Derek Liddington is interested in perception, more precisely, in memory and its effects on our perceptions. How can we make them tangible in a work of art? How can they come alive for viewers? In recent years, Liddington has turned away from performance and drawing to adopt the tools of the painter: colour, brush strokes, and luminosity; surface, superposition, and depth; oil and varnish. He challenges the canvas and its material limitations with strategies that attempt to capture transformation and movement. The genre of landscape is at the center of his new body of work developed for this exhibition, which focuses on how we experience landscape rather than how we see it. In this way, the artist confronts the canonized history of painting in order to question its legacy.
Liddington’s dense canvases visually translate the idea of immersion in a forest so dense that it is difficult to orient oneself. Any clues that prioritize important elements are absent; instead, the compositional rules of perspective that guide our gaze are rejected so that the surface becomes emphasized. Liddington systematically brings us back to the foreground, to what is closest to us, under our nose. Could this be a way of commenting on the current climate, where decisions often seem to be made with only short-term consequences in mind? The strength of Liddington’s work is that it refuses literality by forcing us to question and extrapolate: through painting, he translates into visual form an experience whose meaning exists somewhere between materiality and metaphor. A giant symbolizing potential danger is camouflaged in his images. What does it mean? We are all invited to make sense of it.
Read wall labels
Images in the banner:
Derek Liddington, The trees weep, the mountain still, the bodies rust, views of the exhibition at the Musée d’art de Joliette, 2022. Photos: Romain Guilbault
Derek Liddington was born in 1981 in Mississauga, Ontario. He lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.
Liddington acknowledges his relationship to the land as shaped by his settler ancestry as a third generation Canadian.
After obtaining his BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in Halifax, Nova Scotia where he focused on video and performance, Liddington completed an MFA at Western University in 2007. Liddington’s work holds a continuous interest in cultural memory and its iterations through abstraction, representation and modernist forms of visual language.
Liddington’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally, including performances in Athens, Greece and Onagawa, Japan, and select presentations in Toronto (AGO), Madrid (ARCO), Berlin (Art Berlin Contemporary), and New York (Frieze Art Fair, NADA). Liddington has had solo exhibitions at Cambridge Galleries (Ontario, Canada), SAAG (Lethbridge, Alberta), AKA Artist Run Center (Saskatoon, Saskatchewan), and the AGYU (Ontario, Canada). Liddington has had multiple publications on his work, most recently a catalogue published jointly by the SAAG and AGYU with texts by curator Emelie Chhangur.
A central part of Liddington’s practice is his use of residencies as a means of developing ideas of space and place. These have included residencies at the AGYU (Toronto, ON), AKA artist-run (Saskatoon, SK) and Onagawa AIR (Japan). Liddington has been the recipient of numerous public and foundation grants, including support from the Toronto Arts Council, Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts as well as being a finalist for the Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts. Liddington currently practices in Toronto, ON.