Jerry Pethick: Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie
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July 2 to September 10, 2016
Central Gallery
Over the course of a career that spanned almost five decades, Jerry Pethick (1935–2003) produced a complex and multifaceted body of work that is difficult to classify. For much of this time he focused on the way in which models of observation – including linear perspective and cultural memory – shape our understanding of the world and our place in it. Through an extended emphasis on an object’s entanglement with its surroundings and the viewer’s consciousness, Pethick challenged culturally determined ways of perceiving space and the related separation of observer and object that has occupied a central position in Western thought since the 18th century.

Pethick saw disciplinary boundaries, linear conceptions of history and language itself as regimented structures of communication that limit perception to reductive binary models, such as inside/outside, mind/body and true/false. As Pethick once put it, “We learn to make choices between, we don’t perceive among.” His practice could be described as an ongoing attempt to deconstruct these models by exploring parallels in the methods of representation developed concurrently in the arts and sciences over the past two centuries, together with the perceptual systems that have been left in their wake.

While Pethick’s methods, materials and motifs find parallels in the larger realm of contemporary art, his pursuit of a sculptural idiom grounded in virtual space and transparency through idiosyncratic combinations of photographs, optical devices, found objects and a profound engagement with the science of perception was a largely singular journey. The unusual path Pethick took is embodied in his choice to live and work on Hornby Island in British Columbia, a remote and pastoral site frequented by artists and curators from Vancouver and abroad that is both connected to and distanced from the art world’s circuits of communication.

Pethick was born in 1935 in London, Ontario and died in 2003 on Hornby Island. He studied art in London, England at Chelsea Polytechnic and the Royal College of Art, where he completed graduate studies in 1964. He began to work with plastics and lenticular materials in the mid-1960s. Shortly after he became fascinated with holography and, along with the American scientist Lloyd Cross, established a holography school in San Francisco in 1971. Finding the elaborate technical demands of holography limiting, Pethick moved to Hornby Island in 1975, where he resided for the rest of his life. There he pursued his interest in the nature of perception while maintaining a modest economy of production by incorporating found objects sourced from the island’s recycling depot into his work. Over the past 40 years his art has been exhibited widely in Canada, the United States and Europe.

Jerry Pethick: Shooting the Sun/Splitting the Pie was organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, in 2015 as the first exhibition to provide an overview of Pethick’s career. This exhibition comprises a smaller selection of works organized by the Kamloops Art Gallery with cooperation from the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, Vancouver Art Gallery
Generously sponsored by Rojeanne and Jim Allworth, Jane Irwin, Ross Hill

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