Patrick Howlett: The Personal Atmosphere

1 Dec 2016 – 28 Jan 2017

Susan Hobbs

Ontario, Canada


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Toronto, ON – Opening on Thursday, 1 December 2016 from 6 to 8 p.m. and continuing through to 28 January 2017, Susan Hobbs Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Patrick Howlett.


What do you want your life to look like? Do you lack the power values to achieve unlimited success? Are you prepared to assert yourself and take control? INITIATIVE! – Do you see it? Do you feel it? 

Years ago, feeling good, the artist stumbled upon an old book at the Goodwill store: The Personal Atmosphere, by Frank Channing Haddack PhD. He bought it. Years later, feeling bad, he opened the book and used its power to make this show. It is a turn of the century ‘positive thinking’ mantra, a Power-for-Success series written with a storm of pseudoscientific proofs on electro-magnetic vibrations shaking up the ether:

The self vibrates the universal ether within the body, and around the person, and coextensively with the objective arena. A certain region within the objective arena, and centering in the deepest vibrant self, is distinctively individualized, so that it may be called the personal atmosphere. The personal atmosphere extends beyond, but pervades, the body, yet is not entirely coextensive with the objective arena. 

As in most of my work of the last ten years, my starting point is a text. The Personal Atmosphere is a 1908 self-help book similar to pop phenomenon like The Secret, but with a jauntily esoteric vibe.  At a time when cubism was diagraming the picture plane and abstraction becoming central to understanding and disseminating advances in science, The Personal Atmosphere suggests one can influence the world around you by being aware of and controlling unseen psychic forces of the world. Loosely connecting this early gem of power pop ‘psychology’ to modern roots of current individualism is an exploration of the two-part relationship of figure (positive space) and ground (negative space), a pictorial predicament that has echoes in relations outside the canvas as well. Consider a diagram fragment as wireless router, or bricks so thin they look like paint chips laid on top of, rather than separated by, a clear line of grout. Two-word phrases run throughout several works (selfishly altruistic, indolent energy, gloomily cheerful) often embedded within a jelly-like multi-colour field. In containing an inherent contradiction, these phrases actually resist the either/or scenario of dualistic thinking. They demonstrate that apprehension is never at rest, but rather a continual meeting and crossing of influences. 

Patrick Howlett was born in Toronto in 1971.  He earned his BFA from Concordia University in 1997 and his MFA from the University of Victoria in 2006.  Recent exhibitions include Improving Your Squash, G Gallery, Toronto; Patrick Howlett: Part-Time Offerings, Museum London, London; review, Khyber Institute for Contemporary Art, Halifax; Facts about Digestion, Yellow Box Gallery, St. Thomas University, Fredericton; Doubled Confluence, Atelierhof Kreuzberg, Berlin; and, but, however, Struts Gallery, Sackville; and So, You Want To Think Freely!, Production Studio, Vancouver. In 2008, he was a finalist in the 10th RBC Canadian Painting exhibition.

­Susan Hobbs Gallery is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and by appointment.  The gallery is located at 137 Tecumseth Street, Toronto.

For further biographical information, other inquiries about this exhibition, or the Susan Hobbs Gallery, please give us a call at (416) 504.3699 or visit www.susanhobbs.com.


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Patrick Howlett

Patrick Howlett

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