Gerald Ferguson: Frottage Works 1994-2006
Curated by Susan Gibson-Garvey; circulated by the Dalhousie Art Gallery
29 June – 30 August 2009
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This twelve-year survey of the work of Halifax-based painter Gerald Ferguson includes eighteen paintings from the collection of the Dalhousie Art Gallery made by means of ‘frottage’, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as “the technique or process of taking a rubbing from an uneven surface to form the basis for a work of art.” Some of the objects that Ferguson has placed under his canvasses before passing a paint-soaked roller over their surfaces include cast-iron firebacks, clothesline, lengths of garden hose, dowel rods, rope, door mats, fence palings, drain covers, and ash-can lids and bottoms. The list is a virtual inventory of the artist’s environment, in- and outside the studio, and aligns his painting practice with plain work and common materials.
Questioning authority and meaning in painting, Ferguson’s workmanlike procedures result in surprisingly beautiful paintings. They may appear as abstract and rarefied as a work by Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko, but they are in fact objective – indeed literal – impressions of everyday things.
Born in Cincinnati in 1937 and educated at Ohio University, Gerald Ferguson came to Canada in 1968 to teach at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). He has lived and worked in Nova Scotia ever since, retiring from NSCAD in 2005, but maintaining a vigorous studio practice to the present day. Ferguson has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, including major solos at the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Vancouver Art Gallery, the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the National Gallery of Canada. He is represented in numerous public and private collections in Canada, the United States and Europe, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York. In 1996 he was awarded the coveted Molson Prize for the Arts. All of the works in this exhibition were generously donated by Ferguson to the Dalhousie Art Gallery in 2006 and 2007. Gerald Ferguson is represented by Wynick-Tuck Gallery (Toronto) and Gallery Page and Strange (Halifax).