Online juried slide exhibition with playlist and PDF catalogue
JUROR: GARY EVANS
DESIGNER: KATE PARKINSON
Abstract thought is often understood as theoretical, conceptual, intellectual, ethical, or metaphysical.
Whereas Abstract Art is generally understood as a type of visual expression that pushes past the boundaries of pictorial representation.
For the purposes of the Gallery’s first online ABSTRACTS project, we loosely defined Abstract Art as an artistic practice that is as migratory as artists’ ability to manifest simple or complex content within a fluid or non-representational field.
To make this happen, we welcomed the well-liked and respected artist and educator Gary Evans to explore the possibilities inherent in curating a dynamic group show, intending it to act as a contemporaneous survey of abstract art in 2023. Then we invited artists to submit artworks that derive from our moment in time using the tools of abstraction such as geometric patterns, organic and architectonic lines, colour, texture, and forms, from which Evans could choose.
Ultimately Evans did not use historic categories for defining abstraction, like Cubism, Constructivism, Expressionism, Colour Field, Minimalism, OP ART, or neo-geo, which were applicable up until a point, but also a little dated when selecting work by 70 artists. Nor did he use these terms to order their pieces. So action, form, lyric, nature, pattern, psychedelic, and symbol were employed to create the sections as a way to parse the similarities and differences between works best while allowing for the slipperiness inherent in all of those terms to inform this year’s ABSTRACTS project.
Happily apprised by Evan’s deep experience making and teaching contemporary art, the Aird’s ABSTRACTS 2023 project, performs candidly as a current compilation of nonrepresentational artwork featuring abstracts created by Grazyna Adamska, Sandra Altwerger, Judy Blue Anderson, Greg Angus, Daniel Anstett, Holly Archer, Tom Ashbourne, Helaine Becker, Peggy Bell, Shirra Benson, Ioana Bertrand, Snezhina Biserova, Maggie Broda, Art Brown, Joan, Callister, Ian Cross, Tanya Cunnington, Cherie Daly, Maureen Da Silva, Cheryl Davidson, Monica De Aguiar, Teri Donovan, Marina Doukas, April Dumbleton, Lori Fonger, Jo Forrest, Kathy Granger Tucker, Arnie Guha, Aishwarya Gupta, Carolyn Hassard, Lisa Herrera, Cheryl-Ann Hills, Margriet Hogue, Iliyan Ivanov, Eugene Jankowski, Karen Klee-Atlin, John Kokkinos, Carolyn Laidley, Arn, Hyeran Lee, Chia-Liang Lin, Ritchie Mash, Vicki McFarland, Judith McKay, Claudia McKnight, Paulette Melanson, Richard Mongiat, Geoffrey Odgers, Petca Ovidiu, Jangmee Park, Paulette Melanson, Emilia Perri, Deborah Pritchard, Ester Pugliese, Piera, Pugliese, Janet Read, Dale M Reid, Sabani Samy, Lee Schnaiberg, Lois Schklar, Alison Shields, Doug Stratford, Heidi Taillefer, Dina Torrans, Freddie Towe, Victoria Alexander, Victoria Wallace, Danielle Vincent, Cynthia Ward, Ron Wild and Yan Wei.
Abstract often seems an unfortunate word. It does a good job of cordoning off an area of visual experience in which anything is permitted, but when applied to artistic practice, I can’t help but feel it misses the point in some way. Of all the wonderful work in this exhibition, “Abstracts,” I feel such strength, originality, and intense communication the term abstracts lack.
For artists, the process of realizing often deeply felt experience in the process of making an art object, the word abstract might do some disservice. To grasp and define the essence of the subject that an artist might be in the act of translating visually, abstract seems to point in the wrong direction. Are artists not clarifying, locating, or directing us in some way.
The clarity of visual communication is a complex efficiency in many ways, inherently paradoxical. As an equation, the variables which affect the viewers’ reception are many, each step a specific moment and selection; scale, material essence, haptic manipulations of addition and removal, the critical review as an object gets closer to definitive expression, the completion and decision to stop and put forth, the mode or media the viewer receives it, their history and willingness to decipher and comprehend. To stretch the analogy of equation further, each step could be connected through the multiplication sign, exploding the potential and possible variables in all directions infinitely. Yet, as a piece of art, they always retain a singularity that becomes the vehicle, record, and location of this vast web of connections. Both a still location and transformative tool simultaneously.
The online exhibit’s work allows us to look at the experiences which are always salient, perhaps even archetypal for people. If it is the artist’s job to refresh the archetype, we see many models of experience here in the work. The phenomena of human experience in the complex physical landscape: an unfolding perceptual journey through physical space. The possibility of making marks or gestures to define the space of the viewer against or within the natural world. The power and essential experience of colour, its remarkable ability to produce complex individual affect. The journey into invisible worlds, the scale of physical matter, the journey into memory. The collective visual history we inherit. The tools of logic we have developed as communicators to measure and compare. The constant mapping of diverse inner landscapes in an attempt to present a complex or truthful whole. All these ideas and many more are contained within the selected works. The ability of art to say complex things without overly prescriptive or didactic methods is such a unique and democratizing experience. Looking through the selections and helping shape this exhibition has been a great pleasure.
Gary Evans was born in Weston Super Mare, England, and resides in Alliston, Ontario. His painting challenges traditional notions of perception and experience of the Canadian landscape. Of his more than twenty solo exhibitions, highlights include a touring survey exhibition of his work, “Seeing Things: The Paintings of Gary Evans”, curated by Stuart Reid, with a catalogue that toured Canada between 2000-2002, as well as a survey of paintings, titled, “Station”, curated by James Patten at The Art Gallery Of Windsor in 2008 and a fifteen-year survey, titled “Farther Afield”, curated by Renee van der Avoird at the MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie, ON, in 2016. Evans is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design. Evans has exhibited at Paul Petro Contemporary Art, in Toronto, Ontario, since 1995. His work is also represented by Peter Robinson Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta.