Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Shine a Light: The Canadian Biennial at the National Gallery in Ottawa

The Canadian Biennial is a showcase for the National Gallery’s recent acquisitions of contemporary Canadian art. Every two years it offers the opportunity for visitors to get a close look at what some of the best Canadian artists are doing across the country and around the world. If the main purpose of a curator is to build a collection, as Contemporary Art Curator Josée Drouin-Brisebois said at the media preview for the show, then the biennial is an opportunity for the public to see how well our national curators are doing that job.

Geoffrey Farmer, Leaves of Grass (detail), 2012 (National Gallery of Canada; courtesy: the artist, Catriona Jeffries Gallery & Casey Kaplan; photo: Anders Sune Berg).

The exhibition title Shine a Light refers to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave and suggests that the artists in the show are modern day philosophers who reveal things that might have otherwise remained hidden. It also handily refers to the function of the exhibition itself, which is to shine a light on the diversity of contemporary Canadian artists and their innovative work taken from a collection aiming to be as representative as possible. Framed by the curators’ invocation of the Allegory of the Cave, exemplary works such as Leaves of Grass by Geoffry Farmer and Stray Light by David Hartt encourage us as viewers to take a closer, harder look at the images that make up our world of appearances.

The complete text of my review of the exhibition was published here on the October 28 Akimblog.