In his second solo exhibition at Jessica Bradley Gallery, Jon Sasaki explores his interest in the pathos and humour of the banal. In some of these works he returns to the mythic stature of the Group of Seven painters that inspired his 2011 exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
The Group of Seven’s artist palettes, now enshrined in the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, have become fetish objects that embody the life and hand of the painter. Using swabs from these famous relics, Sasaki produced bacteria cultures in Petri dishes, literally bringing the palettes to life. Remarkably, his lush photographs of this invisible microscopic world bear uncanny resemblances to the landscape scenes first rendered with these palettes in the early twentieth century. In his back-lit photograph Northern River, 8’ Camera Crane (2011) Sasaki presents a view of thick woodland growth reminiscent of Tom Thomson’s painting Northern River, but here the somber tranquility of that scene is broken by the intrusion of a camera on a crane pushing through the trees in search of its subject. The absurdity of Sasaki’s scene underscores how contemporary modes of production are far removed from the romanticized narrative of the Group of Seven expeditions en plein air.
In his most recent video work, made in Tasmania, Sasaki repeatedly unearths and overturns rocks, exposing and disrupting the life beneath them with child-like curiosity. In his words “the subjects exhibit a huge spectrum of reactions to the overturning of their world. Insect-world crisis management is surprisingly relatable.” Looking toward the macrocosm of the universe, Sasaki creates his own night sky in the gallery by shooting “spitballs” of confetti onto a black ceiling. This abject material, the stuff of teenage boredom, becomes an enchanting element in an imagined unfathomable space. As occasional flakes of confetti inevitably detach and fall to the ground, Sasaki’s We are Made of Star Stuff re-enacts the theory that all matter on earth is gathered from the cosmos.
Good Intentions, Jon Sasaki’s major solo exhibition, was organized by the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto, Scarborough and has travelled to numerous venues across Canada over the past year. In 2011 his multimedia solo exhibition Pine, was presented at the Art Gallery of Ontario in partnership with Images Festival, Toronto. His work has also been seen in recent solo exhibitions at 126 (Galway, Ireland, 2010); Centre Clark (Montreal, 2009), and Latitude 53 (Edmonton, 2009). He has participated in group exhibitions at VOX (Montreal, 2009), The Vancouver Art Gallery (2010); the Owens Art Gallery (Mount Allison University, Sackville, NB, 2008), and Simon Fraser University Gallery (Burnaby, BC, 2008), as well as the 2006 and 2008 editions of Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.