Jack Chambers' Red and Green: An Artist's Inquiry Into the Nature of Meaning

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The Porcupine's Quill, Jul 1, 2013 - Art - 176 pages
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In 1968, Canadian artist and filmmaker Jack Chambers was diagnosed with leukemia. Faced with his own mortality, Chambers began a programme of research into the nature of his own immortality. From that starting point the artist embarked on a nine-year journey that would ultimately take him to the end of his days. In his search, Chambers consulted many sources: philosophers, scientists, poets, priests, mystics and clairvoyants. Using the metaphor of the complementary-colour contrast of red and green, Chambers examined life’s inherent paradoxes, resolutely searching for synthesis. What resulted was ‘Red and Green’, a collage of quotations and ideas – a visual and literary mosaic – photocopied and diligently pasted into ring binders.

The manuscript called ‘Red and Green’ has spent the greater part of its existence closeted in a studio, a basement and an archive. Today, Tom Smart, with remarkable care and persistence, presents Jack Chambers’ Red and Green, Chambers’ final thoughts on the purpose of the artist in society.


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About the author (2013)

Art curator and author, Tom Smart has written many award-winning books and organized numerous exhibitions about Canadian and international art. He has worked in art galleries across Canada and the United States, including the Frick in Pittsburgh, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, and the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, where he was its executive director.

His monographic exhibitions on east coast Canadian Realists—Alex Colville, Mary and Christopher Pratt, and Tom Forrestall, among others—opened new avenues for understanding this important art movement. While at the McMichael, Tom broadened its exhibition mandate to embrace First Nations art and artists, was instrumental in developing its acclaimed Ivan Eyre Sculpture Garden, and commissioned renowned author Ross King to write a historical portrait of the Group of Seven that was published in 2010 as Defiant Spirits.

Currently, as art curator and supervisor of education at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives, Tom is working closely with many First Nations artists from Manitoulin Island, among them James Simon Mishibinijima, Ann Beam and Anong Beam, and also with Sikh artists, among them the England-based Singh Twins.

Tom’s many publications with the Porcupine’s Quill treat the relationship between poetry, printmaking and the book arts (Fabulous Peculiarities, a consideration of Tony Calzetta and Leon Rooke’s Fabulous Fictions and Peculiar Practices, which was adapted for the stage), journal writing and painting (Jack Chambers’ Red and Green and Christopher Pratt’s Thoughts on Driving to Venus, adapted by David Ferry as an innovative staged reading at the Writers at Woody Point Festival), and graphic novels and wordless narratives (Palookaville: Seth and the Art of Graphic Autobiography, on the work of comic artist Seth). Tom has written extensively for the Devil’s Artisan on printmaking, the graphic arts and drawing, including on the art of George Walker, Seth and Rosemary Kilbourn.

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