Shirley Wiitasalo’s most recent paintings have a characteristically reductive vocabulary. Since 2010, she has explored various methods of application, whereby paint from one surface is then transferred to the canvas. Here, the viscosity of paint performs a physical negotiation between two surfaces. Material and information is altered or lost through physical mediation to produce paintings that are a play between control and chance.
On the gallery’s first floor, the paintings are a study in variation as colours spread across six monochromes — Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet. A continuation of her Distant series, each contains six spheres which could be positive or negatives spaces, apertures, ultra-magnified microscopic entities or moons orbiting a distant star. Upstairs, the paintings foregrounded blue image plane suggests subject matter as atmosphere, both present and absent. Wiitasalo’s method of transferring shifts the romance associated with the act of painting to one of pragmatism and recurrence. And yet, as a technical operation, transferring does not produce fixed predictable results. As philosopher Vilém Flusser explains, technical images are linked to an accidental, creative universe that is full of possibilities. Their task is “to produce improbable, informative situations to consolidate invisible possibilities into visible improbabilities.”
Shirley Wiitasalo was born in Toronto and continues to live and work here. Recent exhibitions include Goodwater, Toronto; Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax; Galerie René Blouin, Montréal and Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton. In 2000, The Power Plant hosted a major exhibition of her work, and produced a catalogue with an essay by Barry Schwabsky. Her work is held in the collections of the Art Gallery of Ontario; Musée des beaux arts, Montréal; Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; Art Gallery of Hamilton; Department of Foreign Affairs and numerous private collections. In 2011 she received the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Art. She teaches in the Department of Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.