In Dialogue

Winter 2022

From February 5 2022 to May 15 2022

About —

Although opening our eyes at the start of each day is an automatic reflex, the act of seeing is not as obvious as one might think. This season, our exhibitions address the mechanics of the visible; they invite us consider the relationships between vision and cognition, which have transformed themselves through time.

In an essay published in 2012 titled Seeing Differently, the feminist art historian Amelia Jones draws on the notion of anamorphosis—a distorted image that bends the traditional rules of perspective—to offer another model for the representation of identity. Her book opens with the following statement: “We simultaneously cling to a belief in the veracity of visual signifiers to convey the truth of who people are and consistently doubt what these signifiers convey.” This interrogation of the Western world’s propensity to recognize an identity based on “naturally” identifiable external visual cues are the inspiration behind Awakening: Seeing Beyond the Frame. This exhibition presents a dialogue between figurative works, in which the body and its characteristics are visible but not entirely readable, and other abstract works whose more fluid interpretation is based on the treatment and particularities of materials, which acquires meaning through the interplay of analogy and metaphor.

Distortion, even camouflage, is also a strategy used in the landscape works of Derrick Liddington. His oil paintings tread a fine line: they attempt to make visually perceptible—since we are dealing with the visual arts here—an all-encompassing bodily experience. This translation plays on the conventions of oil painting, which is significant. In John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing (1972), the author states that landscape painters, including the Impressionists, are most responsible for having evolved the tradition of painting towards modernity. Their interest in light, the sky and its atmospheric variations brought painting closer toward representing the intangible and away from the more concrete facets of reality.

Our tendency to rely on form, on what’s visible, as the key to accessing reality is nothing new. The myth of Actaeon, which lies at the heart of the artist duo DaveandJenn’s work, confirms this. It tells the story of the hunter Actaeon who, after accidentally stumbling upon the forbidden territory of a goddess, is transformed into a stag, trapped in a physical body that is no longer his own. Suddenly, he realizes that the human world is limited: it relies solely on appearances. How can we move beyond the visible when we depend on it to make logical sense of reality—a reality that is, in fact, quite complex? Through mythology or science fiction, say some of these artists, who use these methods to circumvent the limits of reason and thus allude to what exists beyond, or beneath, the visible.

Images in the banner:

Views from the exhibitions at the Musée d’art de Joliette, 2022. Photos: Romain Guilbault