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Indepth Arts News:

"Tony Tascona: Resonance"
2001-05-24 until 2001-09-16
Winnipeg Art Gallery
Winnipeg, MB, CA Canada

Since the early sixties Tascona’s work has been exhibited and collected by art galleries, universities, and corporations across Canada. He has also received many public art commissions, including the murals in the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall, the Manitoba Law Courts Building, and the installation at the Freshwater Institute at the University of Manitoba. A member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts since 1973, he was granted an honorary degree by The University of Winnipeg in 1994 and inducted into the Order of Canada in 1996.

Now, as he enters the sixth decade of his career as an artist, it is appropriate to assess his work’s scope and development. How has he developed his distinct visual vocabularyNULL  What are the continuing and recurring themes of his workNULL In the 1980 Royal Canadian Academy catalogue, he wrote:

Art is an idea, a concept that the artist conceives and transforms into visual (though not always easily understandable) physical reality. Art deals with research and experimentation. For me, to do art is like riding along the edge of a precipice. In my work excitement and experience result from the embodiment of ideas in the process of bringing about constructive change. So as a practicing artist, I am never bored or complacent, for complacency can only lead to stagnation and false security.

Tascona’s quest for research and experimentation is evident in the variety of materials he uses: oil, acrylic lacquer, sand, pumice, printers ink, epoxy resin, coloured pencil, India ink, crayon, and graphite. His spray lacquer on aluminum paintings and resin sculptures, based in part on his experiences working at Air Canada, are unique.    

         Throughout his career, the periodic reintroduction of ideas, linear forms, and palettes from earlier periods recur. As the work develops, he introduces new elements and refinements, and presents more complex patterns of ideas. His interest in structure, scale, and space are constant in work from every period in his life. Movement, texture, and light are critical for him and he uses these elements effectively to achieve a balance and tension between the natural and technological worlds.

The resulting resonance in Tascona’s work is derived from the world around him—the landscape, the people, and his experiences—and is imbued with references from music, which echo the rhythms of nature. He frequently uses musical terminology in his titles, such as Quarter Time, 1965, and Yellow Dynamic I, 1972. He agrees that music is a consistent element in his work, but its inclusion has been intuitive, not consciously planned. The Concert, a print from his student days in 1951, and The Offering, 1956, mark the beginning of this subconscious ongoing exploration of music.

The feeling Tascona achieved in his earlier work is recaptured in his recent drawings. His repetition of line within a work creates rhythm. His work resounds from one piece to another, from one period to another, and from one medium to another. Such resonance is enhanced by the techniques Tascona uses. The resulting compositions convey an economy of line, form, and colour. The subtle introduction of a third dimension, through embossing and laminating, add depth and increases the resonance of patterns and sounds. This delicate balance also evokes the prairie landscape:

Living on the prairies makes one acutely aware of the precise physical laws of nature. I react to scale, movement, balance, light, colour…all the physical energies. 1 Landscape is a recurring source of inspiration in Tascona’s work in all media. The subtle colours and contours of the prairie landscape, the organic elements of nature and the rhythms from the seasons occur in his prints and drawings. Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall, a series from 1994, combine the colours and linear patterns evoking the relevant movement of the season. As he says of his current works:

They are becoming more organic again, but I always thought organically even when I was working very structurally in my work. When I was doing constructive pieces like the aluminum constructions, I was always thinking organically; it is all related to what I saw or felt around me.[2]

Tony Tascona’s great strength is his tenacity and ability to develop his idiom in each distinct media, remaining true to his ideals over such a long period. Tascona has said:  

My periods of greatest difficulty occur when I am undergoing the transition from one art form to another in order to better intensify the clarification of whatever it is I am trying to do or say. When these factors have been resolved—when the turning point comes—when some of the experimental involvement with materials in various media take form as physical realities then it is a time of achievement for me.[3] 

Yet it is precisely that experimentation which continues to drive Tascona in his pursuit of his unique visual language and expression. Through his work, Tony Tascona has resonated with many people of all ages. His generosity to all parts of his community has broadened the understanding of the visual arts. This will surely continue to resonate positively for generations to come.

This exhibition is generously sponsored by the Great-West Life Assurance Company. Also made possible by grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Manitoba Arts Council, and by Arthur and Judy Drache.

Blue Day, 1995.
Acrylic lacquer on aluminum.
Collection of the artist.

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