Art, Sight and Language
Art, Sight and Language; A Reading/Writing of some Contemporary Canadian Art
featuring Shelagh Alexander, Janice Gurney, Rae Johnson, Joanne Tod, Jeff Wall, and Shirley Wiitasalo.
6 X 10 inches, 174 pages
53 b&w plates
'IN ORDER TO SPEAK ABOUT ART we need to consider the nature both of the subject who makes art and of the subject who looks at it, with the awareness that these two subjects might actually coincide in the artist himself/herself, but might also come together as an illusion of oneness in the mind of the viewer who stands in the artist's place. We must consider also the use of language activated in the process of viewing art. The theory developed out of these considerations is presented in Part I. Part II develops this theory as a study of particular works of six contemporary Canadian artists. Part III is offered as a summary of the lines of development encountered in the second part of the project.
'The six artists—Shelagh Alexander, Janice Gurney, Rae Johnson, Joanne Tod, Jeff Wall, and Shirley Wiitasalo—were not chosen because they were seen to be "representative of Canadian Art," nor are they upheld as "Canada's six foremost artists." They were chosen for much more practical and personal reasons. It is true that their work is widely exhibited and recognized. They are well-established—but not establishment—artists. What has drawn our attention to their work is that it is also demanding, conceptual and aporetic. It stands apart from the mass of art that privileges received notions of beauty. Nor does it engage in declamation or ideologizing. In particular their work resonates with that of the French school of thought (that includes, among others, the names of Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, Levi-Strauss, Lacan, Foucault, Barthes, Kristeva and Derrida). Their work also touches certain ideas and questions prevalent in the past twenty years or so, especially the question of the place of "woman" alongside that of "man."'