Questioning Canadian painting’s carte blanche

The Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art presents “Carte Blanche/Vol. 2: Painting,” a comprehensive survey of contemporary Canadian painting; at Toronto’s Power Plant, the RBC Canadian Painting Competition is underway. In the Globe and Mail, Sarah Milroy suggests that the idea of exhibitions limited exclusively to painting feels dated. “All-painting exhibitions seem, today, like hackneyed holdovers from the ‘painting is dead’ debates of decades ago. Having survived conceptual art, the advent of electronic media, and the seductive allure of the supersized Cibachrome photograph, it seems clear that painting – the practice of smearing coloured mud on a supporting surface, whether it be a cave wall, a wooden board or a piece of stretched canvas – will be with us to stay, a deep and enduring compulsion of humanity championed still by such international front-runners as Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud, Tomma Abts, Luc Tuymans, Marlene Dumas and sometime-Canadian Peter Doig. Do we really still need to keep acting as if this is a beleaguered medium, struggling on life support? Clearly, some people think so. Both shows aim, simply, to celebrate the medium, surely a defensive stance. And, as usual, when a show is mounted as a celebration, that tends to be code for brain-dead; i.e. not curatorial premise, just an inventory stockpile.
“To a certain extent, that’s the case here. ‘Carte Blanche, Volume 2: Painting,’ an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, culls from the pages of the just-published Magenta Foundation book of the same name, a compendious national roundup of fledgling, mid-career and established Canadian artists working from coast to coast. (Magenta’s president, MaryAnn Camilleri describes her modest mandate thus: ‘I just wanted people to get beyond the Group of Seven, Alex Colville, Bateman and whatnot.’) ” Read more.Carte Blanche: Vol. 2 Painting,” curated by Clint Roenisch and David Liss. Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, Toronto, CA. Through Dec. 28. Artists include Shelley Adler, Iain Baxter, Mike Bayne, Joe Becker, John Boyle, Matthew Brown, Chris Cran, Kim Dorland, Dorian Fitzgerald, Alexandra Flood, Graham Gillmore, Martin Golland, Dil Hildebrand, Thrush Holmes, Alexander Irving, Dan Kennedy, Harold Klunder, Wanda Koop, James Lahey, Elizabeth McIntosh, Medrie MacPhee, Wil Murray, Anders Oinonen, Ben Reeves, Melanie Rocan, Derek Root, Tony Scherman, Monica Tap, Carol Wainio, Shirley Wiitasalo”RBC Painting Competition,” The Power Plant, Toronto, CA. Through Nov. 25. Traveling to Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, London, St. John’s, Saskatoon, Edmonton, and Vancouver. The semi-finalists are Eli Bornowsky, Andrew Dadson, Jeremy Hof, Collin Johanson, Lorenzo Pepito, Martin Golland, Sarah Jane Gorlitz, Amanda Reeves , Drew Simpson, Emmy Skensved, Patrick Howlett, Rick Leong, Wil Murray, Jeanie Riddle, and Justin Stephens. Jurors included Pierre Dorion, James Baird, Louise D�ry, Jessica Bradley, David Liss, James Lahey, Kitty Scott, Monte Clark, Neil Campbell


  1. Gee there�s a really thoughtful response. Painting reduced to just pigment on a surface. That�s like saying living is just breathing. Clearly the critic is of the generation that favors the abstruse curatorial premise � a show selected according to a theme, like � �Transgression and the Stigmatic Trope� �Tokens of the Incommensurate and Indifferent� Global Metabolics: the Startup Manual� �The Gaze, the Glance and the First One to Blink� �My Round� and �All Aboard for Cactus City�. Under these bold headings the curator or commissioned critic free-associates at length on several fashionably obscure texts, with frenzied footnotes in at least five languages while lumping together whatever will fit/fill the exhibition space, preferably with as much noise as possible, generally a smattering of works and names preferred by colleagues and peers, if only for their slender novelties and gimmicks of material and presentation

    Yes I can see how they might be disappointed being asked to go back and actually just LOOK at stuff. On walls! With no sound or motion!

    But �the times, they are a-changin� as Robert Storr once said. It may be the critic and would-be curator may have to think harder about just what painting is used for.

  2. I am not quite sure how Milroy equates “celebrating a medium” w/ a “defencive stance” I agree building an exhibition solely on the theme of celebration is a bit weak. But I dont think these shows reflected that sentiment. They,and Magenta’s president plainly explains the reason behind the cart blanche book, are a review or accounting of what is being produced in Canadian art today. I agree with Milroy though in that the selection process was a mess.

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