Historical Art Collections
The Itinerant Artists (1830-1855)
Painters in pioneer London found few opportunities to pursue their craft. Travel was necessary to survive, to seek landscape and portrait commissions and give art lessons to those who could afford to pay. Artists from this era include: George Berthon, John H. Caddy, William Cresswell, George Dartnell, James Duncan, Frederick L. Foster, Edmund Hallewell, Ezekiel Sexton, James Wandesforde, Robert R. Whale and Peter V. Wood. (Image detail: Frederick L. Foster, Niagara Falls from the Canadian Side (1888))
Early London Artists (1855-1880)
London grew into a city in 1855. It was a boom and bust period spurred by economic growth, immigration and speculation. The activity attracted key artists who played a formidable role in the cultural development of London's artistic personality including Charles Chapman, James Griffiths, John Griffiths, James Hamilton, William Lees Judson and John R. Peel. (Image detail: James Hamilton, The Forks of the Thames (n.d.), oil on canvas)
The First Renaissance (1880-1895)
The city now became a powerhouse of artistic effort on the local, regional and national scene. It was the centre for a major art training facility, home of a number of nationally significant artists, promoter of several art clubs, developer of annual exhibitions and new commercial galleries. Artists from these years include: F. M. Bell-Smith, Mary Dignam, J. P. Hunt, Henry N. McEvoy, Lucius O'Brien, Paul Peel, George Reid, J. R. Seavey, Horatio Walker, Homer Watson and Robert Heard Whale. (Image detail: Homer Watson, Lone Cattle Shed (1894), oil on canvas)
A New Beginning (1895-1960)
This era began with the passing of most of the early senior artists and the removal of the younger ones to other rapidly expanding cities. A new spirit of local artistic growth did not start until the 1920s. Key figures from this era are: Herb Ariss, Clare Bice, Eva Bradshaw, Mackie Cryderman, Edward Glen, Mary Healey, James Kemp, William "St. Thomas" Smith, Marjorie Spenceley and Albert Templar. (Image detail: Mackie Cryderman, Boats at Gloucester (c. 1956), watercolour on paper)
Contemporary Art Collections - Photography
Museum London’s growing collection of contemporary photography and photo-based art represents the work of a number of prominent Canadian artists who are actively exploring the potential of this dynamic and rapidly changing medium. The works demonstrate an engagement with issues of representation, as well as the practices of image-making itself”both of which have increasingly come to the fore of critical and creative interventions in photography. Of particular resonance are the intriguing interconnections between works that confront landscape (both environmental and social), challenge constructions of identity, and examine the relationship between image and text.
Burtynsky’s photographic work is widely celebrated and collected in Canada and abroad. His large scale, richly coloured, and detailed images of industrial sites and scarred landscapes recall the heavy demands of human consumption on the natural environment.
Hatt’s work often confronts social roles, constructions of identity, and the body as a contested site of both cultural and individual meaning. Her portraits examine domestication and the integration of animals into the social sphere.
Nationally recognized for her distinctive landscape-derived photographs and her photo-based installations, Knight frequently incorporates multi-media elements such as video. Elegant, evocative, and replete with metaphoric and emotive content, her work often makes reference to individual and social memory as embodied in sites, artifacts and texts.
Lake’s work spans the categories of photography, performance and time-based art. She holds a distinctive place in Canadian art through her efforts to engage with photography on a conceptual level, as a tool and extension of performance. Her works often examine the body (often her own) as a political site of contention and a prop for the investigation of broader social and psychological issues.
Petrouchka’s Dance with Abaddon consists of eight black and white, hand-tinted photographs and is a component of the more extensive series Are You Talking to Me? The title, Petrouchka’s Dance with Abaddon, refers to Stravinsky and Diaghilev’s ballet”a tragic love-story in which the protagonist is an animate wooden puppet. Here, Lake has distorted her self-portrait in order to further activate the viewer’s experience. Her facial expressions, along with the compression and manipulation of the images evoke an emotional and intellectual response; there is a tension created between the desire to identify with the images on a personal level, while questioning their effect as photographic constructions.
London-based photographer Livick’s work is held in public and private collections throughout Canada and the United States. His photographic images demonstrate a sophisticated concern for representational and technical experimentation. Livick describes his work as “a blend of image-making and print-making” and has, in particular, extensively explored the textural and perceptual effects possible through the process of gum bichromate printing.
Siblings: Kalikata and Costumed Demon are two works from a series of photographs that Livick took while traveling in India, on one of the many trips that he has made to the country. These images demonstrate Livick’s fascination with Hindu spirituality and mythology, as an outsider who interprets and subjectively records the visual spectacle of another culture. The photographs can be read as embodiments of a fragmented, disorienting and richly broadening cross-cultural experience.
Contemporary Art Collections - Paintings
Nationally significant, Museum London’s collection of contemporary painting speaks to the potent shift towards challenging prescriptive, medium-specific conventions most commonly defined under the rubric of postmodernism. Museum London’s collection of contemporary painting includes works by artists from across Canada, with a strong and varied representation of works by artists from the region. A number of London-based artists have become key figures in promoting a perpetual, open-ended approach to (re)defining Canadian art. By rejecting externally imposed criteria and ostensibly international standards, these artists have developed a positive sense of regionalism, which continues to generate personally and politically meaningful endeavours in the practice of painting.
Working as both a painter and a film-maker, Chambers’ challenging and experimental approach to his work has blurred the boundaries between his mediums. He returned to London, Ontario in 1961, after spending nine years in Spain studying art and developing his technical and conceptual interests. Chambers became a central figure in the London art scene during the 1960s and 1970s, and his paintings maintain a distinctive place in Canadian art.
The Artist’s First Bride was painted following Chambers’ return to London, where he was met with the realization that his mother was terminally ill with cancer. The figures in this work are adapted from a photograph of his parents as newlyweds. They seem to organically grow out from their amorphous surroundings, with a highly built-up surface articulated through the patterning and blending of form and colour. The work hovers between capturing a dream-state and a memory. Poetically haunting, it evokes the bitter-sweetness of nostalgia and the evasiveness of origin.
Curnoe has indelibly altered the notion of what it means to be a Canadian artist, and, more specifically (and emphatically), an artist from London, Ontario. Resolute in his rejection of external criteria, Curnoe pursued an artistic practice rooted in his own daily experiences, his perceptions of the London artistic community and his broader social network. At times unapologetically controversial in his stance, Curnoe’s work received international recognition during his lifetime, and continues to demonstrate an evocative and engaging approach to regionalism.
View From The Most Northerly Window On The East Wall is a mixed-media work, involving a painted representation of a view from Curnoe’s studio, as well as a sound component, where a recording made at this site at two different times of day (on the 19th of June, 1969) can be heard through a speaker that is integrated into the work. The bright colours of the painted panel, as well as the incorporation of collage elements and text, are examples of Curnoe’s signature style and pop sensibility. This work demonstrates a very specific and personalized concern with the phenomenological reality of a lived situation, an embodied time, and an inhabited environment. Rather than attempting to transcend every-day life, Curnoe has embraced the idiosyncratic contingency of quotidian experience.
Ferris is a long-standing London artist whose work engages issues relevant to both the local and the global community. Her vivid paintings of the animal world and the natural landscape, as well as her works depicting captivating and unconventional portraits of human life, exude a rhythmic energy. A concern with preservation coupled with a celebratory view of nature pervades ferris’s painting practice.
13 Cats a la maison is one of a series of works, entitled 13 Cats, that ferris painted at a time when a number of cats had, of their own accord, taken-up residence in her studio. The lively, dynamic grouping of the animals, along with the vivid, powerful and scintillating use of colour, activate this work in an almost transportive way. Likewise, through a highly detailed and fractured surface, and the flattening of space achieved by a compositional merging of foreground and background, the viewer’s attention constantly shifts between surface and image, paint and representation. This visual and cognitive shift-effect lends a captivating quality to the work, as it operates on a very experiential level.
An important presence in the London art community, Rosner has worked and exhibited as a painter for over 25 years. Since the 1970s she has used the medium of painting”recently also incorporating mixed media elements”to examine pertinent social and political issues. Her work often considers how gender has been framed within an art-historical context, in relation to broader power relationships.
She is lost forever is a multi-paneled painting, with the title quoted from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice. The numerous associations that this work conjures up in the mind of the viewer are activated through a pastiche-like configuration, where literary, historical, and art-historical references are combined to startling effect. Sandwiched between the raw and abstractly rendered side panels is a narrow band of three closely cropped representations”jewel-like in their exquisite detail”of a carpet pattern, the torso of Queen Elizabeth I, and a unicorn from a medieval tapestry. Through both composition and subject matter, this work raises uncomfortable questions concerning how female sexuality has been taken-up in art historical discourse, and how gender has defined artistic practices.
Bernice Vincent, born in Woodstock, Ontario, is a widely recognized London-based artist. Vincent has depicted the London area in her paintings from multiple perspectives”including numerous picturesque series of skylines and intimate views of her own daily circumstances. Her work often captures time as though frozen. These representations draw attention to the heavy temporality of seemingly insignificant moments, and the compelling richness of fleeting experiences.
Tea Ceremony presents a bird’s eye view of a kitchen counter and stove-top, with cups, saucers, a kettle and a tea pot”all the accoutrements necessary for afternoon tea. Instead of receding into banality in its unremarkable subject matter, this work takes on a quiet monumentality. Here, a domestic space and a minor moment are reconsidered. The viewpoint, together with the delicacy and stillness of the composition, call close attention to this common scene, making the familiar extraordinary and activating a consciousness on the part of the viewer of the complicated nuances and gestures that comprise our habitual tasks.
Contemporary Art Collections - Sculpture & Mixed Media
The exciting expansion that three-dimensional media has undergone over the past decades is apparent among the works in Museum London’s collection. The historically traditional understanding of sculpture as a process involving modeling, carving, or otherwise manipulating stone, metal, or wood into freestanding forms has been critically revised and reinvigorated in contemporary contexts. Likewise, experimental practices have dissolved boundaries concerning how three-dimensional art is both conceived of by artists and experienced by the viewer. The plethora of materials and immersive atmosphere of installation art often denies a stance of distanced detachment, instead turning the viewer into an active participant in the work itself. Moreover, performance art as well as video and digital technology have had a major impact on our current understanding of participatory, spatially-oriented, moving and mutable art forms. Artists from the London region continue to engage in the ongoing task of investigating how work in three-dimensional media presents a highly affective forum for articulating formal, conceptual, spiritual, and social concerns.
An innovator in the London art scene during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Davis drew on her background in avant-garde theatre production to develop performance art as a means of exploring the experience of time, space and energy from a multiplicity of perspectives. She worked with the particulars of the performers’ bodies, voices and life experiences in dynamic interaction with the physical environment: distance, volume, architecture, objects, light and sound. In recent years, video installation became a principal component in her practice.
Ivy’s night, Edna’s days was produced in 1978 as a performance in the artist’s studio in the former Talbot Street Block, a notable location in the history of art production in London. As a multi-leveled work, Ivy’s night, Edna’s days celebrates everyday movement through improvisation, and is based on personal experience and a ‘found’ diary. The piece tells the story of a night when Ivy and her husband were held hostage in their London apartment by an armed gunman, and recounts a year of Edna’s days as she recorded them in her diary. This elaborate documentation of the performance includes a scale model of the space of the original work, which incorporates flashing lights, a miniature video showing a tap dancer, and an audiotape of the reading of Edna’s diary.
Hassan’s artistic practice is strongly influenced by her activist politics, cultural heritage as a Canadian born to Arab parents and significant travels. The complexity of the cultural framework that defines her own life, and the lives of many Canadians, is central to her practice.
Bench from Cordoba is a reconstruction of a bench that Hassan encountered in the Spanish city of Cordoba, in a park dedicated to Seneca”a Roman philosopher, whose words adorn the bench. The tiles are hand-painted, highlighting Hassan’s personal mediation of the re-contextualization and replication, or ‘actualization,’ of this public park bench in a gallery space. This reconstruction references the physical and social motivations that engendered the original object and have left their marks on its surface, while also personalizing its significance. Hassan’s work speaks of cultural specificity and displacement. The text and elaborate patterning which cover the surface of the bench likewise raise questions regarding the conventions that guide Western artistic hierarchies.
Hurlbut’s work often explores the relationship between the tangible, physical records of life, and the historically continuous practice of preserving and cataloging such fragile remains. Hurlbut is a Toronto-based artist who is internationally renowned for her collaborative interventions with the natural history and anthropological collections housed in prominent museums. She, like Davis, worked for many years throughout the 1980s in a Talbot Street Block studio in London, Ontario.
The Fish Cabinet recalls Victorian vitrines, in its fine wooden cabinetry and use of a glass encasement. As such, the multitude of dehydrated sardines contained within this display case take on the quality of carefully arranged specimens, which belies their common appearance in fish markets. This work calls attention to the dead physicality of this mass of fish, and the connotatively ritualistic act of preservation that has maintained their bodies. Hurlbut prompts a recognition of the wonder and desire that accompanies the activity of collecting, and the preciousness of material memory.
As an internationally recognized artist from the London region”working and residing in West Lorne, Ontario”Redinger has been at the fore of sculpture in Canada with his large-scale works often involving grouped configurations, or highly complex, multi-part constructions. A number of Redinger’s sculptures are prominent public works of art, as such they have reached a very wide audience and evoked both intrigue and controversy, while generatively imprinting themselves upon the Canadian cultural consciousness.
Untitled (1) and Untitled (2) are two sculptural works by Redinger that denote his interest in lush, organic movement as realized in the solid and still sculptural form. The austere whiteness of the surfaces of these wall reliefs, and the geometric perfection of their spherical shapes, are interrupted by the folding, warm, seemingly liquid appendages that bring them to life. These works remind us of our own bodies and of biological, natural processes”yet they also seem quite alien and impenetrable. Redinger’s use of fiberglass, a synthetic material, further confuses the viewer’s relationship with these sculptural works, a relationship that moves between familiarity and displacement, intimacy and distance.
Thibert, a resident of Mount Bridges, is widely known for the clean lines of his sculptural works. A concern with the formal aspects of sculpture, including the physical characteristics of materials, has preoccupied Thibert’s early work. Since the late 1980s, he has also taken-up sculpture as a venue for autobiographical constructions and personally meaningful figurative representations.
Lambeth Way, an outdoor sculpture, is located on Museum London’s front lawn. Thibert’s interests in the structural properties of metal and the interplay between the sculptural object and the space that it occupies are manifest in his conceptualization of this work. Moreover, Thibert’s recurring theme of the table as a referent is incorporated into Lambeth Way. Here, the many contexts that ‘table’ references for the viewer”including, potentially, the dinner table, the board room table, or the dissection table”are made secondary to the table-as-object that is realized in this work. The sculptural form announces itself through construction, placement, shape and size.
Zelenak, based in West Lorne, Ontario, has been a prominent Canadian sculptor since the late 1960s. The structures of his works have transformed over the decades, as has the personal content. Nonetheless, Zelenak’s interest in temporal and geographical manifestations of space and place has remained central to his practice.
Untitled No. 7 is a work whose physicality arrests the viewer, with the heaviness of the materials and the rough and deliberate markings, incisions and jutting wedges that mar the smooth metallic skin of this metaphorical map. The sculpture’s expressive topography seems to locate an individuated, continuing experience, rather than presenting a definitive or complete record. In Zelenak’s conception of sculpture, the task of mapping not only functions as a means of potentially charting the distant unknown, but also serves as a way of contemplating the sites that are very close at hand, yet ever just out of reach.