I remember an eventful time when I had the experience of being, symbolically, behind a studio door. The painter, Harold Klunder gave an artist talk in Wells, British Columbia, during one of the summers he was a mentor at the Toni Onley Project.[i] He projected images of his paintings during his talk, but he also talked about his painting practice behind his studio door, where the mementos and objects collected, the quality of the light, the scaffolding rigged for painting his large canvases added another dimension to where his ideas and understanding of the visual world came from.
In the studio, it is a particular space. The painter Mel Bochner describes art as a devise of thinking that begins in the studio space; “Most people consider thinking as a structured thing, but I think about it as a process. While you’re making something, anything, you’re simultaneously thinking about it visually, emotionally and intellectually. “[ii] Behind the Studio Door is an exhibition about painting; work made in a studio environment that is polyphonic.
David Alexander, Malcolm McCormick, Katherine Pickering and Jeroen Witvliet are presenting paintings in this rotation of the Lake Country Art Gallery exhibitions. Their artist statements contribute to the viewers understanding of their works, as they articulate the pluralistic thinking that went on behind their studio doors.
These artists have chosen the act of painting to give visual voice to their current investigations. This haptic medium has a rich history within the art historical discourse. It could be argued that the Lascaux complex of caves and the Chauvet Cave begin our fascination with mark, colour and form. Actually, one could stroll through art history and pick one’s favourites. I think of Giotto and his angels, the flying lovers of Marc Chagall, or jumping ahead to Hockney and his Splash, the intention of Pollack’s drip. Isms morphed into more isms and many theories, such as Post Structuralism and Feminism, deliberately interrupted the male gendered gaze, the gaze of male white power and privilege. I think of Mary Pratt’s painted politics of the everyday, the painted gender politics of Jenny Seville, or the painted post-colonial politics of Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptan.
Painting has been declared dead and then declared resurrected, however, the canon of painting has continually built upon the vocabulary of artists throughout time.
I would suggest that David Alexander, Malcolm McCormick, Katherine Pickering and Jeroen Witvliet, with these works, are contributing to this interesting, complicated and varied discourse about painting.
David Alexander explores mark making in his painting, from small intimate works to works commanding a single wall. Travel and environmental advocacy inform his process, as he investigates his global interest in our finite resources of land and water through his international art residencies.
Katherine Pickering has suggested that the world is her classroom, as she also travels the world and participates in international art residencies. Her research involves the investigation of abstraction through the process of the materiality of paint and canvas, its limitations and confines.
Malcolm McCormick’s recent research examines the intersection of assembling and de-assembling painting and its history; his investigations of the gallery wall as a trope is twined with painted works.
Jeroen Witvliet studio research involves investigations into the materiality of paint, often pushing the idea to a point of failure; his work is overlaid with speculations of memory, travel and identity of the self, as his travel and understanding of history underpins his practice.
These four artists have allowed us behind their studio doors, and shown us their current painting vocabularies. The Lake Country Art Gallery has provided this light filled venue to see the works and contemplate the ideas and concepts that these artists are presenting. And now it is up to us, as we, the viewers, bring our personal and subjective experiences to the act of seeing these paintings.
[i] Harold Klunder is a Canadian painter. He gave this talk in 2010 when he mentored at the Toni Onley Artist Project with the printmaker Libby Hague.
[ii] Mel Bochner is an American conceptual artist who is interested in language based works. This quote comes from an interview that Robert Enright conducted with Bochner in BorderCrossings, Volume 38, Number 1 Issue No. 149.