Interview with Art Lab artist in Residence, John Di Leonardo

John Di Leonardo is our Art Lab artist in residence from June12 until September 3, 2018. During his residency in the Art Lab, John Di Leonardo will be researching the nude theme within Canada’s artistic history, and also will be drawing to create a body of work that explores questions of the nude image as a contentious landscape whose tradition of object of desire and shame informs our social constructs, values and identity.

1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I am a Brooklin based artist/poet. I received my Hon. BFA from McMaster University with a specialist in figure drawing and painting. I have been a visual arts educator until retirement in 2010. Since retirement I have been a full time artist and loving it!

2. Please tell us more about your exhibition in Gallery A.

While at The RMG I will be working with graphite/pencil medium and the human figure.

My installation at the RMG will explore questions of the nude image as a contentious theme in the history of Canadian art, how its tradition as object of desire and shame informs the trajectory of our social constructs, values and identity.













3. Why did you apply to exhibit in Gallery A?

The RMG has a wonderful library and archival collection. I will continue my archival research from artist’s files, catalogues, newspaper clippings to glean our attitudes about the nude as a theme in Canadian art, specifically in the early part of the 20th century when Canadian identity and modernism in art and culture were being shaped.

Also, I am currently working on a large format triptych series and need a space in which to work. My current studio space is a little claustrophobic!

Lastly, I was interested in working in the Gallery A residency because I wanted to interact with the public and engage them in conversations about themes in Canadian art and how they might shape our sense of identity.

4. What inspires you? Is there a particular artist’s work that has influenced your practice?

The figure has always been a central element in my studio practice for the past three decades, whether working in a realistic, abstract or conceptual vein.

I have always been attracted to artists who reveal a sense of rhythm and energy, or what the Chinese call the CHI a word meaning aliveness, life force inherent in all things. You see this in Botticelli, the German Expressionists, and of course many Chinese painting masters.

5. Why Drawing?

I truly enjoy sketching and drawing. After having worked on mixed media/conceptual series for about eight years, I felt the need to go back to the basic pleasures of art, the physicality of mark-making and the challenges of drawing the human figure.

Drawing helps me to get to the core of a thing, it’s an act of meditation, it is an artist’s most direct and spontaneous form of expression revealing better than any other visual art form the artist’s true personality.











Mirror/Mirror # I : After the Garden, Graphite, 4’ X 9’, 2018

6. What do you hope visitors will feel when they visit your exhibition?

I hope that the exhibition will engage viewers in dialogue and reflective contemplation about our uncomfortable relationship with the nude in art, as they view their own reflection as an integral part of the installation. I hope questions will be explored as why the nude as a theme never took hold in Canada while celebrated in Europe.

Though the nude has never had the capacity of the landscape to become an icon of Canadian identity, it is a very important theme in the evolution of Canadian modernism and a reflection of a changing society in the inter-war years.

That being said, I hope viewers will also simply enjoy the formal and aesthetic qualities the works offer. I would like to end with a quote by Francis Bacon;

“ The greatest art always returns to the vulnerability of the human situation”

Linda Jansma: Curator Extraordinaire

by Joan Murray

A curator`s task differs from person to person. For some, it means gathering a collection. For others, interpreting what is already there. For all, it means study of a chosen field, say trains if you are the curator of a railway museum. Then you dedicate yourself to preserving the physical legacy, history and experience of rail transportation within a chosen area.

At the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the chosen field was more amorphous because it was Canadian Art, but only within a specific time frame, say the 1880s till today, and favoring a specific place, Oshawa and the region of Durham. Of course, choosing such a region meant choosing the influences on the art of that region, which could be quite wide and ranged from the Group of Seven and Painters Eleven, the main group founded in Oshawa, to artists of interest, though usually Canadian, everywhere.

A curator at the Gallery had, therefore, wide parameters. They also had limitations. As is usual in a regional gallery, these meant a meagre purchase budget. They also meant persuading the Purchase Committee of the wisdom of your choices.

Linda Jansma was at the Gallery twenty-eight years during which she battled against the boundaries, fighting to maintain professional standards and saving up her modest resources so that the collection was conserved and preserved properly.

She was not alone in her task, but she was essential, first as Registrar, then as Curator.

“Curator” comes from the Latin word curare, to care for. The curator cares for the collection, and that includes enhancing it, whether by gift or the magic of scholarship. Jansma expanded the understanding of the collection by organizing a major retrospective of Rody Kenny Courtice, a wonderful early modernist and friend of an artist important to us, Isabel McLaughlin. She added to our knowledge of another artist, Jock Macdonald, a member of Painters Eleven, by discovering a treasure trove of his early work in Glasgow. She interpreted it in the catalogue of a major show on the artist in 2014 at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was awarded the prize for best curatorial writing that year as a result. She also interpreted the work of several artists today who are of great interest, such as Ed Pien (known for his drawing-based installations), the challenging artist Nell Tenhaaf, and the collaborationists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins, organizing exhibitions of their work. She was on what is called the lead in her selection of these artists, or in the forefront of the realm of curators.

As for purchases – she loved the fact that she was involved in commissioning public sculpture by Mary Anne Barkhouse, Reinhard Reitzenstein, Doug Coupland and Noel Harding, as well as recent purchases of work by Sarindar Dhaliwal and Tazeen Qayyum.

She was as well as a champion of the important and interesting figures in Canadian art today, a person of inexhaustible energy.

Her work called on her enthusiasm and– and her intelligence. So often, if you went in her office, she was effervescent, and you were revived.

Long ago, in 1989, when she was hired, I knew Jansma could weather all difficulties when I heard that she had chosen as cover of our wedding invite, a drawing by Ray Mead that I`d curated into an exhibition. Her choice reflected her faith in art. From the moment I heard about it, I believed that she would be a great choice for a staff member.

In wonderment, these many years later, I realize I was right.

-Joan Murray