informal searching(s) and findings
May 18th to June 19th, 2012
Humber Arts and Media Studios. 300 Birmingham Street, Etobicoke, Ontario
Little did I realize sitting in that darkened grade 11 classroom that my view of art would change instantaneously. The first slide, a shock to the system, was a splatter painting by Jackson Pollack. Within three slides I was viewing Willem DeKooning’s seminal “Woman III” and I was transformed. The nuances and context of the work was beyond my suburbanite teenager comprehension, but what it represented was far more significant: “Painting can do that?”
This is an exhibition about possibilities.
For at least 32,000 years, painting has been one of humanity’s most vital and expressive forms of artistic expression. Painting’s continued relevance comes from its versatility in responding to current world views.
We now live in an age where information and imagery operate with unrivalled speed and vastness. It is because of these advances that our world is changing like never before. Technology’s evolution is accelerating faster and faster, intellectual property is replacing labour in first world economies, and scientists are documenting considerable differences in the cognitive development of “plugged in” teenagers. What role does painting have in a society where people are more informed than ever, but also more detached? What role does painting have in a society where the shiny, the quick and the “Now” is all that matters? What does painting offer with its physicality and scruffiness, connection to history as one of humanity’s oldest art-forms, and its darned nuanced deliberations?
In this time defined by technical innovation, scientific discovery and social upheaval, painters are doing what they have always done: make works that are reflective, reactionary, poetic, questioning and magnificent.
Each of the artists in this exhibition approaches the idea of “painting” in completely different and individual ways. Their concepts are as varied as their processes. Many are some of the most celebrated Canadian artists living today, and many are artists at the very beginning of their careers. You can find more information on each of the 60 painters on our website www.60painters.com. Binders with artist’s statements are available at the front security desk.
~ Scott Sawtell, Curator
Painter and Teacher, Scott Sawtell, curates a gathering of painters and paintings at the Humber Arts and Media Studios in Etobicoke, just west of downtown Toronto, close to the Lakeshore. 60+ paintings hang, one stands, in classrooms and media studio rooms and viewers walk throughout the first floor of the building, which sits amongst the charming War time neighborhood. The day I went to the exhibit two drama workshops are taking place in unused rooms, and two education tours are underway. 60 painters sounds like a lot for an independent Curator to put together as a stand alone exhibit, and it is. The paintings are not for sale here. The show is funded by both private monies and government. A show exclusively about painting is well due for Toronto (and a city without a Biennial). For me it is welcome.
The Toronto Star review by Murray Whyte tells the exhibit showcases emerging painters and established, and celebrated, Canadian painters together. Painters know differently, that careers ebb and flow, but shows like this can bring out insecurities. The art market system will think in terms of limiting timelines, movements, and names, or personality. Is this the official art world? With or without gallery representation, emerging artists are young while established artists are old(er). The lines are drawn, not blurred, still. Life doesn’t always work like that.
Painters work privately and sell their work privately, show in public galleries, artist-run centres, and create their own exhibits like Sawtell has done as a Curator and Painter. Painters can be without Gallery representation, and or, inbetween Galleries. Furthermore, these paintings have not just arrived at some pinnacle of success, or growth, with idea, talent, or skill, the Curator stresses, they have been selected by a subjective painter. Thus, the title of the exhibit is right on. 60 Painters do continue to do what they do, in the “now“: attempt to make a living from their work, and these 60 painters have achieved another entry on their exhibit list. If you are lucky you teach. Most painters will have survival jobs, other jobs, but what are they thinking about. How they approach subject matter, and question the role of painting in the society of quick and vast information (rather than labour), technological innovation, and social upheaval, is a valid question.
Now, having said all that, I get involved with the paintings, and am left somewhat disappointed. Everything is here, the academic, the intellectual, conceptual, expressionist, visceral, abstracts, abstractions, intimate, gestural, fantastic, realist, etc. Painting/Painters with links to Toronto, Canada, are alive and vibrant. This is, however, for the most part paintings that work within the boundaries of rectangles and squares and imagery. There are a couple that break free from the rectangle and three works in the show that portend the possibilities of 3 dimensions. The subject matter of the material and turbulent over arching, personal and microcosmic, points of view of the Curator`s statement is true. The exhibit comments on media, skewed perspectives, conflicts of vision and perception, realisms and technology innovations, other worlds in our minds, and imaginations.
Sawtell`s Curation statement does tell me more than the review by Whyte, but I went without knowing. With my cynical painter`s hat on I search the paintings for what it takes to be successful in the private and public (market) art world economy, and forget about it after the first room, because I`m so involved with the paintings. Sawtell states, painters are continuing a 32,000 year legacy to, “make works that are reflective, reactionary, poetic, questioning and magnificent”. The show celebrates that vision.
I see the possibilities as well. Artists that engage with painting and its material, history, and theory are barely present; that is for another exhibit. I am left with questions, which is good. I want to get painting off the wall. And, what about the world that is contemplative? As I walked throughout the rooms, I took digital photographs of the (on the wall) paintings I wanted to spend time with and include them here.
I hope this will encourage you to go as well and experience this exhibit. It’s on until June 9, 2012.