Gerald Ferguson, Ben Reeves, Carmen Ruschiensky, Francine Savard   Lines Painted in Early Spring

June 21, 2003 - August 17, 2003

This exhibition of paintings, curated by Patrick Mahon, features the work of four Canadian artists from widely varying geographical and social backgrounds. Its title plays on that of William Wordsworth’s Romantic poem, Lines Written in Early Spring, in which the author sets forth the classic opposition between nature and culture: paradise is lost due to the foibles and fallibilities of human action in the world. The artists in the exhibition take a less pessimistic view of our relationship to the material world to offer paintings where nature and culture, and the space of the canvas and the actions of the painter, fuse and collide to produce engaging and often lyrical works. These artists show painting as a language capable of addressing ideas concerning space and landscape through painterly means that propose the mutual agency of human culture and the “ground” that surrounds it. Adopting the metaphor of marking lines upon the road, the exhibition proposes a space for painting where inventive ideas about representation cross-pollinate to produce a complex yet continuous expanse.

In the exhibition, important Halifax conceptualist Gerald Ferguson presents five works from several recent frottage series in black enamel. Made by rubbing and rolling over a canvas underneath which a variety of hardware store items – hoses, ropes and rods – have been arranged, the works offer flattened records of an unspectacular process that are, nonetheless, elegant and forcefully evocative. Ben Reeves, a young Vancouver painter, also employs chord-like objects to make his paintings where electrical extension chords appear as fluid and weightless jumbles of lines. With Reeves, the potential for anxiety that an engagement with complex technological systems often promises has been loosened and made the subject of humour and ‘natural’ inventiveness. Carmen Ruschiensky, an artist originally from Saskatchewan now living in Montreal, produces large-scale works of directness and beauty. Characterized by a meandering brush-drawn line, Ruschiensky has produced four canvases that function as “maps of wandering” where a web of marks circulates among islands of viscous colour. Francine Savard who is also from Montreal, shows a series of luminous shaped pieces whose outlines refer to graphic passages originally located in the 1960’s works of Quebec abstractionist, Fernand Leduc. Savard’s paintings are islands of pure colour upon which words that seem to refer to the language of painting and to landscape have been simultaneously delicately affixed so that ideas about the place of artistic and social production coalesce.

Gerald Ferguson has been practicing as an artist in Canada for over thirty-five years. His conceptually-based paintings and text and performance works have been featured nationally and internationally, including in Cologne, Germany and at the National Gallery of Canada. He received the Molson Prize for the Arts in 1996.

Ben Reeves studied at Chelsea College of Art and Design and has been working as a painter in Vancouver for several years. His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Surrey Art Gallery, Atelier and Equinox galleries, and is included in the international drawing exhibition, “Drawing the World” this summer at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Carmen Ruschiensky’s
work has been shown in many exhibitions in Canada and France since 1988. The recipient of several major grants and awards, Ruschiensky has participated in artist’s residencies in Baie Saint-Paul, Quebec, and in St. Ouen, France.

Francine Savard
has exhibited widely in Quebec, including at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal and at Galerie Renée Blouin. Her work is featured in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, and has been the subject of numerous articles and reviews, including in response to the “Peinture-Peinture” exhibition in Montreal in 1998.

Patrick Mahon
is an artist, curator and teacher who lives in London, Ontario. Mahon has produced many projects involving interventions into museum collections, and his work has been the subject of many reviews and publications. As a writer, he has published widely in Canada, including in BorderCrossings, Parachute, C International Contemporary Art and Fuse.

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