500 METRES, 2000
enamel on canvas
titled, and dated to gallery label on the reverse
48 ins x 48 ins; 121.9 cms x 121.9 cms
Gerald Ferguson was a conceptual artist and a highly respected teacher at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) from 1968 until 2006. There, he contributed to establishing the college as a foremost centre of conceptual art in far-flung Halifax in the 1970s. The conceptual art movement sought to dematerialize and decommodify the art object, at best, removing any trace of the artist’s hand in the making of the work. While painting as an art form was duly relegated to the past, Ferguson and several others redefined painting to bring it in line with conceptualist art practice. He used ordinary materials—stencils, spray paint and enamel, for example—applied to the support using mechanical methods to suppress the agency of the artist.
In 1999, Ferguson began using the frottage technique which involved rolling black enamel paint over a length of canvas which had been stapled over such ordinary materials as rope or a garden hose. 500 Metres consists of a dense agglomeration of vertical lines that registers the process of rolling paint onto a canvas under which metre-long lengths of rods had been arranged.
As Roald Nasgaard has observed, the materials—whose original identity was all but lost—were laid out so that the resulting paintings ironically mimic classical modernist abstraction.
We thank Christine Boyanoski for contributing the above essay.
Olga Korper Gallery, Toronto
Private Collection, Ontario