Our art; The Rooms walls

Tara Bradbury
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'Inner Works: Selections from the People's Collection' puts the province's collected artworks on display

You may not know it, but you’re an art collector. You’ve got more than 10,000 pieces of art worth millions of dollars, by some of the province’s and the country’s most prestigious artists. Want to see it? You can — it’s on display at The Rooms.

The provincial art gallery is presenting “Inner Works: Selections from the People’s Collection” in the fourth level galleries at The Rooms, showing significant artworks from the gallery’s permanent collection.

“Although we have shown parts of the collection in the gallery and some of it’s display at Memorial University, we decided that we were going to dedicate a series of galleries to the collection,” said Bruce Johnson, provincial art gallery curator. “In a sense, this is in the public trust; it was bought with taxpayers’ money and it’s owned by the people of the province, so our idea is that we want to have a place where people will see it.”

Of course, there’s no room to show 10,000 pieces all at once, so the gallery will rotate some of them. Other pieces will be permanently displayed.

For the opening exhibition, Johnson and Caroline Stone, the gallery’s Historical Art and Collections curator, chose pieces that best represented the breadth of the collection.

“I’d say the heart of the collection, and what people would really expect from us, is work by Newfoundland and Labrador artists and we certainly made an effort to show some of the best-known in this exhibit,” Johnson said. These include pieces by Christopher and Mary Pratt, Gerry Squires, Ann Meredith Barry, Don Wright, Peter Bell, Reginald Shepherd and Helen Parsons Shepherd.

Most of the pieces are flatworks, including painting, photography and prints, but there are carvings and sculpture, too.

One significant piece is a sculptural installation by 30-year-old Graeme Patterson, acquired by the province after his “Woodrow” installation was shown at The Rooms in 2008. Patterson created a romanticized ghost town based on his family’s roots in Woodrow, Sask., building grain bins, a barn, a house, hockey rink and other buildings from wood, metal and foam-core, adding animatronic figures and stop-animation on LCD screens.

The provincial gallery owns “The Church,” nine feet high and six feet long and painted to look like gray, weather-beaten wood from the outside, with stained-glass windows and a steeple. Peek in the front door and you’ll see tiny pews and an organ at the front of the church, being played by an old lady. Go round to the back and look in the church basement, and you’ll find a bowling alley.

The exhibit features educational material as well, developed by gallery art educator Jason Sellars.

Guests can sign out an iPod and use it to have a guided tour of the exhibit, watching video of the artists.

“If you go through the show and you’re looking at some David Blackwoods or some Mary Pratt paintings and you want to know more about what they have to say, you can use the iPod to watch a video and hear the artists themselves talking about their work,” Johnson explained.

There are elements geared toward children, too, including hands-on material like a theremin, an electronic musical instrument played by waving one’s hands over it without touching it. The sound it makes is eerie, often used in sci-fi or scary movies.

While much of the collected pieces have been in storage, some have been displayed, either at MUN, through temporary loans to places like Rideau Hall in Ottawa, or at some of the province’s regional museums.

The main gallery on The Rooms’ fourth floor will be reserved for new work by local artists — and is currently displaying Elena Popova’s “Still Vortices” — with the “Inner Works” pieces shown in the series of smaller galleries around it.

“The collection is the heart and core of the gallery. It’s 40-plus years of art collecting,” Johnson said. “We want to remind people that it’s their collection, and they should be proud of it and show it off.”

A reception for the opening of “Inner Works” will take place at the gallery Thursday at 7 p.m.


Organizations: The Rooms

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Sask., Ottawa

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