Artist Tim Zuck learns to talk

Before heading to Nova Scotia and London, Canadian contemporary artist Tim Zuck’s exhibition, “Learning to talk: 20 years”, is making a stop at The Leonard & Bina Ellen Art Gallery at Concordia.

The exhibition, which examines Zuck’s career over a period of 20 years, is organized by Gordon Hatt, curator at the Cambridge Galleries in Cambridge, Ontario and circulates with the help of the London Museum. The exhibition contains 28 paintings that were completed between 1976 and 2003, and this is Zuck’s first trip back to Montreal in 13 years.

Zuck remained an avid abstract artist until 1972, yet soon after he finished school, he began using a more realistic approach to painting and combined it with an essentially abstract quality.

“I was involved in conceptual and abstract art at school,” he says. “I was not taught how to draw in an academic sense, so when I left school I felt that I needed to develop my own work and that’s when I started to incorporate more recognizable objects as well as to take advantage of the space on my canvas.”

Zuck is often referred to as a realist painter, though a closer look at his work reveals that there is a great deal more at work in his canvases than is first assumed. From the mid-80s onwards his work appears to touch and depict the purely material, physical presence of common objects, familiar places and known genres. These subjects are typically depicted against an unspecified ground, or in the case of places, the site under observation is normally sectioned off, or in another manner imbued with a sense of isolation.

As shown in the exhibition, a symbolic representation develops as the years pass, where Zuck creates his first painting of a house and a path along the ocean.

“Every artist’s work reflects their world, and when I started painting and drawing images, I had first bought my house in Halifax,” recalls Zuck. “Those houses represent my life, the map of where I live and my interest in water.”

More iconic imagery is portrayed in his later work with the depiction of birds and boats; his most recent work is a painting of an envelope, which almost seems real at first sight.

Furthermore, his paintings convey a sense that the artist’s eye has consumed the represented object, stripping it down to its most essential form.

“I really try to slow down time by trying to take simple things and actually tear them down, peel away at it,” Zuck explains. “I basically try to reduce the object to its essence and that’s really intense for me and it works.”

Zuck has displayed his artwork in more than 30 solo exhibitions and 50 group exhibitions in North America and Asia, and the constant theme has always been the relationship between things and the importance between the viewer’s connection with the object.

“Image work is difficult in the art world, the general public doesn’t look at art work that much, and they only value the craftsmanship of being able to do the envelope for instance,” Zuck says. “But in reality it’s really the image itself that should be admired as well. My early work is as powerful as my recent work even though they aren’t accurate, and that’s why it’s hard to use the scale of accuracy to value the work.”

“Learning to Talk: 20 years” is showing until Mar. 1 at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Art Gallery.

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