Tag Archives: An Assembly of Shapes

a dog without a master

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Since opening our summer exhibition, An Assembly of Shapes, I‘ve found myself returning to Teto Elsiddique’s work a dog without a master (2017) again and again. The painting features a dynamic central figure, depicted in dimensional, vivid colour that is so saturated it appears to glow from within. This week I found myself focused on the unusual form that makes up the figure’s boot, realizing I had seen Elsiddique use a similar form in another work—watering the new with the dirt of the old (2017)—though in this instance the boot was not a boot at all, but a watering can sprinkling a flower.


This is only one example of the many forms that reappear across Elsiddique’s paintings. This repetition isn’t merely an “Easter egg”—the kind of hidden message often buried in video games or television to reward attentive audiences—but rather embodies Elsiddique’s overall approach to images and forms. He once wrote of his practice:

Perhaps, it is this element of play that seems to run through much of my work, that invites a peculiar form of engagement. This is not merely an aesthetic excavation of the past but a proposal to see the old anew—to challenge the ways of knowing associated with representation, with the inanimate and the seemingly apolitical. Reconfigured pasts and possible futures are drawn. It is in this improvisational, contingent space between the two that my work so singularly points.

This call to reexamine what we’re looking at—and what we’re not—runs throughout much of Elsiddique’s work, prompting us to look closely and look again. There is always more than meets the eye, the artists reminds us, in the images we encounter, both those we find in art contexts and those that circulate more broadly.

Image: Teto Elsiddique, a dog without a master (installation view), 2017, acrylic on canvas. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

What we’re reading: To Make Various Sorts of Black

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A kind of existence after my own heartLorna Goodison’s poem On Becoming a Tiger (1991), tells the story of a woman, who upon having her tiger’s eye ring stolen takes the advice of writer Rainer Maria Rilke: “If drinking is bitter, change yourself to wine.”

Goodison writes:

The tiger was actually always asleep
inside her, she had seen it
stretched out, drowsing and inert

when she lay upon her side and stared
for seven consecutive days into a tall mirror
that she had turned on its side.

There is sometimes an assumption that poetry is too esoteric to be useful. This is not the case in Goodison’s poems, which although lyrical, often impart practical knowledge to the reader. The poem To Make Various Sorts of Black (2013) is an example of this simultaneous beauty and utility. In writing the poem, Goodison was inspired by The Craftsman’s Handbook (1443), a technical guide for renaissance artists by Florentine painter Cennino d’Andrea Cennini, which describes various types of blacks and how they are made. As it happens, Goodison’s own take on these colours proved an inspiring starting point for The Toronto Ink Company, who developed a series of black pigments based on the techniques described in Goodison’s poem.

Goodison, currently the Poet Laureate of Jamaica, will be giving a talk at Oakville Galleries on Wednesday, June 27th in parallel with the exhibition An Assembly of Shapes. The exhibition features works in (and related to) contemporary painting; Goodison, whose work is known for its rich visual descriptions, initially came to poetry as a painter.

Later in the summer, Jason Logan of the Toronto Ink Company will also be making a trip to the Galleries, to deliver a workshop on street-harvested pigments, similar to those he made based on Goodison’s poem.

Image: geetha thurairajah, A Kind of Existence After My Own Heart, 2016, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of the artist and Projet Pangée, Montréal.