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Toni Hamel’s new series, The land of Id

This post is by Heather Bulman, a public relations student at Durham College and the RMG’s current Communications Intern.

Toni Hamel was drawn to art very early in life. She remembers creating her first sculptures from the clay brought up from the ground after her parents added a well to the backyard of their Italian home. To this day, Hamel keeps the earliest evidence of her true passion – a photograph from kindergarten with a few drawings on the back.

In Italy, Hamel fought to pursue an education in the arts. Finally, in 1983, she graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the Academy of Fine Art in Lecce. However, after moving to Canada, she found it difficult to find a job with a degree in fine arts. Hamel took advantage of the dawn of technology by studying computer graphics at Sheridan College. As one of the few women working in technology at the time, she went on to have a very successful career as an interactive media developer and instructor at the University of Toronto. Despite her successes, Hamel grew tired of her career and, with the support of her husband, decided to return to her true passion. Since 2007, she has focused her creative efforts solely on her art. Although she incorporates many mediums into her pieces, she works mostly with graphite.

Toni Hamel painting in the Art Lab

Toni Hamel painting in the Art Lab

“I started as a painter, but then I got tired of colour. Colour distracts me,” says Hamel. “To me, it’s like decoration. In the work I have evolved to, there is no place for decoration – it’s about the essence. I extract everything else. In doing so, I arrived at drawings. Drawings don’t have contextual information, just the central message. I don’t produce images, I produce content.”

Beginning February 4, she will have the opportunity to create new content as the second artist in residency at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) in Oshawa, Ont. In the galley’s Art Lab, attached to the recently opened Gallery A, Hamel will have the space to reflect on humans’ relationship with the environment in her new series, The land of Id. This subject matter will complement a current exhibition in the RMG, Running on Empty, while exploring different formats.

Hamel’s experiences in Italy have inspired her to explore powerful topics such as social and political issues. She believes artists have a responsibility to raise awareness about important topics and share their experiences.

“It is difficult for artists to get the general community interested in the arts,” explains Hamel. “When I was growing up in Italy, there were no galleries that offered art classes to a variety of generations, like the Station Gallery or the RMG. Gallery A gives the artists the opportunity to develop new pieces while sharing and engaging with the community.”

For this artist, it’s all about sharing a message. Hamel often uses humour and satire to explore controversial topics. While she admits that reality can be offensive sometimes, she also finds it challenging to find the right balance. As her work has evolved, Hamel has learned that sometimes she can say more with a whisper than a shout.

Toni Hamel’s exhibition The land of Id runs in Gallery A from March 3 to 29. Image by Toni Hamel.

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Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – A perpetual state of evolution

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

There are not many rooms in Oshawa with totem poles, fish swimming through space, and rolling Canadian hills up on its walls. 

Evolving Form at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) is the first major retrospective of Macdonald’s work in more than 30 years. The exhibit gives a fresh look into his influential career as a Canadian artist. According to the exhibit’s curator Linda Jansma, the exhibit came together through a long process that began in spring 2011. “This exhibit traces the artistic transition [Macdonald] underwent,” says Jansma. “His career as an artist journeys in a perpetual state of evolution.”

In 2012, Jansma was in the process of writing a grant to receive funding from the Department of Heritage for the exhibit when she received an email from Jock’s nephew, Alistair Macdonald. During their correspondence, he notified Jansma about 40 letters written by his uncle stored in the Edinburgh Gallery’s archives. This was the missing piece to Jansma’s puzzle, she said. That fall, she took a five-day trip to Scotland to view the letters. The content of the letters led her to uncover the lost work of Macdonald. She explored the various styles and periods of Macdonald and brought back with her paintings, drawings and methods unseen before by Canadian audiences currently up at the gallery.

Macdonald was born in 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. After his time in the army, he studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Macdonald immigrated to Canada in 1926 to take up a teaching job as head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.  One of his greatest contributions is as a founding member of Toronto-based abstract group, Painters 11 formed in 1953.

In the early stages of his career, Canadian Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’s work inspired Macdonald to paint abstract landscapes. This influence is visible in his work In the White Forest, 1932. You can see in his work Drying Herring Roe, 1938 Macdonald was inspired by Canadian Aboriginal culture. The painting features large traditional totem poles and reserves. These pieces, among 91 other original works, are currently up in the RMG.

“Intuitively artists create within the structural forms of nature,” is a quote from Macdonald posted above his landscape works in the exhibit. There is a notable predominance of nature as his main influencer in the majority of his work. Jock always painted the fourth dimension of nature,” says Jansma. “It is how we’re suppose to feel about it, not how we see it.”

Even when Macdonald wasn’t painting landscapes this influence is evident throughout his career. More abstract style paintings such as Spring Awakening, 1936 represent a more nonliteral interpretation of nature. In his mid-career, Macdonald began to divert away from traditional ideals of art and began to explore modern concepts such as futurism and surrealism.

In the 1940s, Macdonald met British surrealist artists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff. They taught Macdonald surrealist painting methods such as automatics, a technique that involves painting in quick-paced series, and dating work down to the very time it was created. During this time, Macdonald was diverting away from his traditional landscape work and started producing surrealist-style paintings.

“Never can you know how indebted I am to you both, the awakening and releasing of my inner consciousness,” wrote Macdonald in a letter to Pailthorpe and Mednikoff.

Vivid, colourful painting such as Fish Family, 1943 display Macdonald’s subconscious expressed on a canvas. This piece and other works from this period are included in the RMG exhibit to showcase the versatility and dimensions Macdonald was capable of as an artist. The exhibit does a superb job at collecting and representing various elements and the periods of Macdonald’s career.

Many art historians credit 1957 – 1960 as Macdonald’s pre-eminent years as a painter. He began exploring oil-based mediums such as Duco and Lucite industrial paints to produce abstract work such as Bearer of Gifts, 1952. You can see the transition as his work began to loosen up in 1958 with Clarion Call into the very fluid and almost whimsical Elemental Fury, 1960.

The RMG dedicated an entire gallery space to showcase the work from his final years as a painter. From 1957, he painted an average of 50 paintings per year until he died suddenly from a heart attack on Dec. 3, 1960. The work of Macdonald has and continues to influence Canadian and international artists. The RMG’s exhibit Evolving Form adequately demonstrates the versatility, aptitude and depth of Macdonald’s career.

 

Image: Jock Macdonald, Nature’s Pattern, 1954; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

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RMG Friday March: Evolving Form

Our March event on 6 March from 7-10pm will engage with your senses! Both Graham Nicholas and Ryan Carr are acoustic roots singer-songwriters who will take us on a musical journey.

We also celebrate Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, the major retrospective of the abstract artist and Painters 11 member Jock Macdonald. Create an artwork using your senses, tour the collection and learn more about the symposium, Abstraction in Canada hosted by the RMG on Saturday 7 March.

For more information:
Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form – http://www.rmg.on.ca/jock-macdonald-evolving-form.php
Ryan Carr- http://www.reverbnation.com/ryancarr
Graham Nicholas – https://www.facebook.com/grahamnicholasmusic

On the first Friday of the month, join the RMG in celebrating local talent. The gallery buzzes with live musical performances, interactive art experiences, open gallery spaces, social mingling and more. Suitable for music lovers, youth, families, date nights, and culture-vultures.

Free to attend | 7-10pm | Cash Bar | All ages welcome.

Follow the twitter feed at #RMGFridays!

The RMG is grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for their support of RMG Fridays.

Image credits:
Left: Graham Nicholas. Photo by Laura Proctor Photography
Middle: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
Right: Ryan Carr

Evin and Elizabeth at RMG Fridays January 2015

Meet Evin Lachance, Gallery A Co-ordinator and Technician

“Hot Topics” blog posts come from the desk of Sam Mogelonsky, our Communications & Social Media Coordinator.

The RMG caught up with Evin Lachance, Gallery A Co-ordinator and Technician to discuss his new role at the gallery.

 

The RMG: Hi Evin. We are thrilled to have you as a member of the RMG team. Can you tell us briefly about who you are and how you got involved with the RMG?

Evin Lachance: I am a fairly recent grad from Ryerson University. I started my RMG journey after my graduation back in May 2014. Being raised in Oshawa I wanted to inject myself into it  Arts community so naturally I became a volunteer here at the Gallery. After 5 months or so of volunteering  I was approached by Elizabeth Sweeney and asked if I would like to work with Gallery A as a coordinator and technician. It was dream come true and an opportunity I could not pass up.

RMG: What drew you to the museum sector?

Evin: When I did my undergrad in New Media at Ryerson University I learned a lot about myself and my practice which ultimately lead me to the museum sector. In the program I learned a lot about user interaction with art and how people respond to what they see/touch/hear and it got me interested in how we as a community experience art. I suppose it ignited a spark to begin to facilitate community art in order to explore it. The best place for me was the museum sector because it was a central hub for all of these things.

RMG: How has Gallery A evolved since you began working on the project? What are you most looking forward to in the coming months?

Evin: Since I was brand new to the museum the guidelines had already been established for Gallery A. However, since it is new too I have a chance to help it grow into something special. I will say that it has evolved into this weird sibling I have to take care for:  I have to clean it, make sure it looks nice to the public, feed art into, and correct any problems it may cause. Sometimes it can be stubborn but over all its totally worth it and I strongly believe in its existence!

Overall, I am the most excited to have the space constantly being in a state of flux. We went from Painted abstract walls with Pete Smith to etchings of plant life and mixed media from Ruth Greenlaw. Every time there is a new artist in Gallery A and in the ArtLab the atmosphere becomes new and electric. I am also looking forward to the new work being created within the ArtLab and seeing Gallery A being  moulded into something new for each individual artist or group.

RMG: What is your favourite museum?

Evin: Can I say The RMG? I mean I am a little biased but it is an important establishment for art in the Oshawa community and also in my own life. I enjoy the work being done by the staff and the spectrum of artist we show here.

Other notable places that I enjoy to attend is 401 Richmond in Toronto. Though not a specific museum it houses a ton of amazing Gallery Spaces like The Red Head Gallery, A Space, Vtape, etc. I can spend hours within the building walking through all the spaces seeing all the art and become inspired by the use of space.

(I’m a little bit of a fixture junkie. I love seeing how art work is presented.)

RMG: What is the one thing you most want to share with people about the RMG?

Evin: One thing would have to be the new instalment of Gallery A and the Art lab within the RMG. We finally have a space that will properly showcase Durham Reign artists. I want people to be excited about coming and seeing new works by people they potentially live down the street from.

RMG: What is your first memory of art?

Evin: It is kind of sappy but when I was incredibly young  I remember going into my basement and searching in old boxes to find “artifacts” from my parents past. In one of the boxes with my Mother’s name on it I came across a couple of  8.5″ x 11″ acrylic animal caricatures she had done when she was a teenager.  Among them was one of a fish was blow a heart bubble to another fish. I can recall trying to recreate it about a hundred times. Even though my mom claims to never have had any talent her work is a fond memory and inspiration that I will take with me throughout my life.

Image credit: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

RMG paints a picture of Canada

Vol ‘n’ Tell is an ongoing series of blog posts written by RMG Volunteers. Raechel Bonomo is an Oshawa native, art enthusiast and second-year Print Journalism student at Durham College.

Rolling Canadian hills dominate the walls of Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s (RMG) main gallery space. In a corner, tiny fish can be seen swimming through space while totem poles hang on the opposite side of the room.

As part of the gallery’s Talk and Tour series, curator Linda Jansma took the public through a look into the career and life of one of Canadian’s prominent painters Jock Macdonald in Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.

Jansma said the exhibit came together through a long process that began in spring 2011.

“This exhibit traces the artistic transition [Macdonald] underwent,” said Jansma. “His career as an artist journeys in a perpetual state of evolution.”

In 2012, Jansma was in the process of writing a grant to receive funding from the Department of Heritage for the exhibit when she received a strange email.

The sender was Jock’s nephew, Alistair Macdonald.

He asked Jansma about the collection of Macdonald pieces at the RMG for an exhibit he was curating at the Edinburgh Gallery in Scotland. During their correspondence, he notified Jansma about 40 letters written by his uncle stored in the Scottish gallery’s archives.

This was the missing piece to Jansma’s puzzle, she said. That fall, she took a five-day trip to Scotland to view the letters. The content of the letters led her to uncover the lost work of Macdonald.

She explored the various styles and periods of Macdonald and brought back with her paintings, drawings and methods unseen before by Canadian audiences.

Macdonald was born in 1897 in Thurso, Scotland. After his time in the army, he studied design at the Edinburgh College of Art. Macdonald immigrated to Canada in 1926 to take up a teaching job as head of design at the Vancouver School of Decorative and Applied Arts.

One of his greatest contributions is as a founding member of Toronto-based abstract group, Painters 11 formed in 1953.

In the early stages of his career, Canadian Group of Seven member Lawren Harris’s work inspired Macdonald to paint abstract landscapes. This influence is visible in his work In the White Forest, 1932. This piece, among 92 other original works, is currently up in the RMG.

“Intuitively artists create within the structural forms of nature,” is a quote from Macdonald posted above his landscape works in the exhibit. There is a notable predominance of nature as his main influencer in the majority of his work, Jansma said.

“Jock always painted the fourth dimension of nature,” said Jansma. “It is how we’re suppose to feel about it, not how we see it.”

In the 1940s, Macdonald met British surrealist artists Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff. According to Jansma, they taught Macdonald surrealist painting methods such as automatics. This technique involves painting in quick-paced series, and dating work down to the very time it was created. Macdonald was diverting away from his traditional landscape work and producing surrealist-style paintings such as Fish Family, 1943 included in the RMG exhibit.

Many art historians credit 1957 – 1960 as Macdonald’s pre-eminent years as a painter. During this time, he painted an average of 50 paintings per year until he died suddenly from a heart attack on Dec. 3, 1960.

Jansma described Macdonald as the “pioneer of post-war abstraction in Canada.” According to her, he had a substantial influence on Canadian painters then and in future generations.

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Pete Smith, Postscript, 2014

Bowmanville painter Pete Smith credits Jock Macdonald as one of his biggest influences and the catalyst to his current exhibit Postscript in Gallery A, located in the lower half of the RMG.

Smith told the RMG his exhibit is “an aesthetic research project into the work and life of Jock Macdonald. In this sense, it will function as a postscript: a sprawling, artistic labyrinth of additional information and my idiosyncratic response to the concurrently held exhibition, Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form.”

Evolving Form is the first major retrospect of Macdonald’s work in more than 30 years and can be viewed at the RMG until May 24.

 

Top Image credit: Jock Macdonald, Rim of the Sky, 1958; oil on canvas; Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery.

 

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RMG FRIDAYS… 4 Years Later

As we approach a milestone, Norah O’Donnell, the Manager of Community and Volunteer Development finds herself reflecting on the past 4 years of RMG Fridays programming. What a whirlwind experience! Our Communication Coordinator, Sam Mogelonsky asked her a few questions – here is the result.

Norah at the mic

Norah at the mic

 

Sam: For those who are not aware, what is RMG Fridays?

Norah: RMG Fridays is a free, community-focused series held at the RMG on the first Friday of each month. It is a fun night where we meet as a community to take in 2 musical performances, exhibition openings, community collaborations, a cash bar and interactive art projects! We are very grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting this program.

 

Sam: You mentioned community collaborations. Who has partnered with RMG Fridays?

Norah: The partnerships that have developed through the program are vast and varied. They continue to diversify programming and our audience base. Over the past 4 years, we have collaborated with Durham College, Trent University, UOIT, Spark Centre for Innovation, City of Oshawa, Oshawa Public Library, Rotary Club of Oshawa, AIDS Committee of Durham, Girls Inc., Core 21, Durham Tourism, Oshawa Community Museum, Empty Cup Media, Cinefest Durham, Pride Durham, Oshawa Space Invaders, Broken Arts and Next Winter Festival.

 

 

Sam: How many participants have been involved?

Norah: I have made many friends at RMG Fridays! I love seeing new and familiar faces each month.  Since 2011, our staff and volunteers have welcomed over 8400 guests!

 

RMG Fridays July 4, 2014. Photo by Licianny Matos

Sam: Could you talk a bit about the planning process of RMG Fridays?

Norah: RMG Fridays is a collaborative effort amongst staff. We plan 4 months at a time to coincide with our newsletter production. The project scope has increased over the years to now include Nutshell Tours, exhibition openings and more. We have a great team of RMG Fridays volunteers who help run the event each month. A special thanks to all those who are currently involved and those who have helped over the past 4 years. We could not do it without their support. In addition, each month I am grateful to Nate and Jacob at JMS Audio for making us sound so specular!

 

Sam: What has been your favourite RMG Fridays moment?

Norah: It is almost impossible for me to choose just one. I would say my top 5 in no particular order has been:

  • Forest City Lovers performing to a record number of attendees
  • Launching the Gig Poster Show with the Marvelous Beauhunks and Viva Mars
  • Celebrating the eve of International Women’s Day with Girls Inc. Durham, the barbershop quartet Surround Sound, Jenny Berkel, and Heather Luckhart and her Colbalt Babies.
  • Dave Stathem swinging us into the holidays!
  • The GeekFreaks breakdancing in the Isabel McLauglin Gallery

 

Sam: Who would be your dream band to perform at RMG Fridays?

Norah: Uptown Funk is currently stuck in my head on repeat. Bruno Mars is my current pick!

 

 

Linda Jansma speaks about Jock Macdonald.

Curator’s View: Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald

This blog post comes from the desk of Senior Curator, Linda Jansma.

This is an unprecedented time in the history of Painters Eleven. Two of its members, Jack Bush and Jock Macdonald are simultaneously having major retrospective exhibitions. Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, which debuted at the Vancouver Art Gallery last fall and has now just opened at the RMG runs concurrently with Jack Bush, an exhibition organized by and featured at the National Gallery of Canada.

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

Image Credit: Jock Macdonald in Nootka Sound, c. 1935-36, Vancouver Art Gallery Archives

As a co-curator of the Macdonald exhibition, I have been immersed in the project for three years and yesterday’s final touches on the installation were a satisfying experience. I’d seen the exhibition installation in Vancouver, and ours, because of the spaces we’re using, looks quite different. It’s interesting to see how work changes dependent on the height of galleries or the juxtaposition with different work—it’s the stuff that keeps curating fresh for me.

The experience I had with the Jack Bush exhibition was completely different. Two RMG works were included in the show and one of its principal curators, Sarah Stanners spent a good deal of time in our vault and with our archives. But that was extent of my knowledge of the exhibition.

The painting to greet visitors on entering the exhibition is a majestic sash painting—indeed, the entire first part of the exhibition concentrates on work that Bush did after 1961. These are paintings to which his international reputation is attributed. A room of his 1950s abstract expressionist work is one in which I felt particularly comfortable. He produced these paintings when he was a member of P11 and while they might not be considered as accomplished as his later work, I love the energy that spills from them. The majesty of these later works cannot however, be denied: expansive areas of colour, the brush strokes, unlike many other colour field painters, he allows his audience to see, as well as many of the works’ expansive sizes that envelope you when standing in front of them make for an incredible experience.

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

Portrait of Jack Bush at Park Gallery, 1958, The New Studio Photography, Gift of the Feheley Family, 2013

There are interesting similarities to the Bush and Macdonald stories. The NGC retrospective highlights the importance of Bush’s relationship with New York critic Clement Greenberg (although puts to rest the myth that Greenberg all but guided Bush’s brush), while the Macdonald exhibition shines a light on the relationship he had with British Surrealists Dr. Grace Pailthorpe and Reuben Mednikoff. The Bush family gave unprecedented access to their father’s diaries giving a personal voice to the project. The Macdonald project saw the inclusion of both a previously unknown diary that he kept while roughing it with his family in Nootka Sound, as well as close to forty letters that he’d written to his mentors Pailthorpe and Mednikoff. These primary sources have enriched both projects.

As a curator who has worked with a collection by members of Painters Eleven for many years, seeing both of these exhibitions is particularly satisfying for me. It also makes me realize how much has yet to be done: as a start, Ray Mead or Walter Yarwood retrospectives anyone?