Collection Spotlight

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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.”

For the last guest

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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.

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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.

From the archives: Oliver Husain

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It’s hard not to love the smart, funny work of Toronto artist Oliver Husain, whose Five Thinking Hats are included in our current exhibition Propped. We’ve been longtime fans of Oliver’s here at the Galleries—here’s a throwback to another gem of his, a screening room he put together for his work in our 2015 exhibition Depth of Perception.

Installation view of Oliver Husain, Purfled Promises, 2009. From Depth of Perception, Oakville Galleries, 18 January – 15 March 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

Tie-dye with a twist

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We recently spent the day tie-dyeing in our summer camps. A summer classic, tie-dye never fails to disappoint—kids are inevitably thrilled with the results and the process is a lot of fun.

Kids’ amusement is as good a reason as any for an art project, but the reason we return to tie-dying again and again has more to do with what the process models, encouraging children to experiment with materials, to make choices—often blindly—and be comfortable not knowing what their finished product might look like. For us, success isn’t necessarily measured by a project’s final form, but through the discovery and delight generated throughout its production.

As Sir Ken Robinson has famously said, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” It’s an idea we think about often in the Galleries’ education department and one that can be a powerful revelation—having things turn out differently than expected isn’t always so terrible. Such outcomes provide a foundation on which to build confidence and creativity, to develop problem-solving skills, gain access to important forms of self-expression, and to discover new ideas. In fact, some of our greatest artistic achievements—in summer camps and otherwise!—have come from accidents, mistakes or oversights. Little bloopers like these, simple as they may seem, can really add up to create rewarding relationships with our own imaginations.

Bet you’ll never look at tie-dye the same way again!

Collection Spotlight: Bridget Moser

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After acquiring Bridget Moser’s terrific video Asking for a friend (2013) for our collection back in 2015, we’re delighted to finally have an opportunity to exhibit it in this summer’s group exhibition Propped, curated by art historian (and sister of Bridget) Gabrielle Moser. As Gabrielle writes of the work, Bridget “blend[s] prop comedy, existential prose, self-help television scripts, and choreography, put[ting] everyday objects to unexpected and ridiculous uses.” A canny reflection on our current culture of self-improvement, Asking for a friend poses a series of questions, both introspective and acerbic, about the nature of creative expression and measures for personal success—and doesn’t produce a single answer. Along with fellow Propped artist Divya Mehra, Bridget has been shortlisted for this year’s Sobey Art Award, timely recognition on both counts for two of Canada’s sharpest artists.

What we’re reading

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This month the curatorial office at Oakville Galleries has been reading Jane Urquhart’s A Number of Things, a series of meditations on fifty objects, each offering a glimpse into the complex history of Canada’s nationhood.

Art, by its very nature, has always been concerned with objects. Our current exhibition, Propped, thinks about how objects take on new meanings when they are used or activated in certain ways. The opposite might also be true: surely we are changed by our interactions with objects; the stories they tell about us, the influence they have on our lives.

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In the inaugural talk for our new Authors on Art series last week, Urquhart spoke beautifully to these ties, describing how her own life has been enmeshed with and gained meaning from certain objects—from crockery and a pair of slippers to photographs, homes and memorial stones.

Image: Visitor with Abbas Akhavan’s work. Photo: Mike Dopsa.

Current¢y

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Pop up art shop.
Youth made and up for trade.
Something for nothing. Nothing for something.
Your soul for a button.

Oakville Galleries’ Youth Council started up in late February and we’ve been meeting weekly in the Gairloch Gardens studios ever since. We meet to talk about art, make things and, well, eat pizza. The Youth Council has been collaborating on a series of artworks culminating in a final project called Current¢y, to be presented this weekend at the Oakville Farmers’ Market. Not so much a traditional exhibition, Current¢y takes the form of a pop-up art shop that offers items made by the Youth Council that will be available for trade. This collaborative project evolved out of conversations about money, exchange and value. We have been talking about what it means to sell work, how we value art and how objects come to be priced.

We have been busy making things—tote bags, buttons, prints. We started to talk about what we would ask people for in exchange for the things we have made and what we could ask for other than money. We jokingly started with “first born” or “lock of hair,” but pursued this idea further and developed a whole system for exchange, our own form of currency. These objects and works of art will be available at the market, but we are not asking you for cash: we are asking you for your time, your fears, your ideas, and possibly your soul.

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There will be a menu of items we have made which are available to trade and a menu of the forms of currency or the actions you can do to get these items. We may ask you to share with us your most awkward teen photo, write down your biggest fear, or draw a self-portrait from memory. As one of the members put it, we are “asking you for vulnerability”. Please come and trade with us. Talk to us about value, about exchange, and about art.

Find us this Saturday at the Oakville Farmers’ Market (on George Street between Lakeshore Road and Church Street) from 9:00 am–2:00 pm.

Oakville Galleries’ Youth Council is presented in partnership with ArtHouse.

Video: Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea?

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Curator Frances Loeffler discusses Cosima von Bonin’s solo exhibition Who’s Exploiting Who in the Deep Sea? at Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens.

The exhibition is co-curated by SculptureCenter Curator Ruba Katrib and Glasgow International Director Sarah McCrory. Organized by Glasgow International and SculptureCenter, New York. This exhibition is part of Germany @ Canada 2017, Partners from Immigration to Innovation. Cosima von Bonin is a guest of the Goethe-Institut. Video by Mike Dopsa.