Artwork from one of Canada's best-known Indigenous artists, who started creating art while in residential school, will be displayed in Saskatchewan as part of a national tour.

The National Gallery of Canada put together a retrospective of Alex Janvier's work and Regina's MacKenzie Art Gallery is the first stop for the exhibit.

Greg Hill, National Gallery of Canada exhibit curator, said he first saw Janvier's pieces in art school.

"I was always inspired by his work. A little mystified even," Hill said. "It is so different from other kinds of Indigenous art I was learning about."

Alex Janvier National Gallery of Canada

The National Gallery of Canada has curated an exhibit of Alex Janvier's work from the past 65 years. (Alex Janvier/NGC)

Colour in the darkness

As a child, Janvier was forced to attend a residential school in Alberta.

He turned to art to cope with the hard times he endured.

"Alex was able to find his place of strength in art and I think that that was a place he could retreat to, that he could rebuild his sense of self, and that became a very empowering thing for him, throughout his life," said Hill.

Untitled, 1986. Acrylic on canvas.

Untitled, 1986. Acrylic on canvas. (Alex Janvier/NGC)

More than 65 years later, Janvier is still lighting up the art world with his colourful pieces.

In that time, he's produced thousands of paintings.  

"I think it's long overdue that he get credit for his contributions to culture in Canada," said Hill.

"For what he's done in combining Western, modern abstraction and Dene cultural aesthetics. He's really a unique artist within Canada and then within the world."

Alex Janvier, Coming of the Opposite, 1972, acrylic on canvas

Coming of the Opposite, 1972. Acrylic on canvas. (Alex Janvier/NGC)

The exhibition displays a chronological view of Janvier's art including his early influences and how his life has changed through time.

In the end, Hill said he hopes visitors will come out with a deeper understanding of Janvier as a person and as an artist.

The exhibit runs at the MacKenzie Art Gallery from May 20 to Sept. 10, 2017.

With files from CBC's Saskatchewan Weekend