This week the great Spring Hurlbut—along with 7 other deserving laureates—was awarded the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts. This shot is a detail of a terrific early work of Spring’s—Dentil Entablature (1989)—that was acquired by Oakville Galleries twenty-five years ago. The title of the piece refers to dentils, the repeating block- or peg-like ornaments that regularly adorn classical entablature (the wide horizontal feature that sits atop columns often found on courthouses or municipal buildings, for example). In their stead, Hurlbut cleverly offers us dentals—horse teeth—objects once central to pagan sacrificial rites. Drawing parallels between decorative articulations of “civilization” and their roots in natural, ritualistic or ancient forms, Hurlbut guides us, as ever, toward the origins of things, toward the impulse to conventionalize, intellectualize or otherwise eschew those most primordial aspects of our history and being.
In Allison Katz’s current exhibition Diary w/o Dates, references to seasons, calendars, clocks, and diary-writing abound. Rather than an exacting chronology, Katz’s works—and their installation—explore how time feels.
In the lead-up to the exhibition, staff in the curatorial office read Marc Wittmann’s book Felt Time, published by MIT Press. In the book, Wittmann takes up recent scientific discoveries that shed light on our understanding of subjective time, exploring how our bodies create a basis for feeling the passage of time, how our perception of time impacts our decisions, and why time seems to speed up as we age.
As Wittmann writes: “We are time.” Our perception of time, its duration and its passing has a profound impact on our experience. My grandmother, for example, celebrated her birthday on the wrong day of the year for her entire life due to a mistranslation from the Jewish calendar when she immigrated to Canada as an infant. A few years ago, my dad proudly announced he had calculated the “true” date, but it was too late, she told him: she already had a birthday.
Installation view of Allison Katz, Season 1, 2018, sand, silica. From Diary w/o Dates, Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens, 21 January – 18 March 2018. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.
Earlier today, Oakville Galleries was honoured to accept a plaque from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in recognition of their funding for Art-ish, a new visual arts program for youth living with mental illness, delivered in partnership with Halton Healthcare. Led by an art teacher and professional art therapist, weekly workshops facilitate learning about and producing artworks that support healthy self-expression, promote social and adaptive problem-solving skills, establish positive self-identities, and foster patient self-confidence and empowerment.
The name Art-ish was inspired by the children’s book, Ish, by Peter H. Reynolds. The story addresses that inevitable developmental stage when kids become self-conscious about their artwork, and start to feel pressure to make something that looks perfect. As many kids get older, they receive the message that they shouldn’t spend time on the things they don’t excel at, and that creativity is reserved for those with “talent.” As a result, many young people lose the enjoyment that comes with the creative process and making something just for the fun of making it.
Art-ish was designed to be the antidote to that, and to provide youth with opportunities to be creative, to express their inner selves, to reflect the world around them without fear of reprimand or being told they’re making a mistake or getting it wrong. Our hope is that this can extend beyond the hospital, into these teens’ everyday lives, where art becomes a way of engaging with themselves and the world around them, and enables in them a sense of belonging and worth.
Today is our Curator Frances Loeffler’s last day in the office before parental leave. As part of Diary w/o Dates, Allison Katz created this great poster—aptly titled Frances (2018)—in which she reimagines the floor plan of Gairloch Gardens as a pregnant form in Frances’ honour. Needless to say, she’ll be missed!
Late last fall, Oakville Galleries initiated Seniors Studio Connection, a series of hands-on art workshops for seniors of varying abilities, including those living with physical or cognitive impairments. As a way of making the program accessible, several workshops include free bussing from local seniors residences to the Galleries and back.
It seems fitting that participants travel together for the program, since the art we discuss and make frequently evokes stories about the places we’ve been and where we’d like to go. Participants at one recent workshop made collages loosely exploring that topic: one woman created a red carpet scene set in Paris with an invigorating wash of blue sky in the background, while another assembled her dream garden with a bench to soak it all in, hemming her scene in a pink painted border. Anecdotes, aspirations and artistic advice abounded—including on the bus ride home—reminding us that some journeys are best taken with others.
The next workshop is January 26 in Gairloch Gardens. For more information, visit our website.
We’d like to extend a big thank you to our visitors, members, individual donors, corporate supporters, foundation partners and core funders for their generous support in 2017. Planning to visit us over the holidays? FASTWÜRMS and Tamara Henderson will continue until Saturday, December 30th. Please note that the Galleries will be closed December 24th through 26th.
On World AIDS Day, we’re throwing back to John Greyson & David Wall’s exhibition Fig Trees. Greyson and Wall staged the first version of this documentary opera about South African AIDS activist Zackie Achmat at Oakville Galleries in 2003. They went on to make it into a feature film in 2009.
Installation view of Fig Trees at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens. Photo: Peter MacCallum.
August is here, which always makes us think of Zacharias Kunuk’s exceptional video work Nunaqpa (Going Inland) (1991). Reconstructing Inuit life prior to World War II, Nunaqpa tracks two Igloolik families as they head inland one August in search of summer-fat caribou, hoping to cache enough meat for the winter ahead. Re-staging a critical juncture in Inuit history—depicting life in the 1930s well after first contact with white whalers and priests, but before Igloolik families gave up their life on the land for settlement in permanent villages—Kunuk provides us with a glimpse into a recent past, one whose legacy has been preserved sparingly. Video, Kunuk points out, is an apt corollary to Inuit traditions of oral history, saying of making the work, “We are in a hurry because our elders are going. Knowledge is going. Pretty soon we’ll all be buried on the hill. […] You can just talk about the old days, but you can also show the old days. Actually seeing it, you get more pleasure out of it.”
Every day during the run of our summer exhibition Propped, the last visitor to Gairloch Gardens is presented with a gift on their way out: flowers. For the last guest (2014/2017), a work by Mark Clintberg and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, sees an arrangement of flowers placed in a vase at the entrance of the gallery, wrapped in paper designed by the artists. At the end of each day, the last visitor to the gallery is given the arrangement to take home with them.
Flowers have been involved in rituals for centuries. There is evidence of flowers buried with the dead dating back 60,000 years, and during the Victorian era an entire language was popularized around them. This sense of ritual, hospitality and gesture is familiar terrain for both Clintberg and Ramsay, who have long explored these ideas in their respective practices. In an interview from the Banff Centre in 2016, Mark writes: “Hospitality exists as a device to make social relations run smoothly. But often there’s social friction. I have a copy of Emily Post’s guide to etiquette and I’ve referred to it frequently as a document on social relations. […] But an ideal host should never fear friction, and would therefore probably avoid such aspirations. I think the ideal host never appears to be trying too hard.”
Of course, try as we might, we at the Galleries are imperfect hosts ourselves—we’ve gifted the flowers too early, as another visitor sneaks in the door, and gifted them too late, chasing visitors down in the garden as they leave. Sometimes, though, we manage to get it right: recently our animateur Audrey Yip gave the flowers to a young visitor, whose parents were touched, noting that it also happened to be the day of her graduation from school.
The daily gesture implicit in this work brings to mind philosopher Giorgio Agamben’s writing on repetition:
“The force and the grace of repetition, the novelty it brings us, is the return as the possibility of what was. Repetition restores the possibility of what was, renders it possible anew; it’s almost a paradox. To repeat something is to make it possible anew.”
Installation view of Mark Clintberg and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, For the last guest, 2014/2017, silkscreened print on glassine, flowers, vase. From Propped, Oakville Galleries, 25 June – 2 September 2017. Courtesy of Mark Clintberg (courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Toronto) and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.