For over 30 years, the Dalhousie Art Gallery has been publishing books and catalogues, documenting exhibitions and contributing to the critical discourse.
With a text adapted from the writings of the controversial 14th-century mystic Meister Eckhart, Doug Porter's digitally manipulated videotape titled Run Into Peace (1998) presented a hypnotic yet contradictory stream of images and words. Juxtaposed in flowing layers of highway landscapes, blood maps, vacant rooms, figures, streetlights, icons and circular staircases, the images and soundtrack combined to form a repetitive, deceptively soothing sequence, a verbal-visual field into which one can sink, and which induces a contemplative condition.
How do we experience the"thingness" of sculpture, or discuss its"object-ness" in a postmodern critical climate? Co-curators Robin Metcalfe and Susan Gibson Garvey selected some elegant and provocative works by six contemporary Canadian sculptors whose practices may be described as"object-based" and whose works often revisit sculptural issues from the earlier 20th century - but with a contemporary twist. Quirky, mysterious, solemn, or amusing, these sculptures are experienced first as physical phenomena (as formal and sensuous objects) before specific contents may be ascribed to them.
This collaborative venture between the Dalhousie Art Gallery and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, surveyed the multidisciplinary work of prominent Acadian artist Herménégilde Chiasson. In mid-career, his work was ripe for critical attention, not only within the Acadian context but also in the specific arenas of Francophone film and literature, and the wider world of contemporary visual art in general. Exhibition curator Charlotte Townsend-Gault selected from Chiasson's works in printmaking, painting, graphic design, mixed media installation, film, and poetry.
The Dalhousie Art Gallery's Permanent Collection is particularly strong in the area of works on paper, and of drawing in particular. This exhibition included over 100 examples of drawing by Canadian artists from every period this century, beginning with classic sketches by Lawren Harris and Arthur Lismer, proceeding through works by artists such as Bertram Brooker, Lionel LeMoine Fitzgerald, and Christiane Pflug, to more contemporary works by Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, Bill Boyle, Greg Curnoe, Tim Whiten, John Clark, Robert Fones, and Frank Nulf (to name a few).
Halifax artist Cheralyn Ryan employs a variety of painting techniques - staining, layering, calligraphic brushwork, stencils - to achieve canvasses with rich, colour-saturated surfaces. Hung vertically, they recall the visions of paradisal gardens typical in many oriental rug designs, yet they remain quite abstract, echoing the artist's sense of underlying patterns and mathematical structures in nature. This exhibition was our fifteenth in our Front Alcove Series, intended to provide the opportunity for local (often emerging) artists to exhibit smaller, more recent bodies of work.
This exhibition of over 70 watercolour landscapes and prints selected from the Ward Bequest (part of the gallery's permanent collection) provided a unique window on the relationship between the English and Nova Scotian art scenes in the late 19th century and in the early decades of this century. Its slightly ironic title referred to the fact that the works reflected no hint of the darker aspect of the period - as if the golden scenes of haymaking or of tan-sailed luggers drifting off the coast would continue unchanged for ever.
This exhibition brought together works that deal with ephemeral aspects of existence in a poetic, non-didactic manner. In contrast to the more analytical approach often taken when presenting contemporary art, the motive behind this show was to suggest feelings, memories and visions that gather around the notion of temporality, and encourage a contemplative response.
Cliff Eyland's small file-card sized paintings employ an encyclopedic range of media and subject matter divided into related"sets". A selection from his set of abstract paintings was displayed in the front alcove gallery. These works are not intended to satirize or even make reference to other abstract works; rather they should be read as a species of conceptual art. Nevertheless, through juxtaposition with the Bush works, comparisons in terms of scale, originality and ambition are interesting and inevitable.
This exhibition presents the works of six contemporary Canadian photographers - Robert Bean, Edward Burtynsky, Blake Fitzpatrick, Geoffrey James, Mark Ruwedel and James Williams - who document and interpret certain kinds of intervention in the landscape of North America. Specific forces (social, industrial, ideological, aesthetic) are implicated as agents of rearrangement.
A rare look at one of the most influential series of photographs in the postwar era, this exhibition presented the original images of Robert Frank's groundbreaking 1958 publication The Americans. Captured at the height of the myth of the American dream, Frank's vision revealed a tragic dimension in the spirit of the American landscape through a photographic style almost without precedent for its directness and emotional force.
This exhibition of solid stone carvings by Halifax sculptor Thierry Delva combined his training as a stone mason with his ongoing interest in the relationship between the"container" and the"contained". The carved limestone and sandstone objects referred to specific cardboard boxes, as they exist in the world, and were true to the dimensions and physical detailing of their referents. A list of labels on the wall declared the contents of the boxes, suggesting the possibility of finding the actual carved object within the box.
In her recent works, Halifax artist Marilyn McAvoy employed recycled fragments of flats from film sets as supports for sensuous still life and flower paintings. Combining these paintings, in varying scales and degrees of finish, with other salvaged elements (faux marbled panels, wallpaper, brown crackled wainscotting) McAvoy created assemblages that, while pleasing in their formal design, raise teasing questions about perception and visual representation.
Monica Tap continued her painterly investigation into floral motifs, which began withi her reconstructive analysis of 17th century Dutch flower paintings. Tracing the use of stylized flowers and foliage from their historical origins to more recent wallpaper and fabric patterns, Tap created intriguingly layered works, in which contemporary distancing techniques in painting, such as appropriation, seriality and repetition, were combined with painterly brushwork and a sensuous palette, to reinvest the vegetal traces with meaning.
This timely and thought-provoking exhibition focused on the microcosm of contemporary ceramic practices in Atlantic Canada, including works by Joan Bruneau, Neil Forrest, Ghita Levin, Ray Mackie, Joan McNeil, Walter Ostrom, Peter Powning, Craig Schneider, Tom Smith, K.R. Thompson, and Marie Ulmer. As guest curator for this project, sculptor and teacher Arthur Handy presented a rigorous analysis of recent history and practice in ceramics, revealing issues and problems, and encouraging critical reflection on the uses of clay as a medium for art.
In her catalogue essay for this comprehensive survey of the last five years of Halifax artist Gerald Ferguson's work, guest curator Susan Gibson Garvey writes:"In his latest and perhaps most productive period...Ferguson has given himself permission to plunder the treasury of Western painting, manipulating imagery from sources as early as classical antiquity and as recent as commercial advertising.