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Mining the AGO’s collections for an artist book

August 5th, 2015

By Meera Margaret Singh

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

Photos by Meera Margaret Singh (far right and far left) installed in the Richard Barry Fudger Memorial Gallery.

The experience of working at the AGO as the artist-in–residence for summer 2015 has been an extremely productive and rewarding venture. After having organized several interventions in the form of free participatory Laughter Yoga workshops in both Walker Court and Galleria Italia (filling space typically reserved for quiet contemplation with the powerful sound of a collective laughing) and then installing two photographs from my series of female body builders into the European Collection (located in the Fudger Gallery, pictured above), I’ve decided to add a third element to the residency: creating a small-edition artist book.

Being in the AGO, surrounded by an incredible collection of art, along with the insertion of my work into the gallery space has allowed me to think about the various forms of dialogue that can take shape between historic and the contemporary artists/artworks. I began several weeks ago to mine various collections (European, Canadian, African, Modern and Contemporary, Photography and Prints and Drawing) focusing on three main themes that echo my own life/work at present:

Women and strength (relating to my work with female body builders)…

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.

Unknown, Reclining woman with floral motif design, date unknown. Art Gallery of Ontario. Gift of Carol and Morton Rapp, 1997.


Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gillia, 2015, chromogenic print.

…people being overcome by emotion (relating to my work with laughter yoga/yogis)…

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin),  1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.

Paul Peel, The Model (after Chaplin), 1890, oil on canvas. Art Gallery of Ontario. Bequest of John Paris Bickell, Toronto, 1952.


Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

Meera Margaret Singh, Gaby Laughing, c-print, 2008.

…and mothers and children (relating to an ongoing series of work I’ve done with my own mother as well as my new role as mother)

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.

American artist (unknown), Decorative plate with portrait of mother and daughter, c. 1902, collodion print., 24 x 25 cm. Art Gallery of Ontario. Anonymous gift, 2004.


Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Meera Margaret Singh, Mitosis, 2004, c-print.

Thanks to the invaluable help of Barbora Racevicuite, interning at the AGO for the summer, we have mined the AGO’s collection finding works that speak to these themes and further speak to me. Having selected numerous images, my goal is to create a small accordion style publication with my photographic works on one side and works from the AGO collection on the other side. The intention is to allow my contemporary works to create new, altered meaning when situated with historic works and vice versa. The culmination of this will echo the intent of the artist-in-residence program itself: To engage with the gallery itself along with its unique collection while “leading the way for experimentation and growth in the field of contemporary art practice.”

I’m very grateful for all of the help that the AGO and the artist-in-residence program have offered me in creating work and re-contextualizing work throughout my residency. Thank you so much!


Learn more about Singh’s AGO residency

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