Forever Playful: Rod Prouse
This blog is essentially a review of an art exhibition. I will be writing these along with my regular State of the Arts blog and there may be a review like this one or a profile of an artist and their work. I am calling these blogs surveillance because writing about artists and their work kinda’ seems like spying.
This summer the Agnes Jamieson Gallery in Minden is exhibiting a retrospective of painter/multi-media artist Rod Prouse, titled Pro Tempore. Rod is beloved in Haliburton County for his many years teaching at the School of the Arts here. He has been a professional working artist since the sixties.
The work assembled in this exhibit is a scant review of a very long, illustrious career. There are routered works on planks, canvas acrylics, prints and gouche works on paper as well as video and a tiny digital show of wonderful drawings. Be sure to pick up a catalogue because there is a lot more featured in it than in the gallery.
Rod is one of those kinetic artists who moves easily back and forth between painting, sketching, drawing, assembled sculpture and video. Featured in the exhibit are loose, colourful paper pieces that evoke a sense of dance; they feel as though they were hurriedly painted during a festival, mid-ritual, between a coconut drink with an umbrella and plate of mangos. In fact some of them were done via the Caribbean and the C.N.E playgrounds. Most of these works represent Prouse’s work in the eighties. In some ways they represent that decade’s aesthetic better than any Frankie Goes to Hollywood song. Prouse has mentioned his love of Memphis design and its ice cream coloured foundation as an inspiration and it shows.
The big room at the gallery holds larger canvas and routered works as well as a wonderful black and white block print, Honeymoon Bay. Rod’s work is definitely a survey of the area around Haliburton, Algonquin Park and Georgian Bay where he lives. Most of his work has place names in the tradition of landscape work but the tradition ends there. His acrylic work is an explosion of experimentation, print making techniques and takes the Canadian landscape genre well beyond the parameters of expectations. His skies are slashed with dozens of colours, cut up in sections and designs that only someone who has lived under the tempestuous ozone above us with a keen eye and sensitivity could ever understand. Rod is an artist who gets it. When I say it I mean that his landscape work doesn’t pander necessarily to the sentimental, it pushes boundaries.
The older cruder routered work also shows an artist forever playful with his techniques without resorting to the obvious. There is something Gauguin going on here – something Bacchanal and sexual. The dalliance with primitivism has served him well; it makes for a smart jumping off point for the rest of his investigations. You are being seduced here and you like it!
Video plays a noted role in this exhibit. Prouse is of the first wave generation of artists in Canada who used video experimentation. Nature Calling is a lovely meditation on the endless energy of a body of water but also very fun and playful. Two conch shells are attached to a sound cable and you can hold them to your ears while you watch an entire wall of a gallery become a beach. It is a simple idea and it works really well because it is lovely and not off putting or intellectually impenetrable.
My only issue with this retrospective is that it seems a little under curated. There wasn’t any recognition given to Prouse’s attention to the Haliburton area, at least not that I could discern. Perhaps the decision was to let the paintings speak for themselves. The gallery does create nicely designed catalogues. The catalogue for’ Pro Tempore’ is one that will sit in my studio where it will serve as inspiration for my own ruminations on the land as opposed to sitting on my coffee table.
Rod Prouse Pro Tempore, Agnes Jamieson Gallery, July 19 – September 1, 2012
This blog can also be found on Trout in Plaid