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Joan Cullen, Hillsborough River, 2005-2016, oil on canvas

A Sidelong Glance: Painting After 1970

Joan Cullen, Hillsborough River, 2005-2016, oil on canvas
A selection of paintings from the collection that treat the expansive gestures and optics of modern painting as a system of signs to be reused, rearranged and ironized.

By 1970, painting had been relieved of its duties as the dominant medium of visual art. Artists experimented with many new mediums and new ways to conceive an artwork in the 1960s. Painting, especially abstract painting, no longer occupied centre stage. Freed of the search for pictorial purity, painters have nonetheless continued to explore the medium, while at the same time incorporating what they have learned from the new practices and preoccupations that have followed the heyday of Modernism. If painting is now perpetually “in doubt,” it seems nonetheless to flourish, to continue to hold our attention, to be an avenue for invention and experimentation.

A Sidelong Glance illustrates this shift in the terrain as it has played out in Canada. Abstraction, form, gesture, colour, the physical characteristics of the materials involved—all continue to preoccupy painters. But they no longer represent a totalizing distillation of the medium into a private language of self-expression on the one hand, or its reduction to the purely optical, on the other. On the contrary, painters now tend to treat such obsessions as ingredients, part of an inventory of shared signs and procedures, sometimes to be parodied, or put to unexpected service, or simply to be exploited for shameless pleasure.

-Pan Wendt, Curator

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