A Jock McDonald Remix Project by Pete Smith.

This blog is a running journal that was made in conjunction with my artist residency at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada that took place between December 2014 and February of 2015.

To get an understanding of how this project fits into the larger scope of my art practice, please visit:


Wednesday, December 31, 2014

research notes:

continued from Michelle Jacques, "Finding His Way: Jock Macdonald's Toronto Years", 2014.

pg 111- Macdonald was offered a teaching post at the University of Southern California for the summer of 1961. I really wonder what kind of art he would have made in California had he ever arrived there.

Anna Hudson, "Jock Macdonald's Weave of Reality", 2014

pg 115- Ok. The first sentence kinda drives me crazy. It's not really anything that Hudson says, per se, so much as a general mis-conception that critics, curators and historians have about artists and their work. Hudson describes Fleeting Breath from 1959 as such "a mature and confident painting". The italics are mine. The notion of artistic "maturity" drives me crazy, or at least how it is generally used by historians. Macdonald's late abstract paintings are unquestionably his best, but to unwittingly dismiss the previous forty years of his work as "immature" entirely misses the point of what it is to actually make art. We can, and do, make all kinds of art in our lifetime. Some of it is good. Some of it is bad. Historians try to place these overly simplistic cookie-cutter narratives about our "development" as artists upon us, and it's silly. When we make enough work that looks the same and they happen to like the most, we've magically arrived at "artistic maturity". Like I said, this isn't so much a gripe about Ms. Hudson as it is about a commonly held misconception about artists. It's like how when the figure comes back into Pollock historians see this as some kind of conservative regression. But no: dude just got tired of making drippy allovers. It's not some kind of mid-life-art-crisis akin to a baby boomer buying a Ferrari. Had Macdonald lived another 20 years, there's a very good chance he'd have made very different work again in the last ten (especially if he'd have moved to California in the 1960's!). Artists just get into things and want to/have to do those things. Seriously, go google Gerhard Richter.

pg 115 -Ok. So I really just have a problem with Hudson's whole first paragraph. It's really grand, and more or less untrue. Macdonald's abstract paintings of the late 1950's are really great. But he had not "finally broken through to a unique and singular voice". He'd had a singular voice for quite some time before these pictures. But, even then, they are ALWAYS within the context of larger historical trends in picture making and painterly convention. Just because they fit within a larger conventionalized framework, and they always do, doesn't mean they aren't great. In fact, I would argue it it precisely how Macdonald specifically manipulates formal and material conventions within (relatively established) pictorial forms (landscape, Surrealism and abstract painting) that makes his work so good. Although I do whole heartedly agree with Hudson's assertion that the strength of Macdonald's late work does, in fact, come from "his ability to compositionally suspend contradictory preoccupation with liberating automatism and rigorous design", she's trying to ascribe a certain degree of importance to Macdonald's formal ingenuity which isn't really true, and certainly isn't necessary. You can totally tell, just by reading this first paragraph, that Hudson is a historian in the mode of the October Posse (Rosalind Krauss, Benjamin Buchloh, Hal Foster, etc.) who ascribe art historical importance on the basis of their historical novelty and priority. Personally, I totally do not. It's just all so 1990's.

To extend on this, what makes Macdonald so special and (highly unusual in his moment) is his capacity to evolve (and thrive) in conjunction with the spirit of his age as it changed throughout his lifetime. The vast majority of artists, in his era, developed a signature style and made variations of that style for the entirety of their career. This is, more or less, a form of high brow branding. Ultimately, it becomes incredibly limiting. Macdonald continued to grow and evolve (after he'd already reached "maturity" and a relatively high degree of notoriety and acclaim). He was as a product of his environment, a chronicler of the zeitgeist. This is amazingly cool, genuine and real.

pg 115- Now this is a really great, and really true couple of sentences: "Revelation of the catastrophic power of industry to destroy life during World War I confirmed that science and religion should not be opposed. No longer could they function as conflicting lenses through which the world and the future of humanity might be imagined." The sad part is that we haven't really learned that yet, despite a hundred years of perpetual catastrophe....

pg 118- Ya. So despite my previous objections, this is a really good essay with a really compelling range of research and references.

Notes from the Underground

Untitled Workspace_5

Laytex and Collage on Canvas

28 x 60 inches


Untitled Workspace_6

Laytex and Collage on Canvas

48 x 48 inches


New Documents (1-6)

Acrylic and Enamel on Transparency and Paper

10 x 8 inches


Eyes Wide Open

by Liz Wylie

*The following essay accompanies the catalogue for my exhibition, "New Frontier", which opens on January 16th at Kelowna Art Gallery.

Painting is not dead. It is now a high popular art, like jazz. It’s a serious branch of visual practice, probably the most serious.

– Peter Schjeldahl, 2010

A key part of both working in and looking at contemporary painting is continually prodding at it just like a tongue probing a sore tooth to check on its condition. One thing most people would agree on these days – even if grudgingly – is that painting is not dead. It has survived in the hands of practitioners who love to paint. Lately, however, painting, especially abstract painting, has been hit with slurs like crapstraction and zombie formalism. What is a serious abstract painter to do? Well, if Ontario-based artist Pete Smith is an exemplar, the answer is to keep on painting. Smith has said in conversation that he feels completely invested in painting, in every aspect of the practice. He likes the connections he feels with other painters, both contemporary and from the past, and respects and enjoys the tradition of the medium. He is not alone in this sort of attitude. As American art critic Jed Perl wrote recently: “The beauty of painting is that we experience the individualism of the painter, but never exactly in isolation. The painter is always simultaneously in the community of painters, of the present and of the past.” 1

For his current series of work, New Frontier, presented in this exhibition Smith has used a fascinating self-referential working method. In 2010 he made an animated film titled Blind Carbon Copy of his then current drawings and paintings. Broken down, the film comprised over 4000 animation stills. Smith began selecting single frames and creating paintings from them, not slavishly copying the images, but using them as jumping-off points. It would be hard to conceive of a project more self-referential than an artist creating paintings based on images of his own older paintings. But Smith finds the project of intense artistic interest, repeatedly solving the problem of how to make a new, living painting from a random digital image.

Smith definitely seems an heir to the old modernist tendency to deemphasize subject matter in painting. There is no subject to his work, except his own work. And what of the content? I would think the meaning of the work is the act and tradition of painting. So as viewers we are entering a self-contained world, as though setting foot out on a moebius strip – the ultimate in a solipsistic experience – in which all we are sure of is our own experience. And yet, there is an emotional level or layer of experience in Smith’s work that comes from his love of the act of painting, not only the physical aspects of it, but the intellectual and aesthetic ones as well. Creating a painting is a lived act, a lived experience, and a viewer cannot help picking up on some vestigial half-life of that spent energy.

In the seven paintings created for this show, Smith deploys an all-over democratic compositional strategy, and creates a flat picture plane upon which all the shapes reside. The palette of each painting is generally restricted to only a handful of colours, but at times tiny bytes of bright, pure colours have been wedged in, as though at the last minute. Some of the works have large shapes (looking a bit like camouflage) and some have a scattering of all sorts of tiny ones. These tend to appear almost as landscapes. They are all weightless, and floating. All the works read as summations of a process of their gradual creation.

In addition to his works on canvas for this exhibition, Smith has made a new, unique artist’s book that includes images and writings of his own, as well as snippets of Emily Carr’s writing and that of his great grandmother. This book is a rich and layered piece, with images, drawing, and writing layered upon the pages. In a way, it is as though many of Smith’s oil on canvas works were brought together and then just stacked up, with his own thoughts and jottings stuffed into the pile. The book provides a delicious sidebar to the viewer’s experience of looking at his paintings.

Smith grew up in North Bay, Ontario and spent some time teaching high school art there before going back for an MFA in studio at the University of Guelph. I would bet that he was an inspiring teacher and provided a great portal for those students into the world of art. His energy is infectious and I resist the urge to stand back and salute him. He is on a challenging, but ultimately rewarding path as an artist. And the possibilities for future exploration seem huge. As the late American curator Kirk Varnedoe wrote: “… abstract art, while seeming insistently to reject and destroy representation, in fact steadily expands its possibilities.” 2


1 Jed Perl, writing in The New Republic, Sept 7, 2013, “The Rectangular Canvas is Dead: Richard Diebenkorn and the problems of modern painting.”

2. Kirk Varnedoe, Pictures of Nothing: Abstract Art since Pollock. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006, p. 40.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Correspondence with Kate Wilson

Hi Pete,

Hope all’s great with you. Congratulations! The wall piece at the RMG looks spectacular. And congrats on the Kelowna show. Liz Wylie is a joy to work with.

Pete, I would like to introduce you to Lois Steen. Lois is a Toronto-based painter. I’m assisting Lois with her archives. Lois has a fascinating history and she has many brilliant stories about Jock Macdonald.

In 1951, Lois studied with Macdonald at the Banff School of Fine Arts. "In his teaching, Macdonald treated his students as the most important thing in his life at that moment and he never let you forget it. He encouraged experimentation, especially with abstraction. There was something personal Jock had with his students that endeared him to you. You bent over backwards to do the best work possible.” In 1981, Lois participated in Jock Macdonald’s Students, a group exhibition at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery curated by Joan Murray. Lois exhibited six large-scale paintings: Noetic, Twilight Rubies, Celebration of All That Is, Patch of Green, Untitled and Energy Within.

Jock and Lois maintained a friendship until his death in 1960. Several years ago, Lois donated correspondence from Jock to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery archives. Lois continues to maintain a studio practice.


Have a Merry Christmas, Pete and Best Wishes for the New Year!


Kate Wilson

That's awesome, Kate!

Thank you so much! I will absolutely get in contact with Lois! Also, am I ok to post this correspondence on my blog? I've been doing that sort of thing. I like giving the shout-outs to friends, but also like to show the way artists function as a community.



In the 21st Century, it's probably more important for your paintings to be photogenic than good.

Cellphone photo courtesy of Ethan Baron.

*Just sose you knows, I won't be posting anymore full installation shots of the gallery until after the January 9th opening reception. I want to leave SOME surprises for people, and I'd like to give SOME incentive for people to actually come out and see everything in real life. I mean, I don't want to be there just drinking by myself and all....:)

Monday, December 22, 2014

research notes:

continued from Linda Jansma, 2014.

pg 70- The picture above is of Jock Macdonald and Dr. Grace Pailthorpe in London, 1949.

Michelle Jacques, "Finding His Way: Jock Macdonald's Toronto Years", 2014.

pg 75- Jock Macdonald on OCA: "Now, you will ask, what about the instruction? Isn't the place very academic + conservative? Yes! decidedly so. But I have taken it that I have been asked to break through the old academic instruction + think I am doing already."

pg 76- Jacques, who before taking the head curator position at the AGGV was associate curator at the AGO, totally gets Toronto art: "Toronto is a city that supports a diversity of artistic practices. There is no identifiable school, brand or narrative to describe the work produced there." EXACTLY!!!! That's why it's so great (and why Vancouver sort of isn't). Vancouver's a thing. A very specific thing, and it you aren't a part of or aren't producing that thing, there's basically no interest in you. Toronto is soooo many different things. That's why it's so great. Really, and I mean this sincerely and un-sour-grapes-idly, I much prefer Toronto to New York now. Art doesn't really happen in NY anymore. Capitalism happens in NY. That's not the same thing. In fact, money usually just gets in the way of art happening. It ruins artists. People here need to recognize how good we have it.

Ok. That's not really a fair indictment of NY art. There's still some amazing art in NY. But NYC is to art what Hollywood is to film. It's like an art theme park. Everything is so big and over-the-top and superhuman, because most of it, is made by whole teams of people. It's blockbuster stuff. And that can be wicked cool sometimes. (Like, I kinda can't wait for the new Star Wars movies and all). But it's something else that happens here, and that something else that happens is good and real and authentic to what art has been about before the last twenty years (which is mostly about being expensive entertainments and investments for new money). I think it would be very difficult to be a good artist in that environment, and I think it kills an awful lot of them. Anyways.....

pg 76- On Macdonald's teaching, David Blackwood said: "Jock Macdonald was an exceptional teacher and a great artist. His philosophy of art was very broad and style was of no importance to him. He was totally capable of confronting realism and non-objective approaches to painting. He was a great believer in the evolution of the artist, sustained development and the maturing of individual vision, something not quite tolerated today perhaps but nevertheless vital to all serious art." I can jibe with that.

pg 77- "Perhaps, though, his truly great achievement during his Toronto years was all that he did to promote abstraction, change the teaching philosophy of the Ontario College of Art and - ultimately - transform the cultural character of that city." Wow. That is a SERIOUS thesis. I LOVE IT. Jacques is swingin' for the fences. Love it.

pg 80- I find it kind of funny that Macdonald says first and second year students are "formative + there are no barriers to break down" because this is pretty much the exact opposite of my contemporary experience. Basically all you do in first and second year is break down their barriers. Kids tend to come into art school with very clear ideas of what art is, and what they like, and you have to spend the next two years smashing that apart for them because they don't actually know much about anything yet. But they certainly THINK that they do.

pg 83- Kinda like me, Jock Macdonald had to teach all over the place in order to support his family. OCA was not enough money on it's own. I find this pretty comforting. I love my job. I never want to not teach art. I would, however, like to teach it a little bit less than I currently do....

pg 93- Richard Gorman studied with Macdonald in the late 50's, saying: "He was a great man, a fine man, a very sensitive person. He had guts. He carried with him a certain attitude about his own art and teachers always teach best by example. He pursued his art in a cerain way and this was impressive to students. He was practicing art out there: he wasn't just a teacher, he was an artist." Gotta find the Joan Murray catalogue form "Jock Macdonald' Students" from a 1981 RMG show.

Intermittent Studio Note: Beyond this blog (and residency) being about my own self-indulgent narcissism, it is meant to be pedagogy. I am meaning this as exemplar for art students to know what aesthetic research is and can be. (Hint: it's kinda fun, hopefully.) I spend soooo much time trying to explain this kind of thing.

pg 93-94: It's kinda funny and sad to read Macdonald's thoughts on the administrative switch at OCA from Frederick Haines to L.A.C. Panton. When there are changes at the top at a school, the people underneath fear and feel those affects. It's funny because it's still the same. It's sad because it's still true.

pg 94- Macdonald participated in a 1952 group exhibition at the Oshawa YWCA organized by Alexandra Luke. (I've totally got to find that building!) The show was called: "The Canadian Abstract Exhibition". This was, apparently, the first show of entirely abstract painting ever held in Canada. The show had works by Macdonald, Luke, Ronald, Ray Mead, Bush, Oscar Cahen and Tom Hodgson. GO SHWA!

pg 98- The Macdonald's sailed to Europe in August, 1954. I love that. Who "sails to Europe" anymore? Such a lovely idea. (Although it would actually probably kinda suck. But whatever, the romantic idea of it is still quite lovely.)

pg 101- Painters 11 had a show at Adelaide House in Oshawa in March 1955. Gotta find that place as well.

pg 105- Macdonald on NYC: "I found painting in New York not to my liking. New York seems to be filled with set fashions of painting. Last Easter it was all 'action' painting on white grounds. I was told that if I painted in this manner I could get a show in the city. I said I wasn't a factory painter + and would not go on to any band-wagon no matter what it might mean for me." Word.(see my above comments.)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Notes from the Underground

Well at least the wall painting part is finished now.

Robert McLaughlin (1836-1921) started the McLaughlin Carriage Company in 1869. An innovator in automobile technology, he was a founding partner in General Motors. His son, John J. (1865-1914) was a pharmacist. He invented ginger ale. (Canada Dry)

The Living Room Community Art Centre is located at Simcoe and John in Oshawa, three blocks away from the RMG. Their goal is to be a free place where everyone, from all walks of life, can come together and make art.

They have loads of art supplies for people to use. The only "stipulation" is that people can't be drunk or high while they're in there.

I met a couple of people who work there when I went in. It takes all of about 40 seconds for you to realize these are really good people. They speak in the way that really good people speak. It's like their positivity inflects their vocal range. They have a Trillium grant for the year, and are hoping to continue.

These people genuintely want to do good in their community. They are filled with a sense of hope that's infectious and inspiring. There just aren't enough people that are filled with hope, and there certainly aren't enough people who want to do good in the world.

I am totally going to go jam with them in the new year. To find out more about their project, visit:


studio note:

I want to make a video game arcades project, like a slacker enycolpedist creating a virtual flaneurie.

I have no idea what any of these things that I'm making actually "mean". That's your job. Artist create meaning, but don't have access to it. (If you believe Richard Wolheim anyways, which I happen to.) All we have is intention; and for the most part, I tend to intend a whole lot.

I do what I do, the world does what it does, and every once in a while those things intersect.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

research notes:

continued from Linda Jansma, 2014.

pg 45- In 1944, Andre Breton spent three months in Canada in the Gaspe Peninsula near Perce Rock writing Arcanum 17. This is kinda wicked cool as one of my best friends, Darrell Joseph, has a family cottage right at that spot (in Barchois). I've gone lobstering in Gaspe! Going to have to email Darrell and Chrissy about that. As recovering University English majors, they'll probably find that as cool as I do.

There is a lot of fantastic scholarship over the next few pages that combs through the Scottish archives of Macdonald's automatic drawings and his correspondence with Pailthorpe and Mednikoff. I gotta say though, I am soooo skeptical of automatism. I totally get how important a thing this is to the development of abstract painting and all, but I think Surrealism is, more or less, a giant pile of hogwash. They certainly made some cool art, but the "intellectual" parameters that underscored this development are, for me, highly suspect. I just don't think it's possible to consciously do anything unconsciously. Quite frankly, I'm pretty skeptical of the whole idea of a subconscious at all, or at least, our capacity to consciously draw from it, along with the apparent Freudian/Jungian significance it allegedly possesses. What Surrealism actually did was create a new set of aesthetic conventions. Those conventions are super important. The more representational Surrealist work (like Dali and Magritte) gave us an aesthetic convention for our "subconscious" which has, ultimately, given way to a sort of high school stoner basement decor. The more abstract stuff (like Miro), however, is really important, as that's what's given us Post-War Abstraction (like Abstract Expressionism). Ultimately, my question is this: if all of this stuff is coming from your "deep, subconscious mind", how can it all be so formally rigorous?

Modernists, man. They really went all in on some crazy ass shit. Once again, some great artists though.

pg 70- In a letter to Dr.P and M, Macdonald writes about his first show at Hart House (UofT): "Prof Fry...was most impressed + remarked that my short talk was the clearest exposition on 20th century art he had ever heard from any artist." That's awesome. I LOVE me some Northrop Frye. The Anatomy of Criticism played a big part in my MFA thesis, along with this paper I wrote for Monica Tap as part of her SHHRC project. I presented the paper at a UAAC conference in 2007, and again at the Macdonald Stewart Art Centre.

Cool Personal Fact: the Mac-Stew is the first public gallery to have my work included in their permanent collection. They recently acquired a bunch of my collaborative work with Otino Corsano from the early/mid-2000's. Wicked cool. For the record, we're planning on making some new stuff together after I've finished this project. I'm totally excited to do that again.

Six Degrees of Artist Separation: I know Sandra Altwerger. She studied with Jock Macdonald. He knew everyone important in my country. JMD also knew Marc Chagall, who knew the whole 20th Century. That's, like, only 3 degrees. Nice.

Studio Note: I was hoping to finish the wall painting yesterday so that Bronwen and I could start stretching and underpainting the canvas today. That didn't happen. So now I'm onto Plan B: I'll finish the mural* today, and get Bronwen to stretch and underpaint the canvas. If there's any time left after that, we can paint some more boxes. It's pretty clear I'm going to have to come in on Monday for sure.

*What's the difference between a mural and a wall painting? A wall painting sounds contemporary and installationy. A mural sounds like something that high school kids do to complete their community service hours. Also, I think that a wall painting is temporary and a mural is more permanent. My wall painting will be destroyed at the end of the month.)

Friday, December 19, 2014

research notes:

continued from "Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form", 2014. Thom's paper continued.

pg 26- produced sketches, Mount Kitchener and Glacier, Columbia Ice Fields, Alberta while hiking with Lawren Harris. These aren't reproduced in the catalogue.

pg 36: Macdonald says: "Man's consciousness is always in a state of change. With the change of consciousness comes the change of Art. Art is a record of the evolution of Humanity. Our knowledge of Nature has changed. The artist's expression must change as the artist finds his inspiration for ever stimulated by searching into nature."

Linda Jansma, "Dr. Grace W. Pailthorpe and Ruben Mednikoff: A Lesson in Automatics"

pg 39- The National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Scotland has 86 works on paper by Macdonald that were made while working with Dr. Pailthorpe and Mednikoff. They also have a crap load of his letters.

pg 42- Pailthorpe and Medikoff were included in the exhibition, "Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism," at MOMA. The show was curated by Alfred H. Barr (swoon).

pg 43- Of Pailthorpe's works in the show, Andre Breton said: "the best and most truly surrealiste of the works exhibited by English artists."

pg 43- Pailthorpe and Mednikoff were shown at Peggy Guggenheim's London gallery in 1939.

pg 43- Surrealism became this crazy cartoon of institutional politics and self-promotion all over the place. Pailthorpe and Mednikoff were kicked out of the "official" British group around 1940. It was like that with Cubism too. (Duchamp's "Nude Decending a Staircase" was famously rejected by the official group of Cubists.) Modernists were so weird with that shit, man. All of their silly clubs. Some great artists though.

Alright. I've got to go have a shower now, and then make breakfast for the kids.

Personal Note: Gotta wash my studio clothes this weekend. I am, after all, on public display and all.

Notes from the underground

Yup. This is something that happens.

Ok. So these banners have nothing to do with this blog, but I just had the picture sent to me from Kelowna, and between you and me, I'm more than a little bit amazed that this is something that actually exists in the world. That said, my show out there is totally going to kick Ed Burtynsky's butt. Dude won't even know what hit him. He'd better recognize. Boom: for real.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

research notes:

continued from "Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form", 2014.

Ya. Screw this. I'm going back to bed. It's only 5:45am now, and I've already been at this for over an hour. That extra hour of sleep is pretty huge, and I've got a long day in front of me. The RMG is open until 8pm tonight, and I need to make the most of it.

Until tomorrow then:

Crap. I accidentally set my alarm for 4:30am, not 5:30. Been up for an hour before I noticed though.....

Memorial Park, Oshawa

Correspondence with Sally Thurlow

Hi Sally,

We met at your VAC opening, and I was given your contact information by James Campbell. I'm currently doing a residency at the McLaughlin Gallery, and the project I'm doing is in relation to Jock Macdonald. Linda Jansma tells me that you live close to the house where the Painters 11 had their first meeting. Do you know where this house is exactly? I would like to take some photos of it for my blog.



Pete Smith

Hi Pete,

I remember meeting you at your SG opening. Meeting new faces at my opening is a blur to me now, but I remember James talking about you doing some writing also. The house is just 2 north of me - it belonged to Alexandra Luke of course, one of the 11. Marg Rodgers wrote a great little book on her.

It’s a cottagy place with an addition and you should also walk around the corner onto the lakeshore road and up the first lane to see the back of it, quite exposed. I say walk because that lane way is hard to get turned around in. I can’t remember the address number since I just drove by it and then did a pile of other stuff… but my # is 2721 and the hideous signage roadside is at least readable!

Drop by for a cuppa when you’re down this way if you have time beyond your 90 ft. wall painting! I hear you! Ah the life of an artist!



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

JMD is a superly interesting figure in Canadian art history: a conduit between east and west, Pre-War and Post-War. A half century of our national art unfolds around this man's biography.

A portrait of JMD by Varley from 1930.*note the rather disturbing lack of eye balls.

research notes:

continued from, "Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form", 2014.

Ian M. Thom, "Early Work: An Artist Emerges"

Before I start reading this I just gotta say: I friggin' hate the term "emerging artist". Maybe it's because I was one for so friggin' long. It's totally standard terminology and all, but it absolutely drives me bonkers. That said, I have no better term in mind to replace it.

pg 15- Macondald says: "Art must include in it's study of nature the whole universe, if it is to envisage some aspect of the universal truth and help humanity to become conscious of the meaning of life."

pg 15- furthermore it is: "...the conscious expression of our time." This is, more or less, what I am trying to do also.

pg 15- Thom says: "The purpose of this essay is to examine the work that allowed Macdonald to come to the postions that he espouses in this important lecture." YES GUY! I love it when a writer gives such a clear thesis statement. It totally makes the former high school English teacher in me swoon. Honestly, I even have to teach kids things like this in third year university classes sometimes. Drives me BONKERS. But if I don't do it, nobody else will.

So far there is a lot of lovely historical analysis and interpretation of Macdonald's work which is nice reading, but not the sort of thing I want to include in my notes. For this project I am more interested in information than insight.

I am, after all, rather insightful myself. :)

notes from the underground

*Linda Jansma tells me that Sally Thurlow lives nearby the house in Whitby where the Painters 11 had their first meeting. Sally had a show at the VAC about a year ago, and I got her contact information from James Campbell.(I am Vice-President of the board of directors at the VAC, and James is our curator.)

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

research notes: Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form, Michelle Jacques, Linda Jansma and Ian M. Thom editors, London, Uk: Black Dog Publishing, 2014.

Thank you, Linda for lending me this!

from the "Director's Forward" by Kathleen S. Bartels, Gabrielle Peacock and Jon Tupper, pg. 7 - Macdonald was an early supporter of Emily Carr. He bought one of her pieces in 1938.

Ian M. Thom, "Jock Macdonald: A Biographical Sketch"

pg 9: James William Galloway Macdonald

pg 10- Lawren Harris moved to Vancouver in 1940, and he went sketching with Macdonald in the Rockies in 1941. I need to find images of some of these sketches before my trip to Kelowna.

pg 10 - While serving as President of the British Columbia Society of Artists attended a conference in Kingston where the groundwork for what would later become the Canada Council for the Arts was laid.

pg 11 - Became friends with Maxwell Bates while living in Calgary.(That's who the letters to "M. Bates" are in the Zeman's catalogue." Many of the direct quotes from Macdonald I've mentioned earlier here are in correspondence with him.)

pg 12 - Had a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Art.

pg 12 - The first Painters 11 exhibition was at the Roberts Gallery in 1954. Seriously, I have got to go into this place. I've lived in (and around) Toronto since 1994, have been pretty active in the art community here since '98, and I've never been in there. Honestly, it just looks like a high-end, frame-makery kinda gallery now. Like Yorkville but worse (since it's on Yonge Street, which let's face it, before you hit St. Clair is filled with tourists and bong shops). I mean, who ever hear of a serious art gallery on Yonge Street? It's so cool the way art in a city moves around through time.

pg 12 - DUDE MET MARC CHAGALL IN 1954. Although Debuffet was more influential on Macdonanld, I gotta say that Marc Chagall is the far cooler meet and greet.

pg 13 -Macdonald's AGO (or AGT at the time) retrospective in 1960 was the first for a non-Group-of-Seven-living artist in the gallery's history. Crazy cool.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Email Correspondence with Sandra Altwerger

Hi Sandra,

Although we've never met, I teach in drawing and painting at OCAD. (In fact, I was at your retirement celebration.) I'm doing an exhibition/research project for the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa that's in relation to Jock Macdonald. Paul Sloggett tells me that you may have studied with him, or might know some people who did. As part of my project I want to incorporate stories from OCAD about Macdonald as told by people from OCAD. As a younger teacher here, I feel a connection through this.


Pete Smith

Hi Pete,

I have only faded memories of Jock MacDonald.

He was a nice man and a good teacher. I would say he was the only faculty that I learned anything from. He taught me how to see form and space and to manipulate a drawing in charcoal. I never forgot him although he died early in my time at OCA in 1960. I had just begun as a student and he died in October of 1960. There was just enough time to form a memory and I used what he taught me as a foundation for my visual thinking ever since.

His teaching was very much at odds with the traditionalism taught at the time. I think that was very hard on him.

It was nice to hear from you. I hope you are enjoying your teaching at OCAD U.



Research Notes:

Continued from Zemans, "Jock Macdonald", 1985.

pg 24: While working in the south of France, he had a studio visit with Jean Debuffet who offered him the following criticism: "If only you could speak in oil as you speak in watercolour then...you would have a profound contribution and a personal one...This you can do and this you must do, but you must begin immediately to experiment to find how you can use oils as you do your watercolours. There are four oil canvases started similar to your watercolours but you haven't managed to come through, for you paint with too solid a medium." (This was JMD's assessment of the Debuffet feedback as relayed in a letter from March 20, 1955.)

pg 24: Furthermore: "Start experiments of technique immediately, it is only a technique discovery you have to find, everything else you have already."

pg 24: In a letter from March 13, 1956 he wrote: "It is clear to me now that if I stay at OCA until I am age 65 or 66, I will never have a single associate supporting me in anything at all. This is my cross....Only the students appreciate me."

pg 24: He started experimenting with pyroxylin, a fluid, fast drying enamel paint used by Jackson Pollock and others. This paint was marketed under the name "Duco".

pg 24:In 1957, Harold Town introduced Macdonald to Lucite 44, which was another, less odorous enamel paint.

pg 25: In the spring of 1957, Clement Greenberg visited the Painters 11. Of Macdonald's new Lucite paintings he said, they are "a tremendous step in the right direction."

pg 26: Had a show at Isaacs Gallery in 1959. Av Isaacs lives really close to me, and is a friend of Paul Sloggett. Going to have to try to interview Isaacs about this.

pg 26: Given "a semi-retrospective" at the Art Gallery of Toronto in the spring of 1960. Going to have to track down the catalogue for that.

pg 27: Although he wasn't exclusively represented in Toronto, his works were shown and available at Roberts Gallery, Here and Now Gallery, Isaacs Gallery and Gallery Moos. These are all pretty legendary Toronto venues. Going to email David Moos about this also. Going to go into the Roberts Gallery also.

pg 27:Suffered a heart attack in November of 1960.

Was going to be forcibly retired from OCA in 1961. His pension would have been $100 a month. Even in 1960 this was apparently a really, really shitty pension.

pg 27: He finished teaching for Christmas holiday on Friday, December 2nd, 1960. He died on Saturday, December 3rd. He was stretching canvases on the Friday night to paint over his vacation.

Personal Note: It is kinda creepy and weird that I'm doing this residency and making this work while on my Christmas vacation from OCAD.(!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Studio note: painting is a record of thinking. So's this.

Research note:

Paul Sloggett told me that on the day Jock Macdonald retired from OCAD he dropped dead. According to Sloggett, Macdonald was mercilessly ridiculed for being an abstract painter by the other faculty. He thinks that Sandra Altwerger and Peter Ma may have studied with Macdonald, or at least, they would have been there at the time and may know some other people who did. (Going to try emailing both of them today.)

William Ronald worked at Simpson's, that's why they had their first show there.