Curator’s Choice – Robert Bourdeau

While the Canadian photographer Robert Bourdeau now uses digital technologies in shooting his images, he began in analogue – that is, film. In 2015, the RMG received a donation of twelve outstanding photographs by this Kingston-born artist.

Like the slow food movement, Bourdeau’s practice is all about the slow and considered shot. Not only does he spend his time finding the perfect location, but the shutter speed of his large format camera is slowed considerably allowing for incredible detail in the resulting image.

Of the works given, I was particularly drawn to his 1975 photograph Yorkshire, England. Bourdeau has taken the photograph from a distance, overlooking the horizontal striations that delineate ownership of land. It’s the timelessness of the work that is particularly striking—this gold-toned print could as easily been taken in the late 19th century and speaks to generations of people who have lived on and worked the land.

Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

Linda Jansma on the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map

Last October, I was put in touch with Dru Chillingworth, the Manager, Parks Maintenance Services for the City of Oshawa. I asked him if he could grow a map of marigolds for the RMG in the summer of 2016. He didn’t seem phased by the request, which left me hopeful! He and I, along with his colleague, Leo Stafford, the city’s Supervisor of Horticulture, met in December and walked around the Civic Centre, dreaming of spring. In May, Charlie Simms, another amazing employee of the city, began to plant the marigolds that he had started from seed in the previous months.

Now, each morning when I come into the RMG, I’m thrilled to see the colourful map, in orange and yellow marigolds, grace the main garden in the Civic Centre.

marigolds

the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map, Sarindar Dhaliwal, marigolds, 2016

And the map? Well, it’s part of a larger exhibition of work by Toronto-based artist Sarindar Dhaliwal called The Radcliffe Line and Other Geographies that runs until August 21 at the RMG. The map shows the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan by a British bureaucrat named Cyril Radcliffe. Radcliffe wasn’t given the greatest tools for the task—inaccurate maps, contradictory instructions and a tight timeline of five weeks to complete the work of making two nations out of what had been British India since the mid 19th century. The result was disastrous: displacement and extreme violence that continues today. Dhaliwal’s exhibition touches on the broad implications of this division, as well as how it affected both her and her family.

Sarindar Dhaliwal recreates part of the sub-continent with marigolds, a healing plant that has been referred to as the Rose of India. They are meant to symbolize the mending of the scars of partition–nation states that are rethought with flowers rather than passports.

flowers

the cartographer’s mistake: marigold map, Sarindar Dhaliwal, marigolds, 2016

That the City of Oshawa supports initiatives such as these, speaks volumes to their commitment to arts and culture in its many forms. It’s all about engaging our publics, making us think about the world in a new way. Enjoy the flowers before the fall’s frost!

 

Linda Jansma

Senior Curator, RMG

 

 

Noel Harding Remembered by Linda Jansma

I came across an “RIP” for Noel Harding on Facebook last Friday. I was both stunned and disbelieving and contacted the notification’s author for verification. The next day, emails and other postings would confirm that it was true: Noel had died suddenly on Thursday, May 26.

reverb 2015

Noel Harding, Reverb, 2015 at the General Motors Centre

Less than a week ago, Noel had called to ask me to be a reference for a sculpture commission he’d been short-listed for. He was excited about the project and the possibility of its realization.

Noel was an artist with incredible vision and energy. Born in England in 1945, his work originally consisted of video art—he was a pioneer in Canada in that medium in the 1970s; then it was video projections and installation in the 1980s; kinetic installations in the 1990s and over the past 20 years, his practice has primarily been one of public art.

harding

Noel Harding at the opening of Reverb. Spring, 2015

I first met Noel in 2002 when he was short-listed for an RMG-commissioned sculpture. While the jury did not choose his work, his attention to the site of the sculpture was both well-considered and memorable. We were happy to see him submit to the RMG’s call for proposals in the spring of 2014. The short-listed proposals were presented to the jury in the fall of 2014 with each artist given the opportunity to explain their work. Noel came in with a wonderful maquette (model of the sculpture) a flashlight and lighting system He wanted us to see the shadows that the sculpture would make in the day and set up what the lights would look like when triggered in the evening. The jury decision was unanimous: Noel had sold us on his vision, and his enthusiasm for that vision was contagious.

reverb

Noel Harding, Mayor John Henry, city councillors and RMG staff at the opening of Reverb. Spring, 2015

The idea behind Reverb is connected to our community. Noel had asked me to arrange for two tickets to an Oshawa Generals’ hockey game—he’d never been to a hockey game and, since the work was to be positioned outside the GM Centre, he wanted to get a feel for the place. It wasn’t the game that captured his imagination as much as the crowd. Reverb reflects the enthusiasm of those who visit the GM Centre—they are the ones who trigger the light show in the sculpture. The work is less about an artist’s vision, but the reflection of a community. And that consideration of our public is what helped tip the scale in Noel’s direction.

reverb night

Noel Harding, Reverb, 2015 at night

The best part of what I do is working with artists and I feel privileged to have spent time with Noel Harding. The Canadian art world has become a poorer place with his passing.

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

Curator’s Choice – the green fairy storybook

Our Curator’s Choice comes from the upcoming exhibition ‘Sarindar Dhaliwal: The Radcliffe Line and Other Geographies.’ We asked Senior Curator Linda Jansma to pick a work in the show, and she selected the ‘green fairy storybook.’

Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved learning to read, sitting on the floor between the stacks in the public library…

– the green fairy storybook

The six-foot long table is scratched and dented, cup rings scattered around its top, as well of blobs of ink in the open drawer. The legs of the table are solid but each of the four end in delicate flourishes as they meet the floor. An exquisite array of coloured books are placed on this well-worn table (although, interestingly, this is a recently built table, made to Dhaliwal’s specifications by Phillip Murray). The books are bound with green leather plates with gold lettering. The narrative runs like the words on a page, from left to right requiring not just a shift of the viewer’s eye, but of her body, as well, in order to read the sentence that starts with “Once upon a time” and ends with “this work represents a resolution of sorts; a coming home to the place where all the narratives she has written began.” On moving around the back of the piece one sees the inside of each book—multi-hued paper that reflect the binding. The paper, purchased in Pondicherry, India, is handmade, its edges delicate and colour brilliant. The books are not uniform in size, and the interior of various books contains different hues of the same colour. Looking at the book from this angle, the coloured pages become animated, not unlike looking at musical notes on a staff.

In the narrative that runs along the binding, Dhaliwal mentions fairy books: the green, yellow, red, blue, and lavender of her childhood. The reference is both to Andrew Lang’s 1889-1910 anthology of fairy tales and to her childhood. A variety of cultures and countries are represented in the hundreds of tales that Lang collected in uniformly published books with varying coloured bindings. It is not difficult to imagine Dhaliwal engrossed in such stories as King Kojata, The Enchanted Snake and Prince Fickle and Fair Helena.

In the original The Green Fairy Book, the preface is titled “To The Friendly Reader.” Growing up in Southall, on the western edge of London in the mid-1950s, a young Sarindar Dhaliwal took stacks of these coloured fairy books home to read. Her memories of that time were of a disapproving mother caught between her native Indian and Western values. She felt that Dhaliwal read too much and that by doing so (ironically) would compromise her school studies. So this work, as much as it is about childhood memories of reading, is about a relationship between mother and daughter. While the girl grew in her love for stories and colour, her illiterate mother struggled with her identity. Dhaliwal recalls her saying “we don’t want to do this,” referring neither to herself or her daughter, but rather to the Sikh community.[1] Where do the in-between truly belong?

While the narrative and the illustrations found in Lang’s fairy books expanded Dhaliwal’s universe beyond western London and her Indian roots, colour has always fed her imagination. This seems appropriate when thinking about colour. As author Victoria Finlay notes: “colours… exist but only because our minds create them as an interpretation of vibrations that are happening around us.” [2] In her video piece olive, almond & mustard we see the grim reality of 1950s Southall, shot in black and white, a colourless, somber place. This makes the contrast with Dhaliwal’s work even more intense—the colour of her imagination more fully realized.

the green fairy storybook is about Sarindar Dhalwal’s desire to read and love of colour. It is also about relationships, the immigrant experience and the development of an artist.

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

[1] Lecture by Sarindar Dhaliwal at the Chandigarh Lalit Kala Akademi Chandigarh, May 22, 2013. http://www.lalitkalachandigarh.com/videos.php?page=9, referrenced October 7, 2015.

[2] Victoria Finlay, Colour, London: Hodder and Stoughton, 2002, 4.

 

Get to Know Us – Senior Curator, Linda Jansma

At the RMG, we often get asked about what we do each day, how we got into the crazy museum world and also what skills would be needed to do our jobs. With graduation looming for many college and university students, we will be profiling members of our team to shed some light on what it is we do behind the scenes!

Today we sat down with Senior Curator Linda Jansma to learn more about her daily routine and how she came to the gallery.

The RMG: What’s a typical day like for you?

Linda Jansma: A typical day – well, I’m in the gallery at 7 a.m. – I’m an early riser and it’s amazing just how much one can get done between 7-9am! I always think I’m going to get writing done in those early hours of the day, but that rarely materializes. Email tends to come first, and with that, answering a myriad of questions from artists, the public or institutional colleagues. How did we do our jobs before email!!

My days can include:

  • A studio visit
  • Writing grants
  • Researching or writing an essay
  • Working on the installation of an exhibition
  • Connecting with donors of works of art
  • Bringing new works into the collection through donation or purchase
  • Writing artist, curator or guest writer contracts
  • Giving tours of exhibitions
  • Jurying exhibitions at other institutions
  • Critiquing student works at colleges or universities
  • Reading current magazines, articles, books on contemporary art or museum practices
Linda

Linda Jansma poses for Museum Selfie Day 2015

RMG: How did you get into this field? What skills or training do you need for your job?

LJ: I have an honours BA and a MA, both in Art History. Being able to multi-task is an important part of being a Curator:  dropping what you’re doing to pick up something else (like writing this blog!), is key.

artist and artwork

The installation of Group Portrait 1957 with artist Douglas Coupland, Senior Curator Linda Jansma and former CEO Gaby Peacock

RMG: What’s your favourite part of your job?

LJ: The favourite part of my job is connecting with artists. It is wonderful to work with artists to assist in bringing their visions to fruition through exhibitions and to see the development of their work.

Linda Jansma speaks about Jock Macdonald.

Linda Jansma speaks about Jock Macdonald.

RMG: What are 5 things you couldn’t live without in your job?

LJ: The five things I couldn’t live without include:

  1. My amazing RMG colleagues
  2. My computer
  3. The combination to the vault
  4. Art websites, Art Books, Art magazines + the RMG library
  5. The internet

RMG: What do you get up to outside of the RMG?

LJ: This past weekend I took a road trip to the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Hamilton. A lot of my “down” time involves going to other galleries! I also love to go to the theatre, travel, hop on my bicycle or hang out in my gardens.

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3

Louis de Niverville and Senior Curator Linda Jansma examine Sunset Farm #3

Curator’s Choice: Holly King

In 2012, the RMG was gifted Solitude by Holly King. I placed the work in the permanent collection exhibition Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear, the following year. Now, we have an opportunity to celebrate King’s work in a larger way with the mid-career retrospective Edging Towards the Mysterious.

Solitude is earlier than any of the work in the new exhibition. King practices mise en scène photography. Her process begins by staging her landscape settings in her studio using various props and materials. She then photographs the theatrical fabrications—the end result is the creation of “imaginary landscapes that hover between reality and fiction.”  In Solitude, a horizon line helps to differentiate the dominating sky and the water. Two small islands, made of found foliage, are surrounded by the immense, never ending blue sky and water, giving, as the title suggests, a sense of remoteness. The island’s remoteness prompts thoughts of untouched/unexplored nature—a welcomed retreat. However, the materiality of the staged setting in this photograph—the painterly quality of the sky and the foliage used to suggest land—reminds the viewer of the artificiality of the waterscape. King’s sharp focus photography does not allow the viewer to mistake the landscape as real, but encourages instilling their own personal experiences through their memories and imagination with both the objects used and the constructed environment. The tension between illusion and reality in King’s work becomes a journey for the viewer to explore.-

– Linda Jansma, Senior Curator

Ray Mead: Living Within

Ray Mead: Living Within came together quickly as a result of a change in the RMG’s programming schedule. Whenever I go through the racks in the vault, Mead’s work begs for my attention so organizing this exhibition was an incredible pleasure.

Bringing together over thirty works by Mead that range from the 1940s to 1990 has solidified what I’ve always known: Ray Mead is a fabulous painter and a wonderful colourist. While it’s impossible to talk about favourites, I do have works that I’m drawn to more than others. One of these is Door. It’s a large (203 x 173 cm), post painterly oil on canvas work that was painted around 1961. Mead has spoken about his love of black: “black is a delightful colour—it has so many variations.” The blacks in Door have their own tonal variations: deeply saturated in parts, and less so in others. But it’s that orange—just visible beneath the circular element on the left and hugging the centre on the right margin that ties the work together for me.

In writing about Door, Mead says that metaphorically the work “was a door for me to pass into a new era of experimentation.” This fabulous painting has existed for over fifty years and still draws one in towards that new era.

Linda Jansma
Senior Curator
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

 

Linda Jansma wins a writing award for Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form

The 2015 Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG) Awards were presented on 18 November, 2015 at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto.  The Awards are annual, province-wide, juried awards of artistic merit and excellence. They recognize the new exhibitions, publications, programs and community partnerships commissioned and produced by Ontario’s public art galleries over the previous year.

During the ceremony, Linda Jansma, the RMG’s Senior Curator, received the Curatorial Writing Award, Major Text  for the essay entitled “Jock Macdonald, Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff: A Lesson in Automatics” for the exhibition Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form. The 208-page catalogue features essays, as well as full-color photography, and was printed by Black Dog publishing. The publication also features texts by co-curators Ian M. Thom and Michelle Jacques, an essay by scholar Dr. Anna Hudson, excerpts from Macdonald’s correspondence and a diary the artist kept while living in Nootka Sound from 1935 to 1936.

“The OAAG awards are important because they represent the best in work from Ontario art galleries, as reviewed by our peers. I am thrilled to receive this award. – Linda Jansma, Senior Curator, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

The exhibition Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and was curated by Ian M. Thom, Michelle Jacques and Linda Jansma. The exhibition was held at the RMG from 3 February to 24 May, 2015. For more information about the exhibition, please visit the project’s website at jockmacdonald.org.

Linda Jansma’s Reflections on Today

I am not a particularly emotional person. Just ask my family, friends and colleagues who can attest to the fact that my stoic, Northern European roots run deep.

But this afternoon was different. Jason Dankel, the RMG Preparator, had installed the last work in the exhibition Moving Image. The lighting wasn’t done, nor the cards up, but the work was on the wall by mid-afternoon. I was in the space, on my own, and stood in front of Cuban-Canadian artist José Seoane’s Untitled oars that represented the experiences of those who risked their lives in small boats with handmade oars to make the treacherous trip across the open waters from Cuba to Miami. As I reflected on that work, the sound of avante-garde composer William Basinki’s video Disintegration Loop played behind me. Basinski had completed his composition on the morning of 9/11 and was playing it to a friend on the roof of his New York City apartment when the Twin Towers were hit. He set up a camera and recorded the waning hours of daylight with plumes of black smoke drifting across the sky as the sun set. He combined the music of the Disintegration Loops with the video to create an elegy to that unforgettable day.

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

Abdullah M. I. Syed, Rug of Flying Drones, 2009

So I listened to it, while looking at José’s oars, knowing that Abdullah Syed’s Rug of Drones, an installation of 107 planes in the exhibition Beyond Measure, and constructed of blades from box cutters—and which also clearly referenced 9/11, was on the other end of the gallery. And the oars were no longer specific to fleeing Cubans, but to the thousands of refugees who are risking it all to seek a safer and better life away from their homes in Syria, Iraq, Libya …

And the picture of a three year old boy flashed in my mind.

And how could one not be moved.

 

Linda Jansma
Senior Curator
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

 

Above Image: José Seoane’s, Untitled

Moving Image: The RMG’s New Permanent Collection Exhibition

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

Each year The Robert McLaughlin Gallery completely revamps the Isabel McLaughlin Gallery, a space that is dedicated to the RMG’s permanent collection. When I first came to the gallery, the norm was to give a slice of art history from a chronological perspective: 19th century landscapes and portraits were followed by the more experimental works by member of the Group of Seven. From there, a selection of works by artists of the Canadian Group of Painters, a group that was formed in 1933 and on to the 1950s and ending before abstract expressionism. It was a traditional way of showing things, but a little on the dull side.

What would happen if an A.Y. Jackson landscape from the 1940s was placed beside a Rae Johnson landscape from the 1990s? A traditional Emily Carr landscape beside a wildly exuberant work by regional artist Lynn McIlvride? A large scale photograph by Montreal-based artist Holly King, beside a small still life by Arthur Lismer? Well, a lot more fun from a curatorial perspective and something that requires more work/thought from our audience!

During the third week of August, we’ll install the exhibition Moving Image. It will include paintings of landscapes that show rushing water and clouds scuttling across the sky; the migration of both people and animals; works that are emotionally moving and create illusions of movement. Works will be historic and contemporary, include painting, drawing, sculpture and photography.

A favourite of mine in this exhibition is a work called Flock from 2009 by Kingston-based artist Don Maynard. From a distance, the installation looks like a swooping flock of birds, but on closer examination, you see a number of traditional paper airplanes (made of thin aluminum rather than paper) with their noses embedded into the wall. When I saw the work in Don’s studio, my first thought was “what a great idea!!” I still think that, and I hope visitors to the gallery enjoy both it and the other works in Moving Image.

 

Image- Flock (installation views and details), Don Maynard, aluminum, 2009