Grant McConnell, "Parliament, the Pantry Table (with Chardin)"
Grant McConnell, "Parliament, the Pantry Table (with Chardin)," acrylic on wood, 92 x 100 cm
Opening Reception: Thursday July 28th 2016, 7:00 PM
"PowerHouse" is Grant McConnell’s series of paintings and drawings that show recognizable Canadian government buildings and other familiar architecture incorporated with western art historical imagery. In this collaborative approach, the government motifs traverse through familiar styles including Klee-esque abstraction, the surrealism of Magritte, Giacometti’s sculptural forms, and the still lifes of Dutch Golden Age artists up to the modern Morandi. Each work in the exhibition provides viewers with visual jumping off points to consider just how much power the government holds in one’s house.
McConnell’s watercolours are small and intimate. Some contain an element of humour, referencing, for example, Dr. Seuss and cartoon styles. This makes for a lighthearted approach in jest of politics and authority. Conversely, McConnell prefers to paint large-scale works on rough wood panel. The knots and strains of the natural material are emphasized by long vertical paint drips, exuding a rawness that speaks of our country’s crude colonials – a meaningful contrast to polished governmental imagery that belies the nation’s exploitative roots. On the other hand, many historical paintings have a remarkably smooth surface. Barely a brushstroke is detectable in an attempt to show perfection and transport viewers to another visual sphere. This linked directly to the subject matter of, for example, Dutch seventeenth-century paintings. They showed scenes that were far-flung from reality – Dutch households did not look so pristine as their paintings allege. In a similar vein McConnell removes the shiny finish with which governmental imagery is often depicted to emphasize that affairs are not as ideal as their more ‘official’ presentation frequently leads one to believe.
By linking western historical subjects to familiar Canadian buildings, one is able to consider the legacy of the government on both personal and nation-wide scales. In some cases we can easily overlook and take for granted governing roles. In other situations we are encouraged to question authority. McConnell intends for viewers not necessarily to challenge all the goings-on at municipal, provincial, and federal levels, but as he refashions the iconic images of government buildings, it leads us to a consideration of how national identity has been developed and promoted. As a whole Grant McConnell’s "PowerHouse" series is a comment that places both power and responsibility into peoples’ hands, as we continually investigate the place of authority in our daily lives.
Grant McConnell lives with his wife and three children in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He works as an artist and educator. Born in York County, Ontario in 1958, he studied Fine Arts at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick before moving to Saskatoon in 1981 where he completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of Saskatchewan.
He is known primarily for his acrylic on wood painting that is derived from an ongoing investigation of subject matter related to Canadian historical themes. This work varies in approach, from a more meditative engagement with still life, to imagery which includes urban and rural landscape references and animal life. Mixed media is an increasingly significant part of his practice, as is three-dimensional work.
His work is represented in the collections of the Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina; The Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon; The Saskatchewan Arts Board; The Regina Public Library/ Dunlop Art Gallery; SaskTel; Sask Power, Co-Operators Insurance, as well as other corporate, public and private collections in Canada. He has worked as the curator of the University of Saskatchewan Art Collection and as an independent curator. McConnell is lecturer in art and art history at St. Peter’s College in Muenster, SK. where he has taught for 20 years, and he teaches Canadian Art History at the University of Saskatchewan. He served a term as a director of the Saskatchewan Arts Board, and is past chair and an active member of CARFAC Saskatchewan. He currently sits as President and National Spokesperson on the National Board of CARFAC, (Canadian Artists Representation).