Sympathetic Magic

Left to right:  Adad Hannah: The Russians, 2011  HD video (Courtesy of Pierre-FranÁois Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal and Equinox Gallery, Vancouver);  Kevin Schmidt: A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010 LightJet print, cedar frame (Courtesy of Catriona Jefferies); Raymond Boisjoly: a relative position and direction, 2014 Acrylic vinyl (Courtesy of Catriona Jefferies) Photo: Troy Mamer

Sympathetic Magic
June 27 to September 14, 2014
Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Canada

Canada has cultivated and maintained a strong symbolic connection with the northern landscape. The production of the Group of Seven and their progeny has both defined artistic practice at home and Canada abroad. As art historian John O’Brian observes in Wild Art History, “The land and its representations are knotted together, not unlike two other words with an affinity to landscape in contemporary thought – nation and nationalism.” The country as promoted by the authors of the Canadian landscape tradition is a pristine, untamed, and unpeopled place. Popular depictions of the landscape are telling: Canada is rich in natural beauty, abundant in resources, and ripe for development.

In recent years, changes to Canadian domestic and foreign policy have reconfigured the political landscape. Aggressive resource development has radically altered the physical environment. Yet Canadian landscape tropes of northern wilderness are incredibly difficult to displace. Why is it so?

Sympathetic Magic is an exhibition about the Canadian landscape that does not strictly operate in the recognizable idioms of the genre. Visitors to the gallery will not see the familiar snow-capped peaks of Lawren Harris’ iconic work*, but it’s most certainly present. There are no pristine vistas painted en plein air, nor will anyone see a twisted pine, a rocky outcropping, or a lake. Yet they never seem far away. The exhibition seeks to maneuver through the complex terrain of “the north” through the work of four contemporary Canadian artists – Raymond Boisjoly, Adad Hannah, Ken Lum, and Kevin Schmidt – to expand on concepts of territory, nationhood, and identity.

The exhibition title is derived from a term used by anthropologist James George Frazer in his seminal treatise on magic and religion. First published in 1890, The Golden Bough had a profound influence on then-emerging fields of anthropology and sociology, and enduring influences on psychology and literature. Under the umbrella of Sympathetic Magic, Frazer identified two foundational principles: the Law of Similarity and the Law of Contact or Contagion. The latter stipulates that “things which have once been in contact with each other continue to act on each other at a distance after the physical contact has been severed.” He makes another compelling statement: “things can physically affect each other through a space which appears to be empty.” There is poetry in this text that resonates throughout the exhibition.



List of works:

Raymond Boisjoly
a relative position and direction, 2014
Acrylic vinyl
Courtesy of Catriona Jefferies

Adad Hannah
The Russians, 2011
HD video
Courtesy of Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain, Montreal and Equinox Gallery, Vancouver.

Boy Sitting on a Tire | 4 min 17s
Russian Woman at Home | 8 min 57s
Cyclist Stopped on a Path | 5 min 09s

Soldiers Resting | 5 min 41s
Two Russian Couples | 5 min 57s
Six Russians Eating Ice Cream | 4 min 27s

Ken Lum
Cheeseburger, 2011
Chromogenic print on archival paper
Collection of the Mendel Art Gallery. Purchased with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program 2012.


Kevin Schmidt
Wild Signals, 2007
HD video
9 min 42 s
Courtesy of Catriona Jefferies

A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010
LightJet print, cedar frame
Courtesy of Catriona Jefferies


The names of things

Names of Things installation crop

The names of things
Terry Billings, Zachari Logan, Stacia Verigin
September 28 to January 6, 2013
Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Canada

In their diverse mixed media works, drawings and sculpture, Terry Billings, Zachari Logan, and Stacia Verigin explore the complex relationships between human experience and the natural world. Their work engages with natural forms and imagery to challenge assumptions about nature and consider the beauty and mystery of the world around us.

Terry Billings’ mixed media works sit in the charged space between knowledge and intuition. Billings has created works of art using wasp nest paper and plumage to explore the contradictions between the established scientific understanding of biological life forms and her personal experience of the non-human world.

Zachari Logan’s provocative drawings investigate masculine representation in contemporary society. The large-scale chalk pastel drawing from his Eunuch Tapestry series is based upon a number of remarkable, 15th-century textile works featuring unicorn subject matter. Logan extrapolates on the historical unicorn narrative to explore notions of sexuality, desire, domesticity, and love.

Stacia Verigin’s sculptures are inspired by her enchantment with the beauty and diversity of nature. Through a process of experimentation, discovery, and play, she eloquently transforms materials such as sawdust and glue into natural looking forms. Her work invites curious inspection; the viewer is challenged to resolve the tension between natural and unnatural, fiction and reality.

The human perspective on understandings of nature is a tangle of historical perspectives, personal experience, public and private interests. The names of things aims to tease out some of these issues through the poignant, humorous, and imaginative works of three Saskatoon artists.

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Terry Billings detail  Verigin pile Verigin_Polydactyl1

Zachari Logan detail2

List of works:

Terry Billings
Revealed Wasp Drawings, 2011
wasp nest paper and acrylic medium on canvas

Reassembled Moult, 2007
gathered molted Sandhill Crane feathers and acrylic medium on burlap


Zachari Logan
Eunuch Tapestry One, 2012
pastel on black paper


Stacia Verigin
Polydactyl, 2012

Taxon 01, 2003 – present
glue, sawdust, plastic

Taxon 02, 2003 – present
glue, sawdust, plastic

Taxon 03, 2003 – present
glue, sawdust, plastic

Forced Perspective

Forced Perspective
March 30 to June 10, 2012
Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon, Canada

Drawn from the Mendel Art Gallery permanent collection, Forced Perspective employs the dynamics of scale and vantage point to develop themes related to culture and place. Working in scales ranging from the miniature to the monumental, artists in the exhibition represent diverse aesthetic traditions that have helped shape cultural life on the prairies.

The interplay of contemporary and historical paintings, sculptures, and photographs activate the exhibition. Fred Moulding’s expressive carvings that depict homesteader life animate the pastoral English landscapes of pioneer artist Augustus Kenderdine. Modernist abstract painting connects international art movements to homegrown art production, while contemporary works by Douglas Walker, Bill Burns, and Janet Werner turn art on its ear. Forced Perspective brings together diverse works in the permanent collection, including sculpture, photography, paintings, and mixed media. They present a multiplicity of viewpoints to contemplate the Saskatchewan experience.
Forced Perspective installation view

Forced Perspective installation view


Works on Paper

Works on Paper is a term used by museums to classify a range of artifacts produced on paper. Taking playful liberty with the designation, this exhibition presents work from the Mendel Art Gallery Permanent Collection that reconsiders the medium and explores its material and conceptual potential. This alternate take on the thematic exhibition showcases the cheeky and inquisitive spirit of artists working in the past half century and offers insight into the business of collecting, sorting, and classifying objects for preservation and display.

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Royal Red

Royal Red — pretty much the best gallery ever — was founded by Troy Gronsdahl in 2004 and officially christened on November 4th, 2005. It was a unique little spot nestled in and amongst the city’s commercial galleries, Artist Run Centres and lovely, well funded Public institutions. No artist fees were ever paid but the parties were really fun. The gallery shared space with Phonographique, a boutique record shop, which closed in 2007.

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