William Kurelek’s The Maze

Wednesday, September 19, 2012 – 7:30pm
USA 19692011. Directors: Robert M Young, David Grubin [Re-imagined by Nick Young, Zack Young]

Canadian painter William Kurelek (1927-1977) may be best known for his beautiful illustrations of bucolic children’s classics (Who Has Seen the Wind?A Prairie Boy’s Winter) and his landscapes of Ukrainian-Canadian prairie life, but it is his disturbing early work and difficult upbringing that is the subject of this intriguing documentary. Born on a hardscrabble Alberta farm, the oldest of seven children of stern immigrant parents, the sensitive, artistic Kurelek was an outsider from an early age. Bullied at school and at home, especially by his fearsome father Dmytro, William left the farm as soon as he could. Settling in London in 1952, he sought help at the Maudsley Psychiatric Hospital, an institution at the forefront of the art therapy movement. Kurelek was provided not only with treatment but space in which to paint. He created terrifying works with nightmarish and surreal imagery reminiscent of Bosch and Bruegel — including, in 1953, “The Maze,” a depiction of his tortured youth. In 1969, the award-winning American filmmaker Robert M. Young co-directed a short documentary on Kurelek and “psychotic art.” Using original interviews, a new score, and modern digital animation techniques to give Kurelek’s paintings dimension and movement, filmmakers Nick and Zack Young have remastered and expanded their father’s original film into a comprehensive and insightful portrait of the artist as a young man. Colour, Blu-ray Disc. 60 mins.

The Maze is a painting of the inside of my skull which I painted while I was in England as a patient in Maudsley and Netherne psychiatric hospitals. It is a story of my life … Well, in the sense that people tell stories by the fireplace to entertain their guests, trying to make them accept you. In this case, I wanted to be accepted as an interesting specimen.” — William Kurelek, 1969

Special Guest: Zack Young – 


Zack Young is a composer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles, CA who with his brother Nick Young, comprises the rock band A.i as well as a visual fx company called Machineyes. Together Zack and Nick produced, edited, animated & scored William Kurelek’s The Maze. Their father, Robert M. Young, directed the original version of The Maze with David Grubin in 1969.

Post-screening discussion with Dr. Erin Michalak and Janet Oakes. 


Dr. Erin Michalak is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UBC. She leads the “Collaborative RESearch Team for the study of psychosocial issues in Bipolar Disorder” (, a CIHR-funded Canadian network whose research interests include the intersect between creativity and so-called “madness.” She has published over 50 scientific articles and several books and book chapters. 

Janet Oakes, M.A., BC-ATP, FIPA, is a psychoanalyst in private practice in Vancouver. She is on the executive of the Western Branch of the Canadian Psychoanalytic Society and teaches in seminars presented by the Branch. Janet is an artist and has an ongoing interest in applied psychoanalysis relating to social conditions, literature, arts and culture.

Moderated by Dr. Harry Karlinsky, Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, University of British Columbia.