became a lifelong career as a printmaker and as a tutor and mentor to aspiring artists. In 1978, she married Elton Bash, and they made their home in London’s East End.
Artistically, she experimented with large woodcuts, and worked as well in a wide range of media, besides lithography: monoprinting, painting, drawing, and producing other artists’ work, such as books, ceramics, rugs and screens, and a pop-up book, The Dog Detective of Barking (1994). Her last project, inspired by spending recent summers in Canada before her death, was drawing and painting the open plains and big skies “back home.”
She was a founding member of the North Star Studios printmakers co-operative in Brighton in 1977, and in 1984 helped found the Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS), serving as chair for 14 years. DACS now has more than 180,000 members worldwide. Her last accomplishment with the organization was the artist’s resale right, a campaign that went on for 10 years. Beginning on 1 January 2006, just three months after her death, any artist, or his or her estate, became eligible to receive a fixed percentage of the price when their work is resold. This is widely regarded as the most important benefit for artists in modern copyright history.
In 1986, exhibitions of her work were staged at Canada House Gallery, London, and at the Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, and in 1987, at Leeds City Art Gallery, which toured nationally. That year, she became the first recipient of the Henry Moore Fellowship in Printmaking at the Leeds Polytechnic (now Leeds Metropolitan University), obtaining her Master in Visual Arts at the University of East London in 1994. Her online blog, “Diary of an Aging Art Slut,” regaled readers with wry observations on the contemporary art world. At college and in her studio classes, she was an inspirational tutor, regularly taking young students to galleries and museums. She was internationally respected and her work appears today in many public collections, including the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and the Smithsonian Institute, Washington. It has also been shown in Toronto, Tokyo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, and Portland, Oregon.
She was proud of her Manitoba Ukrainian roots. The admission of women to the Anglican priesthood prompted her to rejoin the church and she became a devoted member of her local congregation, Holy Trinity Anglican at Bow. She was struck by a car near her London home on 17 September 2005 and died instantly. A memorial honouring her Winnipeg roots was established at the All Saints Anglican Church.
“Elaine Kowalsky,” The Guardian, 28 September 2005.
Obituary [Rosemary Kowalsky], Winnipeg Free Press, 21 October 2006.
This page was prepared by Lois Braun.
Page revised: 8 February 2022