The Tablets, 2016, Installation is 16 1/2 feet X 22 feet.
January 7 to February 26, 2017
- Public reception and artist’s talk: Friday, February 24
Doors Open: 7 pm. Talk Starts: 7:30 pm
Admission is free and everyone is welcome
Organized by Art Gallery of Swift Current
and the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery
Curated by Kim Houghtaling, AGSC and Jennifer McRorie, MJM&AG
With an international reputation spanning more than four decades, Saskatoon-based sculptor Douglas Bentham’s newest exhibition The Tablets is the artist’s first “installation” piece. Comprised of twenty-seven sculptural works installed in symmetrical rows, The Tablets exhibition presents a collection of metal assemblages of richly textured bronze and brass panels infused with fractured text, numbers and dates. The presentation of these tablet-like constructions contributes to a layered, overarching narrative of time, history, mortality and the general fragility of the human condition.
Influenced by a strong lineage of constructivist sculptors, including David Smith and Anthony Caro, it is Picasso’s cubist investigations into planar space and the use of text as formal elements that resonate significantly here in Bentham’s work. Assembling recycled and found metal materials, including the bronze castings of tombstone plaques, Bentham employs an additive and subtractive process that involves editing out through cutting away or grinding down, as well as adding on, to complete the architecture of each stately and contemplative form. Abstractions of words, dates and images figure throughout the frontal planes, reading as signs or hieroglyphics, to create an overall visual vocabulary within the exhibition space. The backs of the pieces offer alternative views, constructed as flat planes of brass and bronze, some altered with patina into painterly hues of green. This view is a pure engagement with materials and form. Referencing ancient stone or clay tablets, Bentham considers these sculptural forms as books, whose inscribed narratives are contained and discovered within the fractured layers. Meaning is drawn from engaging in the dialogue that ensues collectively between the components in the installation and in the interplay between the frontal and back planes of the pieces, where text and fractured imagery discourse with modernist concerns about form and content.
- Jennifer McRorie, Curator, Moose Jaw Museum & Art Gallery.
This artwork, The Tablets is an “installation” because multiple components are working together as one expression. We can focus on one plinth and sculptural form within the group and appreciate it for its inherent qualities but when placed with the others in this specific arrangement its individual qualities reinforce the larger expression. It is the expression made by the group of elements which determines this as a single artwork or an “installation” artwork.
The references made by this installation artwork are wonderful. The symmetrical grid pattern arrangement of patinaed bronze objects each connecting beautifully with their raw plywood plinth box provides a uniformity or an aesthetic harmony. The bronze objects are presented at chest height with all sculptural fronts facing the viewer as they approach. They resemble figures standing in regiment, like some ancient warriors with their decorated breast plates proudly showing. As one walks amongst the objects the reference changes. Walking through the well-organized grid pattern, we now read the messages offered by the abstractions of each individual object. Like a visit to a cemetery of unknown personalities with their permanent memories shared poetically, we feel the sentiments and sense their significance. When approaching an individual object the exhibition title-reference to the tablet becomes clear. Each object presents like a page easeled on a table with an excerpt we are encouraged to read. The weight of its physical presence lends to the importance of its message. The tablet as a symbol draws from two extremes. We can think of the ancient tablet with its permanent and universal message carved in stone and today the electronic tablet and its world wide access offering an ever changing universal sharing of messages. In this exhibition, The Tablets as an artwork offers messages abstractly or in visual metaphor and refer to expression itself.
- Kim Houghtaling, Curator, Art Gallery of Swift Current
Douglas Bentham graduated with a BA Advanced degree in painting from the University of Saskatchewan in 1969. He received an MFA in sculpture from that institution in 1989, working alongside eminent artists, Eli Bornstein and Otto Rogers. He has contributed to many international artists’ workshops throughout his career, including the Emma Lake Artists’ Workshop; the Triangle Artists’ Workshop, New York; and the Hardingham Sculpture Workshop, Norfolk, UK. Bentham has exhibited nationally and internationally, with over fifty solo exhibitions across Canada. His works are represented in numerous private, corporate and public institutions across Canada. Artworks by Douglas Bentham has been presented at Art Gallery of Swift Current on several occasions over past decades.
Exhibition Publication available with critical essay by art professional Jeffrey J. Spalding.
Artwork by Douglas Bentham has been presented at AGSC on occasion over past decades. The large scale abstract sculpture titled Open Series IV produced in 1977 and located at the entrance to the Gallery-Library in the RC Dahl Centre since 1978 is by Dundurn, Saskatchewan artist, Douglas Bentham. Open Series IV was purchased through funding from the Saskatchewan Arts Board. Unique monumental public sculptures by Douglas Bentham are located in many cities across Canada.
Thank you to the artist, Douglas Bentham, and to the Saskatchewan Arts Board, SaskCulture - SaskLotteries and the City of Swift Current for their support.
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Exhibition Viewing Hours:
Monday to Thursday - 1 to 5pm and 7 to 9pm
Friday to Saturday - 1 to 5pm. Closed Sundays during July & August
Closed during exhibition changes and statutory holidays.
(Dates and hours subject to change due to special events and availability of volunteers. Please call ahead to avoid disappointment.)