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Jon Sasaki: Two Roads Diverged in a Wood
January 10 – May 24, 2015
Opening: January 22, 2015 at 5:30 pm
Three little-known works from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art by painter George Thomson (1868-1965) provide the foundation for a new body of work by Toronto-based artist Jon Sasaki. The exhibition pays homage to the life and accomplishments of an artist who was too often discussed only in connection with his famous younger brother, Tom Thomson (1877-1917).
In a standoff, Sasaki positions a monitor with a live feed of the Centennial Light next to a regular light bulb in suspension. This exceptional light that has been burning at low wattage for over a century represents George’s artistic endurance. The latter refers to Tom’s career, growing increasingly brighter, until it finally culminates in a brilliant flash at the end of the exhibition.
Three sculpturally improvised dried flower presses made up of tables, candelabras, vases, and tea sets, described in newspaper articles of his day, suggest the social sphere in which George was immersed and heavily committed to. George deployed his considerable talent generously, using pedagogy as a means of coalescing a body of like-minded people around him. To acknowledge his community service, George was voted Owen Sound's Citizen of the Year in 1963. In a performance entitled Crowded on a Velvet Cushion, Sasaki orchestrates a workshop in which the participants are instructed in George’s meticulous and ritualistic painting method as a way of creating a convivial temporary social space.
Presented in the exhibition as nocturnes, George’s paintings are lit approximately twelve hours out of synch with the world, using a heavily filtered day for night light source (a cinematic technique that simulates night). This dissonance with the outside world could suggest George's paintings were either antiquated or ahead of their time, depending on whether or not we see a cyclical return to George's artistic concerns on the horizon.
Finally, a selection of works by George courtesy of John A. Libby Fine Art, Toronto, presented inside the OAG’s Art Rental and Sales space, accompany the exhibition. This gesture showcases George’s broader spectrum of talent and emphasizes his lifelong commercial focus, which can be seen as a holdover from his previous life as a business school instructor.
Sasaki explains: “Often billed as ‘Canada's oldest active artist,’ George’s lifetime spanned nearly 100 years of remarkable global events, yet his work depicted a far more immutable world, one that seemed to value stability and changelessness over innovation or transformation.”
Ola Wlusek, Curator of Contemporary Art
In partnership with NAC’s Ontario Scene, from April 29 to May 10, 2015.
The Firestone Collection of Canadian Art is a significant art collection that spans the modern period. In 1973, O.J. and Isobel Firestone donated their collection to the Ontario Heritage Foundation. In 1992, the Foundation transferred ownership to the City of Ottawa. The OAG houses and presents the collection through changing exhibitions that highlight its breadth and diversity.