Living Landscapes

Category: arts 232

Curator Meredith Briden talks about his first exhibit for the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

Matt Carter | @m_j_c73 

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On January 18 the Beaverbrook Art Gallery entered into a five month hibernation from public activity at its Queen Street location.  The iconic downtown gallery is currently undergoing a series of renovations with plans to reopen in May.  In the interim, the gallery will continue programming exhibitions at offsite locations.

On January 25 the gallery announced a new educational partnership with St. Thomas University and Living Landscapes: Recent Colour Drypoints by John Hartman is the first of three exhibits planned for the Yellow Box Gallery, located on the university’s campus.  The exhibit is the first to be curated by Meredith Briden, the gallery’s curatorial assistant.

The 15 works included in the John Hartman exhibition were selected from a recent gift by the artist to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery.

“Soon after these works arrived at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, I was able to go through them and look at them closely,” said Briden.  “As I was going through the works I found myself very intrigued by John Hartman’s style, media, and subject matter.  I had heard of his work, but I had never been able to see it up close.  Although John Hartman is a well-known painter, he also does a fair bit of printmaking including work with aquatint and drypoint.  Within his recent gift, it was his drypoint prints in particular that struck me.  For weeks, I found myself reading about him and learning about his work.”

Drypoint is a printmaking technique in which a sharp point is used to incise a design on a special metal or acrylic plate.  The resulting burr that forms around the etch helps define the final print, often creating rich forms of colour.

“Drypoint is a type of printmaking that is not commonly used by artists for some reason,” said Briden.  “It is nevertheless a very interesting medium that allows artist to achieve stunning results.”

The collection focuses on Hartman’s study of landscapes, highlighting the evolution of his vision and interpretation. Hartman is largely known for his aerial view interpretation of landscapes, a theme that has defined much of his work over the past two decades.

“Within these fifteen works we can also clearly see how Hartman’s treatment of landscape as subject matter has changed over the course of his career,” said Briden.  “At different points in his career his images were calmer and simpler and at other points they were significantly busier.  With the new educational partnership between the Beaverbrook Art Gallery and St. Thomas University, we felt that showing these drypoint works would be a great way to begin this new partnership because they lend themselves to much educational consideration.”

The current exhibition marks Briden’s curatorial debut, an experience he found both challenging and rewarding.

“Being able to curate an exhibition with the Beaverbrook Art Gallery has been a wonderful experience,” he said.   “For me, this experience has also been a learning curve.  There is a lot of preparation and behind-the-scenes work that goes into preparing any exhibition- things that the public do not usually see.  I became aware of many of these aspects curating for my first time.”

Briden is a graduate of the University of New Brunswick where he studied to be a teacher.  As Curatorial Assistant at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, he believes his background has played an important role in shaping the skills necessary to curate an exhibition such as Living Landscapes, where education and fine art mix.

“I was able to draw upon many of the educational strategies and concepts that I had learned and apply them to this exhibition,” he said.  “I feel that curating an exhibition is a good opportunity because a curator can educate the public at large.  It is an aspect of working in a museum that I enjoy and hope to continue doing.  My next exhibition will feature the work of the American artist Frederick J. Brown and will open at the Yellow Box Gallery on February 25, 2016.”

Living Landscapes: Recent Colour Drypoints by John Hartman is on display at St. Thomas University’s Yellow Box Gallery until February 23, 2016.

About the Artist: Born in 1950, John Hartman is a celebrated contemporary Canadian artist.  He grew up in Midland, Ontario, and later moved to Hamilton, Ontario, where he studied Fine Arts at McMaster University in the early 1970s.  Since that time, Hartman has established himself as one of Canada’s most prevalent contemporary artists.  For more than 35 years, the work of John Hartman has been highlighted in countless solo and group exhibitions, included in important public collections, and featured in many of Canada’s leading art galleries.  John Hartman lives and works in Tiny, Ontario. 

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