Collectivity: Collection practices and co-performance at the Art Bank
The Art Bank is pleased to participate virtually in the 20th anniversary edition of Doors Open Ottawa! This year, we asked our team to select and provide reflections on their favorite artworks in the collection. Read our blog and follow #DoorsOpenArtBank on June 4 and 5 to learn more about co-performance and the collection.
Collectivity, the thematic display created for Doors Open Ottawa 2022, includes artwork selections from the dedicated team working behind the scenes at the Art Bank.
Art Bank employees were asked to select and provide reflections on their favourite works from the collection. Their choices demonstrate diversity of thought and subject matter, and reveal the importance of our interactions with artworks, including the ways in which we give works of art additional meaning through those interactions.
The act of viewing a work of art is understood as a shared performance between the viewer and the artwork or a co-performance.
The Art Bank collection provokes thought and provides exposure to cutting-edge contemporary art from Canada to Canadian and international audiences alike. In turn, the works gain new meanings through their interactions with public audiences, creating the potential to produce new insights and greater knowledge. The additional meanings range from emotional responses, such as the connection between the colour palette of a work and its evocation of personal memories, to inspiration and the connection of an artwork’s political message with one’s career goals, to pure aesthetic enjoyment.
The outcome of co-performance between extraordinary selections of Canadian art and the public is made possible thanks to the Art Bank’s collecting practices. The acquisition process of the Art Bank is unique. Unlike other galleries and museums, it is not conducted solely by specialists, curators or art historians, but also by peer assessment committees composed of representatives from across Canada that participate in selecting new artworks. Furthermore, the committees change with every open call for acquisitions. This process contributes to the growing collection of over 17,000 artworks, which represents a diversity of medium, content and representation, guaranteeing the collection’s ability to engage new audiences and enable Canadians from all walks of life to see themselves reflected in the collection.
The Art Bank was established in 1972 and has now entered its 50th year, celebrating half a century of supporting contemporary artists in Canada and providing public access to important and original works of art. As an integral part of the Art Bank’s ability to fulfil the Canada Council’s mandate to “foster and promote the study and enjoyment of, and the production of works in, the arts,” our colleagues represent one aspect of the co-performance the Art Bank’s works engage in throughout their lifecycle.
Below are some of our team's selection highlights. See all of the selected artworks on our Featured Collection or follow our virtual programming for Doors Open Ottawa on June 4 and 5 on Facebook or Instagram #DoorsOpenArtBank
Selective History, 2012, by Sonny R. L. Assu
Selective History quotes infamous Indian Affairs Minister Duncan Campbell Scott, setting his disturbing sentiment, “I want to get rid of the Indian problem,” in the layout of a carnival-style poster. About her first purchase as head of the Art Bank, Amy Jenkins notes, “Every time I look at this artwork and read the text, which I do often because it is in my office, it makes me proud of the work we do to support Indigenous artists at the Art Bank.”
This is the fountain you’ve been looking for all your life complete with mosquito bites, 1974, by Victor Cicansky
An exploration of prairie imagery, which is found in much of Cicansky’s oeuvre, this playful statue is an eclectic mix of nature, figures, household interior and machinery. Martha Young, our operating and marketing coordinator, says of the work, “There is always something new to see when you look from another angle or read the title again. For this piece in particular, I was excited to learn that it has a functioning water fountain and the artist, who obviously has a great sense of humour, ran Baby Duck sparkling wine through some of his ceramic fountains at events. There are so many good stories behind the artworks in the Art Bank collection.”
Bandages, 2018, by Winnie Truong
Interested in the distortion of beauty, Winnie Truong exemplifies it in the delicate wrapping of what appears to be hair around flowers. It ties in with the other works in her 2018 Perennials series. For our technician, Steve Allen, “Truong’s way of weaving cultures into her work with delicate but deliberate fine line drawings [gives] the works amazing depth and dimension. This work in particular makes me feel protected, warm and fluffy, and makes me smile every time I approach it as a technician—usually with a bandage here or there on my hands or arms…”
My Way: Light Through Responsive Mind #10, 2007, by Fatima Garzan
Garzan’s work is focused on themes of “the joy of being in a continual present,” and the process of pictorial composition. For art consultant Isabelle Chartier, “This monumental work struck me immediately when I visited the Art Bank storage space for the first time. It calls for contemplation. Our eye seeks points of reference among the braided lines and circular movements of the paint. Looking at this artwork is a form of meditation.”
World Map Project: Equal Countries A-Z, 2006, by Antonia Hirsch
Interdisciplinary artist Antonia Hirsch presents an image of a new world. Art Bank rental manager Rebecca Huxtable expresses about the work, “I’ve always loved and been drawn to maps. The physical, the political, and how they inform each other, and ourselves, over time and space… By showing all the world’s countries in alphabetical order and scaled to occupy the same relative space, simultaneously, serves as a critique, and denotes optimism, a world where every country is equal.”
La Poudrerie, 1988, by Marcelle Ferron
A member of the Automatistes, Marcelle Ferron was interested in automatism and pictorial abstraction, and these are reflected in her work. Technician Richard Silva remarks, “With La Poudrerie, Marcelle Ferron creates a storm of movements that seems to be in constant flux. Great tension exists between the dominant colours, each threatening to devour the other. For me, this work evokes deep-seated, almost subconscious emotions and memories—a constant that exists amongst many of my favourite abstract paintings.”
About the Author: Jessica Endress
Jessica Endress is an Ottawa-based researcher and teaching assistant currently completing her Master of Art and Architectural History at Carleton University, on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation. She is specifically interested in feminist art practices and representations of the female body. Her current research explores the athletic body in Prudence Heward’s Girl Under a Tree, 1931. Jessica was invited to guest curate the Art Bank’s 2022 Doors Open Ottawa thematic display as a practicum placement towards her master’s degree.