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Archive: May, 2007

Rivington Place: building a new space for new ideas

May 30th, 2007

This podcast is a live recording of a public lecture at the Art Gallery of Ontario on Thursday, May 17, 2007.

64 minutes.

Dr. Augustus (Gus) Casely-Hayford has recently been appointed to Arts Council England as Executive Director, Arts Strategy. Casely-Hayford was previously Director of the Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA), a London-based arts organization with a particular emphasis on international practice. London is one of the most culturally diverse cities on earth. Its history, buildings and public sculpture are a physical testimony to a history of huge sociological change and continuous immigration. In 2007, Rivington Place, its first publicly funded gallery dedicated to the work of artists from culturally diverse backgrounds will open. The history, the context and ramifications of this development are complex and manifold. Dr. Casely-Hayford will discuss some of the issues connected to delivering culturally diverse art in 21st century London.

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Mark Lewis first recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO

May 16th, 2007

On May 31, photographer and filmmaker Mark Lewis will be jointly recognized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation for his contribution to the visual arts in Canada. As a recipient of the 2007 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO, Lewis will receive a $25,000 award and his work will be featured in a temporary exhibition at the AGO in 2008.

The AGO’s permanent collection includes one of Lewis’ most famous works – Algonquin Park, Early March (2002), in which he uses a slow reverse zoom. The four-minute film, shot in Ontario, begins with whiteness that the viewer perceives to be sky, but as the image unfolds it is revealed to be the frozen surface of a lake.

Image: Mark Lewis
Algonquin Park, Early March, 2002
35mm film transferred to digital betacam videotape; 4 minutes, colour, no sound
Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program and with the assistance of the Estate of Christian Claude, the E. Wallace Fund and the Art Gallery of Ontario Contemporaries, 2005
© 2007 Mark Lewis

“Lewis returns to the locale made familiar and famous by the Group of Seven painters, artists such as Tom Thomson, and realizes a work of startling revelation,” says David Moos, AGO curator of contemporary art and a member of the jury that selected Lewis. “As in many of Lewis’ films, the viewer is transported in both narrative and perceptual terms.”

Lewis has always been fascinated with the social phenomenon and power of film. His work explores the pictorial possibilities of this art form, often using 35mm film, professional actors and basic cinematic techniques characteristic of avant-garde and mainstream cinema. His works seek to make connections between art history and cinema.

Some of Lewis’ other popular works include: Rear Projection (Molly Parker) (2006) and Rear Projection (Golden Rod) (2006). Molly Parker is a filmed portrait of the actress that is superimposed on a backdrop of an abandoned gas station. It has been described as a Renaissance cinematic portrait. Golden Rod was filmed in the same location, but from a different angle. It explores the disorienting effect of the camera’s slow movement through the landscape. Both works use a cinematic technique from the 1930’s that allowed stars to be ‘transported’ to dangerous or exotic landscapes. This technique has been supplemented by what is now called a green screen and digital technology.

Mark Lewis was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1957. He now lives and works in London, England. He attended Harrow College of Art (London) and the Polytechnic of Central London. Starting out as a photographer, Lewis eventually began to experiment with film in the mid-1990’s. He is the co-founder of Afterall – a research and publishing organization – and founding editor of the Afterall Journal. Every issue of the journal brings together five international artists and discusses their works. Lewis is also the principal lecturer of research at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design, in London.

Earlier this year the AGO and the Iskowitz Foundation partnered to raise awareness of the visual arts in Canada with the renaming of the annual award established 20 years ago by Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988). Iskowitz acknowledged that it was a grant that enabled him to achieve his distinctive style. The AGO is home to the artist’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and memorabilia.

New Ideas: The AGO of 2008. What do you think?

May 15th, 2007

The AGO is A Go at the Port Credit art show.
©2007 Art Gallery of Ontario
Photo: Christina Gapic

The AGO is at a critical juncture in its transformation. With the creation guiding principles that will help shape our operations in 2008 and beyond, we’re fulfilling the promise of that transformation: New Art, New Building, New Ideas, New Future.

The goal of these guiding principles, according to AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum, is to unambiguously put the visitor experience front and centre, to move from a conventional ‘presenting’ model to a more ‘catalytic’ model of public engagement in art.

Over time, the principles will guide our planning — from a welcoming host to an educational research institution. The principles are already alive in our reinstallation plans for 2008.

As French painter Marcel Duchamp said in 1957, “While the artist may shout from all the rooftops that he is a genius, he will have to wait for the verdict of the spectator.” The AGO will be listening.

AGO Guiding Principles

Diversity: Our programming will recognize and reflect diversity by: engaging artists and audiences from a full spectrum of demographic and cultural groups; encouraging the exhibition of diverse artforms; encouraging multiple meanings and interpretations of art and related issues; and recognizing a variety of teaching, learning and communication styles.

Responsiveness: As a learning organization, our programming will be responsive to our
communities by: creating and responding to indicators that measure visitor experience; listening to community input and feedback to incorporate needs and desires into programming.

Relevance: Our programming will be relevant to our communities by: supporting visitors to make personal connections; facilitating and supporting a mix of voices; having the flexibility and agility to identify and make connections to emerging social issues through art.

Forum: Our programming will provide a forum for active dialogue by: building and sustaining relationships based on mutual trust and respect with all constituent groups; sparking formal and informal debate about art and related issues: encouraging spontaneous interaction and generating multiple strategies for interpretation; confronting issues of importance.

Creativity: Our programming will reflect and inspire creativity by: encouraging imagination and contemplation related to art experiences; making new connections between the familiar and the unfamiliar; fostering art making; and encouraging experimental and experiential engagement with works of art and their accompanying bodies of knowledge.

Transparency: Our programming will contribute to transparency by: increasing understanding of what art museums and their professionals do and why; representing art as not only a finished product but also as a process; demonstrating the breadth and scope of the AGO; and being accountable to all our constituents.

Portrait of a student – Anne Tanenbaum Gallery School

May 10th, 2007

Samphan Usher teaching Chinese Calligraphy to her granddaughter.
Photo courtesy Samphan Usher

Every Friday, Samphan Usher boards the 5.30 am train in Kingston and travels three hours to Union Station here in Toronto. Her destination? A painting class at 10 am at the AGO’s Gallery School.

A long-time member of the AGO, Samphan began art lessons here after
visiting the AGO’s Modigliani: Beyond the Myth exhibition in 2004,
when she was intrigued by notice of a class to study
portrait-painting with Atsmon Ganor in Modigliani’s style.

Born in Bangkok, Samphan met her Canadian husband while they were both
working with the United Nations in her native city. They travelled a
great deal in connection with his work, giving Samphan a chance to
study art in many places. She began painting in Vancouver in 1971,
and continued her studies with teachers in Palo Alto, Kuala Lumpur,
Oxford, Tokyo and Toronto. Samphan has exhibited in Bangkok, Oslo,
Toronto and Vancouver – as well as in her current hometown,
Kingston. Her next exhibition will be in Kingston in August 2007. A
full-time mother of Ann and David, Samphan also taught Chinese
painting to children and adults for three decades. She has a gallery
at home, works at the Art Rental Department of the Agnes Etherington
Art Centre at Queen’s University, and shows regularly at Studio 22 in

"Studying at the Gallery School has been a wonderful experience," says
Samphan. "It’s great fun to be painting in a huge hall with five
classes taught simultaneously – one can peek from time to time at
what the other students are doing – and to study in the AGO, having
access to great paintings that our teacher shows us as models."