Jerry Pethick – SEPTEMBER 12–OCTOBER 11, 2008

Jerry Pethick
September 12–October 11, 2008

Catriona Jeffries

To launch its 2008 fall exhibition program Catriona Jeffries Gallery presented a solo exhibition of major works by Jerry Pethick. On the fifth anniversary of his passing, the exhibition included large scale sculptural works, photographic arrays and numerous wall works representing the broad range of Pethick’s explorations into imaging technologies and epistemological thought. At a moment when a younger generation of artists such as Geoffrey Farmer and Gareth Moore are exploring new approaches to sculpture and material, the innovation of Pethick’s work is pivotal. His practice is strongly rooted in its visceral materiality and is marked by a rigorous inquiry into art history, science and theories of visual perception.

This exhibition brings together early works on paper from the 1960s and sculptural work from the 1980s through to the 2000s, including Pethick’s first large scale photographic array and his early investigations into the relationship between sculptural space and multi-dimensional imaging systems. Pethick continually drew upon and linked his work to advancements in thinking throughout history, particularly the freedom of artistic and scientific exploration that occurred in Europe at the end of the nineteenth century and beginning of the twentieth century. In his photographic arrays, Pethick developed the French physicist Gabriel Lippmann’s theories of the fly’s eye lens through the use of fresnel lenses and multiple images of one subject which create a composite image. Pethick’s arrays address the camera’s inability to capture three-dimensional “material space.” Removed from the pictorial or referential, Pethick’s array photographs prominently figure the industrial landscape, historical locations and the artist’s studio as sites of particular interest.

The fly is also a motif that continually appears in Pethick’s work. Similar to the fly’s experience of space, form and meaning in Pethick’s work operate through a non-linear embodied experience of the viewer, dislodging our sense of real and virtual space. In this way, in works such as Out of the Corner of an Eye (1990) and The Last View (1989) Pethick calls attention to the way in which we perceive what we are seeing, out of the corner of our eye or as the last shape that is recorded on the retina of the eye at the final moment before death. In Through the Trees (Walnut) (1994-95) yellow forms painted on enamel and a television tube reference the dappled light created by sun through the leaves of a walnut tree, not meant as a literal depiction but as a reference to the effects of light and shadow and the influence of technology on visual perception.

Pethick’s three dimensional wall works disrupt what we have come to understand as drawing, painting and sculpture. He acknowledges and yet shifts the conditions of production and commodity culture through the re-configuration of re-cycled industrial and domestic materials. Shown for the first time in Canada, this exhibition will present Pethick’s large-scale free standing figure made entirely of glass bottles, Le Semeur/Sunlight and Flies (1987-2002). In this monumental work Pethick explores light and reflection and again connects to moments in the history of art, referencing the sower of seeds in French Realist Jean-Francois Millet’s rural landscape. Following the continuum of all Pethick’s work, the figure is at once playful, historical, ecological and perceptual.

Documentation by SITE Photography.