Contemplation for Obsolete Objects: Postscript
by Antonietta Grassi
The Main Gallery . January 11 – February 23, 2019
Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, from 7 pm – 10 pm
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton
Contemplation for Obsolete Objects: Postscript continues to delve into the memories of spaces and objects experienced and embedded in my psyche. After the loss of both my parents in a short period of time, I began to integrate structure and geometry in my work as a means to contain the chaos and grief that ensued. The process of emptying out the home I had grown up in led me to face and deal with the many objects that occupied those spaces. Many of these objects were useless or obsolete, but nevertheless hard to let go of, in part due to the relevance they once held in our lives. These were not sentimental objects such as family heirlooms and photographs, but rather the things that were once so important to my daily life; objects such as sewing machines, fashion patterns, sewing kits, clunky computers, fax machines, and filing cabinets filled with now useless documents. What once represented great value in my late 20th century existence because they then represented “new technology”, had since become obsolete junk to be dispensed or perhaps, as in my case, left behind for contemplation.
The idea of obsolescence as a form of loss captivates me, given that loss of relevance is not limited to data technologies, but also encompasses everything we ignore and discard in our present society. In her article “It Hurts to be Alive and Obsolete; the Ageing Woman” the feminist author and activist Zoe Moss wrote about her experience as a woman over 40 in our society. This experience and reality are also integral to my work, especially given the current climate. My recent paintings pay homage to women and the work they’ve done through the imagery they evoke. My paintings reference work related to textile production, analog technology, and old systems of filing and sorting data from file clerking and data processing to sewing, weaving and pattern making; many of which are jobs traditionally associated with women and which have been or are being phased out due to newer technologies.
My personal history as a textile designer also informed this series of paintings. Many of my works incorporate threadlike lines, referencing my own background as a designer and color forecaster working in Montreal’s garment district. My former occupation as a researcher and interpreter of cultural trends to determine which colors to produce textiles has given me a unique understanding of the nuances of color which has greatly informed my practice as an artist. This connection to color and lines in textiles in my work is reinforced by my lifelong interest in the lines found in the work of female artists such as Agnes Martin and Eva Hesse.
Just as the use of lines in my work is not arbitrary or simply formal, the use of color also reflects lived experiences. The colors are \ influenced by events in the world and in my life, such as the pervasive images of pink hats worn on January 21st 2017 by more than one million women who marched in Washington. The many images of those pink hats made such a strong impact on my work that fuscia pink became the most used color in my painting palette. Other color references have ranged from Post It notes and file folders to skin, scars, and bruises and old fax machines and rotary phones. My colors can just as easily come form a trip to Staples as they can from my deep love and interest in the history of painting, a large social movement, and to the body itself.
My painting process includes a mix of intuition and measuring, where nothing is preplanned, yet I want them to appear like they are planned to achieve the balance and precision I seek in the work. I apply multiple layers of very thin paint ( almost like a stain) and then draw very thin lines carefully and meticulously in ink. The staining and layering is intuitive, as is the composing of the composition, while the drawing of lines is slow, deliberate and meditative. It is the liminal space between these two states of working that interests me the most in my practice as a painter.
Through my paintings, I seek to create spaces that are both emotional and removed. The act of painting is a contemplative process and the object that emerges from that process forces us to view it deeply; something which is perhaps in itself precariously scarce and obsolete in our present time.
– Antonietta Grassi
Antonietta Grassi is a visual artist based in Montréal, Québec. She holds a B.F.A from Concordia University and M.F.A from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Grassi has been committed to the practice of abstract painting for most of her career. Her paintings, which at first appear as hard-edged geometric abstractions, are composed of multi-layered, painted surfaces where the touch of the hand is paramount. Grassi paints layered, intuitively derived forms that are intersected by fine, thread-like lines—creating works where textile, architecture, analog technologies, and painting’s twentieth century history collide. Through her nuanced and layered palette, she explores color and light to create perceptual spaces that are drawn from memory and imagination. Grassi’s work is simultaneously mathematical and painterly, reflecting a process-driven approach that belies the organized compositions of the geometric forms prevalent in the works. Antonietta Grassi’s paintings and works on paper have been featured in solo and group exhibitions at museums and galleries in Canada, the United States, and in Europe, including Muséé National des Beaux-Arts du Quebec; Museo Civico di Molise in Casacalende, Italy; Kunstwerk Calshutte in Budelsdorf, Germany; the Boston Center for the Arts, Vermont Institute of Contemporary Arts in Chester; Trestle Gallery and Crossing Art in New York; Manifest Gallery in Cincinnati, Ohio; the Bruce Lurie Gallery in Los Angeles; the McClure Gallery , Galerie Stewart Hall Art , Lilian Rodriguez, the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery and the Patrick Mikhail Gallery in Montreal, Newzones in Calgary, and Leo Kamen, Artcore and John B. Aird Gallery in Toronto. In addition, her work is in public, corporate, and private collections, including the Musée National des Beaux-arts du Québec (MNBAQ), the Archives of Ontario, Museo Civico Di Molise, the Boston Public Library, Yamana Gold in Toronto, and the Stewart Hall Museum in Pointe Claire. She is the recipient of awards and honours, including grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des Arts et Lettres du Quebec. She has participated in numerous artist residencies such the Banff, Center for the Arts, the Vermont Studio Center and the Studios at MASS MoCA.
Antonietta Grassi and Harcourt House Artist Run Centre would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts.