News Archive

For Immediate Release: January 18, 2012

Gerald Ferguson
Stencils and Tasks
Painting and Mixed Media Works
January 21 – February 18
East Gallery

Gerald Ferguson Fish and Net with Moulding
, 1992, enamel on canvas with board 41 x 55 inches

We are pleased to present a solo exhibition of selected work by Gerald Ferguson.

In this exhibition we will look at the early stencils from the late 60's and the still life stencil paintings from the late eighties through to the emergence of the frottage paintings that dominated his practice for the last fifteen years of his life. In the still life paintings Ferguson combined his interest in folk art and naïve painting with visual quotes from early 20th century painters such as Picasso and Matisse and the American artist, who spent several years in Nova Scotia, Marsden Hartley. In the seminal painting Fish and Net with Moulding, Ferguson combines stencils and naïve quotes with frottage. By the mid 1990's Ferguson was devoting all of his studio practice to the frottage technique using everyday materials such as rope, rod, clothesline and chain.

In the catalogue for Gerald Ferguson: Still Lifes at the Mount Saint Vincent University Gallery in 1990, curator Mary Sparling states: "What is apparent here is Ferguson at work and at play. He makes paintings that seem light-hearted, paintings that are effervescent and weightless. As you look at the work, however, something is idly disturbing. Before your eyes he draws the life out of his assemblage of objects and styles. Things that are familiar are not wholly there. This play is serious. His jeu d'esprit is a morbid witticism."

A decade later curator Diana Nemiroff wrote in the essay for the the Winnipeg Art Gallery's survey exhibition Gerald Ferguson: Recent Paintings:" Thoughts of mortality appear, too, to be on Gerald Ferguson's mind from the late eighties onward. They are manifest especially in the sense of loss that pervades his appropriations of vernacular Nova Scotian culture: the urn and wreath decoration of the fire screen, paired with a cod jig and two iron flowers of his own making, arranged in a diagonal cross that symbolically cancels out the fisherman's tool, or the crazed and faded paint of an old door, out of true and knobless, a literal remembrance of time past, placed next to a field of stenciled fish, half of them swimming away from it----They appear to emerge from a desire to express in his art the connection to place he lived in his day-to-day life."

Sue Gibson Garvey organized and curated the circulating exhibition Gerald Ferguson: Frottage Works, 1994 – 2006 for the Dalhousie University Art Gallery, Halifax. In her forward to the catalogue she observes:

"Thirty-seven years ago, Gerald Ferguson held his first solo exhibition at the Dalhousie Art Gallery. He had arrived in Nova Scotia two years before, in 1968, to take up a teaching position at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, where he organized the studio and visiting artist programs that helped make NSCAD the most radical art school in North America in the late 1960s and '70s, and where he continued to teach until his recent retirement. But it is Ferguson's lengthy and challenging studio practice that has earned him an enduring place in the annals of contemporary art. Throughout his distinguished career, Ferguson has examined the conventions and deconstructed the strategies of painting using minimal means and workmanlike processes. This has led to many remarkable works that maintain a critical posture while at the same time (surprisingly) permitting a subtle beauty to arise."

Gerald Ferguson was a widely acclaimed conceptual artist, painter, writer, curator, collector and influential professor at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design for almost four decades. His groundbreaking work has been exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions throughout Canada, as well as in the U.S. and Europe, with solo exhibitions at most major public galleries in Canada, including the National Gallery of Canada, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. His work has also been seen in annual solo exhibitions at this gallery for over twenty years. It is included in numerous private and public collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Art Gallery of Ontario.

William Kurelek
Tools and the Everyday
Selected Paintings and Drawings
From the Estate of William Kurelek
January 21 – February 18
West Gallery

William Kurelek Pink Trowel, 1975 oil on masonite 8 3/8 x 15 5/8 inches

We are pleased to announce this exhibition, as authorized representative for the Estate of William Kurelek.

During Kurelek's careers as a fine artist and a framer he upheld the importance and satisfaction of working with tools and performing meaningful everyday tasks. He found subjects in these simple tools whether they be related to the farm implements of his youth, the framing tools from his years working for Avrom Isaacs' framing workshop or his painting/studio equipment.

Brian Dedora, a co-worker at the Isaacs Gallery‘s framing shop, says of Kurelek's work in a memoir; "The elements of composition and architecture, Kurelek's draftsmanship, become clear in the tool paintings, These paintings are simple; their directness shows Kurelek's eye for details, his regard for small common things, seen by their elevation into painting as something new, something larger. These paintings catch particular tools as to take them out of their context, in such a way that they can no longer be taken for granted as daily tools. They are so large within the picture plane they demand recognition, demand that you see them beyond their utility."

We have organized this exhibition to coincide with William Kurelek:The Messenger. Organized jointly by three public galleries: the Winnipeg Art Gallery, The Art Gallery of Hamilton and The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and their respective curators Andrew Kear, Tobi Bruce and Mary Jo Hughes, it is the largest exhibition of Kurelek's work held to date. As part or their Kurelek project, they have also launched the website, a comprehensive and engaging virtual presentation of the exhibition with additional interactive material.

The next venue is the Art Gallery of Hamilton, opening on January 28, 2012. A substantial, fully illustrated catalogue/book has been published as well.

From the preface for that catalogue: "Kurelek was at his best and most challenging when he successfully bridged the pastoral and prophetic, combined memory and message. It is out of this fundamental dichotomy, around which the present exhibition has been conceived, that the artist's richness emerges. Kurelek himself acknowledged the importance of this dichotomy as the most effective means of communicating this message, while remaining true to himself and his convictions. It is with a view to exploring the various ways in which he strove to reconcile the two poles of his thinking and practice - in essence his being - that shapes this project. ----
Kurelek was an artist who, in his time, both captivated and antagonized critics and the general public alike. There is no reason to believe his work will not do the same today. The urgency of his vision, infused with a fundamental hope, is as relevant, poignant, and universal today as it was 30 years ago. And it is precisely this quality that sets his work apart. Kurelek once wrote, 'I [have painted] what I feel is important for the people to see.' It is our hope that were Kurelek here today he would feel this exhibition justly reflects that remarkably unique vision."

One of the features of the AGH exhibition will be the first screening in this region of the documentary film William Kurelek’s The Maze on March 22.The film is a substantial reworking and expansion of the 1969 award winning film The Maze, by Robert Young (with David Grubin). The filmmaker’s sons, Nick and Zack Young have added significant new material, an original music score and updated the images of the paintings, re-photographing many. The film is currently making the rounds of film festivals in the US, where it is being very well received. For more information visit

Several other special events are scheduled to accompany the exhibition. See for the complete list.