Jerry Pethick

Over the past 40 years, the work of Jerry Pethick (b. 1935, London, Ontario; d. 2003, Hornby Island, British Columbia) has been exhibited widely in Canada, the United States, and Europe. Pethick's enduring and complex body of work is the result of a lifelong quest to explore the unique possibilities of perception, and to use space as a sculptural material to evoke illusory qualities in everyday materials.

Guided by his interest in cutting-edge technology, Pethick began to work with plastics and lenticular materials in the mid-1960s. In 1971, with the American scientist Lloyd Cross, he established a holography school in San Francisco, to explore and test the limits of holographic images, which were at that time only being developed in corporate and military research. The institution was the first to offer public workshops, for which Pethick developed and patented the "sand table", a device that uses a bed of sand to match the elaborate technical demands required to create holograms, and can be home-made. In 1975, Pethick moved to Hornby Island where he lived for the rest of his life, pursuing his interest in the nature of perception, but shifting his mode of production to incorporate found objects in his sculpture. These were often sourced from the island's local re-use centre and recycling depot, and chosen for their formal, rather than utilitarian qualities: spectrafoil and other reflective materials, silicone, oven doors, window frames, Fresnel lenses, lights, saw blades, car tires, sulfur, rocks, and more.

As Pethick wrote: "In 1986, [...] It soon became apparent that the sculptural elements formed a kind of material bridge to the illusory elements, which are usually landscape scenes chosen for their stillness and daydream quality." Pethick's "spatial entities", created through truly innovative approaches to imaging, generate a protracted sense of time, like day dreams, and he characterized his illusory environments as alternatives to the reality of actual terrain found in nature–like a travelogue with space, or "travelogues of environments". For example, in his large-format array works, such as Volklingen Scarab (1995), Pethick assembled an assortment of images of the same quotidian landscape, photographed at slightly different angles. In front of the array, a screen of Fresnel lenses arranged precisely over each image creates a single, three-dimensional, virtual image which hovers in space and cannot be reproduced through documentation, only constructed and experienced through perception.

Pethick studied art in London, UK, at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, where he completed graduate studies in 1964. A major survey exhibition of his work was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2015, and his solo exhibitions include Simon Fraser University Gallery, Burnaby (2011); Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver (2004); Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle (2000); Stadtgalerie, Saarbrücken (1994); Toronto Sculpture Garden (1993); and Vancouver Art Gallery (1984, 1979).