Guest Curated by Avery Geboers
POSE is a skill-building exhibition, designed to contextualize the nude portraits and sketches from the Art Gallery of Northumberland’s Permanent Collection within the wider history of the genre. The featured nine works range from expressive and gestural to strategically posed and methodically executed. They are brought together to inspire; to show the places an artist can settle between the sustained nude and life-drawing. We invite you to embody both the artists and the models.
Comprised of two main parts, works from the AGN’s Permanent Collection and works from the AGN’s visitors by use of a permanent life-drawing studio space. Visitors are challenged to try their hand at life drawing (and modelling) and add their sketches to the walls of the show. Sit, sketch and strike a pose.
About the Curator: Avery Geboers
Avery graduated from the Criticism and Curatorial Practices program at OCAD University in Spring 2020 and has been with the Gallery since January 2021. Her time spent at the Gallery has involved collaborating with coworkers to create at home art activity videos, online programming, research and writing about works from the Permanent Collection.
“Part of the purpose of POSE is to showcase the works from the AGN’s Permanent Collection in a way that inspires visitors through the different artistic styles and mediums present. The other part of the exhibition is meant to put that inspiration into action and get people physically engaged with the works, the genre, and the exhibition as a whole.”
The works featured in POSE from the Art Gallery of Northumberland’s Permanent Collection show the places an artist can settle between life drawing and the sustained nude. The act of depicting the human form occurs as a balancing act. It is gestural, expressive, emotive and fluid; but it also exists to train artists in the rules of anatomy and the visual principles of scale, proportion, light and shadow. It is up to the artist to find equipoise between method and emotion. As a result, the collection of works illustrates a range of mediums and styles, while simultaneously preserving evidence of the relationship occurring between an artist and the model.
In Hugh Mackenzie’s self-portrait, the artist stands in a dark room, encompassed by thick indigo brushstrokes. Layers of yellow and blue hues overlap like a fibrous network of cells and nerves to give form to his flesh. “Standing Nude” is complex; it showcases Mackenzie’s acute sense of scale, proportion, perspective and anatomy through his life-sized execution of interlaced fingers and angled footwork. The title itself also deepens the artist’s intentions. “Standing Nude” reads as both a description of the painting and as a verb. To be “standing nude,” the artist explicitly places himself in relation to his viewers in a deeply intimate and personal way.
Mackenzie stands tall and attentive compared to Airola’s “Reclining Nude.” This cubist depiction of a resting woman is much gentler on the eyes –we view it left to right as if reading a book as opposed to a vertical survey of Mackenzie’s painting. Airola’s palette is gentle, even his use of black is hazy and soft. The figure doesn’t stand at attention, rather she lays with an arm draped over her forehead and her eyes closed, unaware of the viewers in front of her. While both Mackenzie and Airola use colour to set the tone of their works, Daniel Price (D.P.) Brown’s artistic focus is in his minute and detailed linework.
D.P. Brown is a Canadian high realism painter. He was born and is currently based in Ontario, however he spent most of his youth living in Europe. This exposed him to the work of Europe’s artistic masters. The awe inspired by their techniques and craftmanship would stick with him and become a primary influence in his own artistic practice. Brown works almost exclusively in egg tempera. Both “Nude” and “Male Nude II” are rendered with such accuracy and detail that they could be mistaken as photographs when viewed from afar. However, as you move closer you can see the tiny strokes of colour.
Each hatch mark builds up the image with an almost molecular level of accuracy. Tempera doesn’t allow for the same airbrushed level of blending as one might see in oil painting due to the quick drying time of the medium. Instead, every brushstroke is strategically placed to allow for precise optical blending. Contrasted with Brown’s high-realism works, is the smoky and emotive sketch by Ronnie Kaplansky. Kaplansky is primarily known as a graphic designer and art collector. His foray into art making was encouraged through art therapy. As a result, his piece is charged with emotion. “Nude Study” is a charcoal drawing of two figures. They blend into each other as if connected through an embrace. The entanglement of the two fill the work with intimacy as the people lock together through the shared contour lines that give shape to their bodies.
Opposite to the main collection of works is Canadian artist Telford Fenton’s “Female Nude Study.” Fenton was primarily known for his vivid and electric use of colour. He was heavily influenced by abstract expressionism. Although his works were mainly representational in nature, he applied their visceral and impassioned methods of painting to every canvas he worked on. Even within “Female Nude Study,” where Fenton’s signature use of colour is absent, we can still see how this method of application fills the work with bursts of energy. The expressive swatches of graphite create the illusion that the woman is active and in motion. Unlike the figures in the other works, which hold an air of stillness, Fenton’s sketch allows us an opportunity to witness a moment of pure joy and freedom as she waves her arms in a moment of celebration and triumph or as if caught up in the midst of a dance.
Each work acts as a document of not only an artist and their subject, but also the relationship between the two. In her essay “’Look Closer’: Figure Drawing “As A Lesson In Empathy” Harvard Professor Heddi Vaughan Siebel states that as “the charcoal skids across the pad and the gesture of a man remains on the paper in a soot-black contour. This is the relationship: the drawing will preserve the evidence of this encounter, however fleeting — a moment when one human becomes visible to another.” Her ruminations on life-drawing focus not only on the technical skill that an artist can gain from the practice, but the documentation of a precious moment of human connectedness. A drawing becomes evidence of not just looking at another, but an effort to fully see them. Through Siebel’s view of the practice, the works provoke a meditation into not only the role of the artist in
Avery Geboers, 2022
 Vaughan Siebel, Heddi. “‘Look Closer’: Figure Drawing As A Lesson In Empathy.” WBUR: Cognoscenti, 24 Aug. 2016, www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2016/08/24/art-cennini-harvard-charcoal-heddi-vaughan-siebel.