'Eyes of Society: ReImagining Regionalism in Art'
The Union Club of British Columbia, Victoria
December 1st, 2019 to January 31st, 2020
The 'Eyes Of Society' projects have been defined by the belief ‘that nature and culture are intrinsically connected’, to quote the Coastal Guardian Watchmen. This idea, which was the basis of the 2018 Gallery of Nature (Robert Bateman Centre) summer exhibition, has continued to evolved as an exploration of Regional art – as reflected in the group's recent exhibition at the Maritime Museum of British Columbia: 'A Regionalist Perspective'.
Regionalism in art expresses the highest ideals and aspirations of civil society. Born of the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason – and following in the spirit of the Romantic painters of the nineteenth century – this artistic movement is rooted in direct observation of the natural world. Resisting the postmodern ideology of our day, Regional painters seek to understand the nature of perception and the nature of objective reality itself.
In keeping with the beliefs of the London Regionalists (the previous incarnation of this perennial movement) Regionalists express themselves in very different ways today. Whereas the Regionalists of the 60s and 70s were heavily influenced by developments in contemporary art, our 're-imagining' makes no attempt to be 'with the times'; New Regionalism, paradoxically, reflects the movement's more traditional, representational roots. All of our works, however varied, are in this mode, from high-realism to formline. As Pietro Annigoni believed, ‘It is the destiny of every artist to strive to say something new in an old language.’
Our work frequently tell stories – and only representational art can do this – but in a response to the postmodern idea that meaning is entirely subjective, Regional art represents real world issues (very often subjects outside the currently accepted 'discourse of art') in a literal, objective manner. As a result, text accompanying such work frequently appears 'didactic' (to use a common postmodern criticism); similarly, a conscious rejection of postmodernism's most noticeable convention – the 'deskilling' of art – is an effort to maintain Regionalism's time-honoured tradition of skill and craftsmanship. Although we can only scratch the surface with a few paragraphs of text and a dozen or so painting, we hope, nevertheless, that the audience will see these works in a whole new light.
The works in this exhibition might not, at first glance, seem radical in anyway. Aside from the naturalistic theme which binds this collection together, there may be no indication that some other statement is being made. Painting in a representational manner itself, however, is making a bold statement today; painting at all for that matter.
The latest cover of Canadian Art, with the title 'Undoing Painting', is a perfectly timed illustration of the pervasive (and powerful) undercurrents that shape our cultural world; something only artists who chose to work in the 'traditional' manner will be aware of. Realism in art, as mentioned in the introduction to this exhibition, reflects a specific world view; and is chosen, therefore, as a form of resistance – a rejection, in fact, of the superficial, relativistic, postmodern culture of our day. In the 'post-truth', 'post-meaning' world (to use two common expressions which aptly describe the reality of our times) realist painters today seek to uphold the three timeless values of the Romantics (the first Regionalists): Beauty, Nature and Truth. We hope therefore, you will find a deeper meaning in this collection of work - these small statements of resistance to all that we believe might be changed, in order to make this world a better place.