In automobiles, the passenger side mirror warns that objects in mirror may be closer than they appear. What it’s saying is that what we think we see is not necessarily accurate— what’s actually there is closer than it looks, a shrinking of reality.
Art is not always what we initially think it is. A photograph of a landscape is actually a pure invention; a painting of a QR code hides its message in the digital stratosphere, and an abstract painting has, as its starting point, an object in the real world. When speaking of his series of paintings of Rouen Cathedral, Monet noted that his subject was not a view of the cathedral but was the act of seeing that view. While car manufacturers must warn drivers that what theythink they see in a mirror is not how the object actuallyshould be viewed and understood, art acts differently. There is no right or wrong way of looking at art, although the more one looks, the more one sees. As the art historian Kenneth Clark notes “looking at pictures requires active participation.”
Works in this exhibition come from the RMG’s expansive permanent collection and focus on the intimate view—the one that insists that we look again in order to see what’s there. Is the distorted figure an actual human, and how does our brain process Op Art? What we’re seeing is not only the objects more closely, but those objects often in ways that we’re not used to seeing them: enlarged, close and cropped views or completely out of our daily context. The RMG collection, which began with a gift of 37 works, now numbers over 4000 and includes paintings, prints, photographs, sculptures, drawings and installation work. This exhibition includes recent acquisitions that continue to shape the collection and reflect, as the mandate states, a dedication to share, explore and engage with our communities through the continuing story of modern and contemporary Canadian art.