Coast to Coast to Coast Exhibition
Did you know that the world’s largest collection of contemporary Canadian ceramics is housed right here in Burlington? The Art Gallery of Burlington is definitely a hidden gem and with their current “Coast to Coast to Coast” exhibition they are showcasing just a small portion of this marvelous collection of ceramics. In fact, the exhibition is only 3% of the entire permanent collection! I had only recently learned that the collection includes a Picasso (pictured below) …with my curiousity peaked I headed to check out their latest offering.
The Coast to Coast to Coast exhibition is, as it’s name implies a representation of ceramic artists from across the country and includes pieces from homegrown artists that have been involved in the AGB guild in various capacities. This particular piece is “Hare” by Mary Philpott who had taught classes and worked as a kiln technician while studying at university. I really like when you get to see not only the finished piece but the conceptual part of the process as well as we do with this.
I should tell you upfront that I am not an art aficionado. I am married to an artist, I have friends that are amazing artists but every time I go to a show opening or view an exhibition with one of them, I feel like a first grader in a room full of university students. Don’t get me wrong, I do like art and I want to appreciate it in the way it is meant to be seen but I seem to lack that fundamental knowledge of what I should be looking for or experiencing as I take in a great piece of artwork. Stepping into the gallery I am immediately struck by the brightly coloured backdrops and interesting placements, it’s simple and uncluttered and gives you the sense that you should take your time and explore the space around you. I started meandering around stopping to check out pieces that caught my eye (I admit I love bright colours and anything kitchy).
I found this great set “Breakfast Service” by Jeannot Blackburn with it’s girly figures and fun colours, it was right up my alley – success!
I viewed some other pieces then, these “Seven Vases” by Matthias Ostermann caught my eye and I wandered over. Again, the colours and the spirit made me want to scoop them all up and sneak them back to my office to adorn a shelf and brighten up my under decorated space.
I moved around the room and as I was looking at the next series of ceramics, I was approached by the Curator of the Permanent Collection, Jonathan Smith who kindly asked if I had any questions about the exhibition. Immediately, my mind went into overdrive trying to formulate a question that wouldn’t make me sound a complete novice (which I am). I decided to opt for honestly and tell him of my lack of knowledge with respect to art appreciation. I told him I liked the piece by Jeannot Blackburn (see above) with it’s pretty colours and such…he asked if I noticed the subtle racial undertones…I didn’t, but when I looked again I saw it. I mentioned that “Under the Rocks and Stones” by Steven Heinemann was interesting to me because on it’s own it was pretty plain – a rock shape with a pictograph carved into it but then I noticed a hole in the top and had to peer in to see if I was missing something. After Jonathan spoke to me about this piece I realized I was missing something…not inside the piece but instead the ideas the artist might be conveying through this piece.
Jonathan pointed out a dinnerware set on display – was it functional piece of art or is it a sculpture? My mind raced trying to come up with the right answer and hopefully be rewarded with a nod and smile from the “teacher”. What I would soon find out it that is is potentially both. I listened and looked as Jonathan explained and since I can’t do it justice I have asked him to supply me with what he so graciously shared with me.
“Paul Mathieu with his work ‘The Arrows of time (for S.W.H.)’ has created a dinner place setting with a teapot, where an image is created only when the piece is properly stacked. As the complete image is spread over several pieces, he is investigating how one effectively combines a two dimensional image on a three dimensional form. Mathieu adds a further narrative element as his image depicts the act of pouring a cup of tea and its consumption, suggesting both time and motion. He indicates this in his title where the work is dedicated to S.W.H. – Stephen W. Hawking. The work is either functional or sculptural depending on how it is used. “
I was intrigued…it wasn’t like a bolt of lightening stuck me and I could suddenly “understand” art but what it did do was encourage me to look at things a little closer and think a little deeper. I may not have correctly interpreted what the artists were thinking but maybe that’s what it’s all about – seeing the possibilities and not just seeing the piece. Just like any learning, each time you visit there is a new layer to your interest and understanding.
One other fun aspect of this exhibition that I should mention is the Chiho Tokita pieces that are displayed. This is a group of work that the AGB hopes to acquire and they will accept financial contributions (in the conveniently placed donation box) to help them reach their goal of adding her work to their collection. The thing that is different about this display is that the public is encouraged to sit down and sketch/draw/colour and display their artwork above the piece.
With that, I encourage you to take some time and visit the Art Gallery of Burlington and the Coast to Coast to Coast exhibition (on to November 9) and let me know what you thought of Coast to Coast to Coast or any of the other exhibits throughout the gallery. Oh and did I mention that it’s free to visit the Art Gallery of Burlington…so no excuses!