Fall 2016 - 1st Session Live auction
Lot # 048
Jack (John Richard) Chambers
RCA 1931 - 1978 Canadian
oil and graphite on paper mounted on Plexiglas 1969
on verso inscribed "catalogue #96" on a label
52 x 50 1/2 in 132.1 x 128.3cm
The Isaacs Gallery Ltd., Toronto
Private Collection, Toronto
By descent to the present Private Collection, Israel
Jack Chambers: A Retrospective, Vancouver Art Gallery and Art Gallery of Ontario, 1970, listed, unpaginated
Mark A. Cheetham and Ihor Holubizky, Jack Chambers: The Light from the Darkness, Silver Paintings and Film Work, Museum London, 2011, reproduced page 28
Dennis Reid, editor, Jack Chambers: Light, Spirit, Time, Place and Life, Art Gallery of Ontario, 2011, essay by Mark A. Cheetham, pages 129 - 139
Vancouver Art Gallery, Jack Chambers: A Retrospective, September 23 - October 18, 1970, traveling to the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, November 7 - December 6, 1970, catalogue #96
Jack Chambers was one of Canada's most innovative and revered artists. His paintings have become icons of London and its surrounding region of southwestern Ontario and can be thought of as regionalist, yet he was trained in Spain and celebrated there and in New York City. His avant-garde films—such as Hart of London (1968 - 1970) and Circle (1968 - 1969), on which he was working when he made Paseo—are considered to be among the most important ever made. Classically trained but restlessly experimental, he was a radical classicist who was ahead of his time. His work still feels contemporary.
Connections with Spain were crucial for Chambers and are seen in Paseo, a Spanish word meaning “a walk or stroll out of doors.” That is what we see here: in the snapshot on which the central drawing here is based, Chambers’s wife Olga is walking on a beach in Spain with their elder son John. Typical of his profound play with images and media, however, Chambers has here substituted their second born, Diego. Chambers met and married Olga Sanchez Bustos in Spain. What is so memorable about Paseo is that it takes us back to such memories but is fully of its present time in its conceptual and material experimentation.
Paseo was made during the most expansive artistic phase of Chambers’s life. It followed his last "silver paintings," those restricted and austere works done in aluminum paint, which provided the illusion of movement in an otherwise still image. As he said at the time, their positive / negative shift as one moved across them laterally, or as the light changed, made them into instant movies. Paseo appears as an exuberant release from the self-imposed strictures of his silver paintings and films, yet it is also a prime example of his ongoing interests in drawing, photography as a source, and filmic movement. Brilliantly, it is a drawing and a photograph, and shares its dynamism with film. Most remarkably, here we see Chambers’s return to colour via the ready-made blues, pinks and mauves constructed in layers of Plexiglas. As if to emphasize a footloose attitude, Olga and Diego seem to step out of the frame and towards us. The right foot of both figures crosses the low-relief gap Chambers has built into the multimedia work. An example of what Chambers called plastic drawings, Paseo is almost architectural, yet remains delicate in its rendering of the figures.
There have been numerous exhibitions of Chambers’s work since his premature death from leukemia in 1978. While his paintings used to be best known, recently, increasing attention has been paid to the complex integration of media in his work from around 1968 to 1970. Paseo is central to his successful experimentation during this intense period. Akin to some of his acclaimed paintings of figures in interiors such as the Sunday Morning series, there is also in Paseo a special stillness, a portentousness in the everyday scene conveyed. Chambers has caught and replicated a special and intimate moment. This was the goal of what he called Perceptual Realism, a new type of realism that sought life’s essence through light and material. It was dependent on Chambers’s own amateur photography to get the details of perception right and to allow him the time to produce large works such as Paseo. Photography was for him only a tool: drawing, painting and film were the vehicles of enlightenment.
We thank Mark Cheetham, Professor of Art History at the University of Toronto and co-author of Jack Chambers: The Light from the Darkness, Silver Paintings and Film Work, for contributing the above essay.
Estimate: $30,000 ~ $50,000 CAD
Sold For: $44,250.00 CAD (including buyer's premium)