TORONTO — Canadian ceramist Janet Macpherson’s latest exhibition Janet Macpherson: A Canadian Bestiary at the Gardiner Museum (Toronto, February 16 – May 21, 2017) weaves a narrative of expansion, exploitation and the complexity of the human experience through a menagerie of bound and bandaged critters.
Some are curious, hybrid creatures, often diminutive in scale, wrapped, bandaged or masked. Others are full-sized and true to life. In Macpherson’s bestiary, animals stand in for the complexity of human experience.
Macpherson is widely acclaimed for her technically complex employment of porcelain slipcasting to create her uncannily realistic animal forms, with each offering a slight dose of malaise. The Star writes, Macpherson’s bestiary, commissioned as a Canada 150 project (150th Anniversary of Confederation), revisits moments in Canadian history questioning concepts of identity and relationship to land.
Macpherson reaches deep into the past, to the beginnings of our exploitive impulses: A shrine to St. Jean de Brebeuf, a colonial-era missionary charged with the “salvation” of indigenous people near her hometown of Midland, Ont., exposes its roots, represented by gilded sacramental hearts.
A series of installations, including sound design and video projections, comprise the exhibition. Macpherson’s battered creatures peer out from behind a gilded-eye, two-faced owl decoy standing three high; they migrate across a narrow passageway as others act as scouts keeping watch nearby.
Macpherson writes in her artist biography that her work draws upon her Catholic upbringing, specifically the complicated relationship between humans and their own physical bodies.
Through the use of animal forms I explore ideas of repression, confinement, and torture, the animals becoming a metaphor for our relationships with others, and how we understand ourselves.
Read more reflections by Cfile of Macpherson’s work.
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