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Art Lab: Activated Absence

Art Lab: Activated Absence

Part I: October 3 – November 2, 2014

Part II: November 7 – 30, 2014

Part III: December 5, 2014 – January 4, 2015

The Art Lab is a new series of exhibitions that will offer a concentrated look at some of the most difficult and rarely displayed work from the JNAAG permanent collection. This work might be difficult to program or display frequently because of its size, content (or lack thereof), or relationship to other objects in the collection. However, this work has much to offer, and can touch a viewer’s depths before stirring the surface. Investigating, experiencing, and engaging these objects with our community is what the Art Lab series is all about.

Art Lab: Activated Absence is a three-part exhibition based on the Canadian painter Ron Martin (b. 1943). Martin was born in London, Ontario, studying commercial art at H.B. Beal Secondary High School and was one of the original members of the Forest City Gallery in 1973. Artists were searching for new formal directions, alternative materials, and a fresh visual vocabulary with which to relate to ones place in the quickened pace of modern living. They sought a place for the individual (both artist and viewer) to connect with art on a spiritual level again, an ability that was thoroughly tested through mid-twentieth century art movements.

Ron Martin’s art has consistently evolved along a parallel, but separate, path from the rest of the painters in Toronto and southern Ontario. It is widely collected and well-known, yet many viewers still have a very tenuous relationship with the work. What is it about Martin’s work that makes it so different, so difficult? The Activated Absence exhibition and programming promises multiple insights and perspectives with which to answer this question on an individual level.

Art Lab: Activated Absence  – Part III

Martin: Untitled

For Part III, two examples of Martin’s well-known Black Paintings are installed on one wall, providing viewers an opportunity to have an extended experience and to develop a personal relationship with these paintings. The works exemplify Martin’s experimentation with materiality, producing two very different applications and experiences of paint. The mounded, folded, creased, and very tactile expression of the paint evinces various working methods as Martin used his hands and various tools to get the paint in place before it began to set. The image field seems to expand into the cosmos or snap back into miniature depending on how you approach these works.

Martin’s objective was to get rid of any intentional image-content, allowing the viewer an open space to connect with the work. The size of the work is roughly equivalent to the reach of a viewer’s outstretched arms, functioning and existing on a human scale. As the artwork confidently embodies an absence of imagery, the place of the viewer in relation to the object is front and center. With little other context given, the Activated Absence series becomes a meditative break from the fast-paced rigour of our daily lives as we each take time in developing our relationships to Martin’s work.

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