May 4 to August 27, 2017
Opening Reception: May 4, 2017 at 7 pm
Revisiting one of the most enduring Canadian art histories, When We Were features the work of four Guelph-based artists – Scott Abbott, Janette Hayhoe, Jessica Masters, and Kathleen Schmalz – who transpose historical landscape tradition and plein-air technique in contemporary practice informed by their experiences and memories of places both within and beyond the local landscape.
For these artists, landscape is more conceptual and emotive than documentary, although each has engaged the technique of painting ‘in the open air,’ in view of the setting as it is rendered. While landscape implies that the land, as in terra firma, is their primary subject, in the context of When We Were it encompasses earth, water, and air, as well as the constructed and conjured spaces in-between.
Scott Abbott’s practice is the most embedded in the Canadian landscape tradition, as he works on location and in the studio, using oil, acrylic, watercolour, and coloured pencil to depict his surrounding environment. When We Were features paintings by Abbott that articulate the broad technical and expressive scope of his practice, including a selection of impasto plein air studies and a large field-scape with its expansive vista captured in bold and dynamic line and colour, originally created as a site-specific commission.
Perhaps best known for her rigorous studies painted from life, Janette Hayhoe’s works often focus on everyday objects and spaces that can trigger memory and transform the mundane. Her mutable skyscapes in oil on mylar, are painted more loosely as both remembered and imagined skies, informed by the climatic locales of her studios here and away, in southern Ontario and northern France.
Jessica Masters has lived in Britain, Ontario, and Quebec, all places that have shaped her perspective on landscape, but her chalk pastel seascapes in this exhibition are directly informed by her fastidious study of the northern US coastline. For Masters, the surgent swell of the water—its push and pull—embodies and oscillates between the human traits of vulnerability and power, joy and grief, calm and fury.
Kathleen Schmalz divides her time between Guelph, Ontario and Sooke, British Columbia, where she makes paintings that depict “unsentimental Canadiana,” often capturing less than idyllic details of place. This exhibition features Schmalz’s expansive quadriptych, a twelve-foot-wide rocky plateau, as well as a bank-side streetscape rendered in drenching rivulets of tone and colour.
When We Were is curated by Dawn Owen.