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Tony Urquhart

Invitation to participate

In the spring of 1967, with the help of a small inheritance, I decided to take a four-month sojourn in Dublin, Ireland. In 1964-65 I had stopped painting on a large scale and had begun doing three-dimensional work including some small six-sided cubes. These had gradually developed into larger but non-opening landscape derived boxes (e.g. Two Hills, National Gallery of Canada).

While based in Dublin, I took a month-long tour of the continent where I was inspired by the Pilgrimage churches of Bavaria. I was impressed and astonished by the lack of differentiation between the 2-D and 3-D. Often sculpture was white (mostly stucco) while paintings erupted and climbed over walls in 3-dimension. Above all I was moved by the altarpieces (paintings when closed, sculptures when open) and their ability thereby to deal with several emotions, colours, forms and spaces within one work of art.

On my return to Canada, I took a small box on which I had been painting a sea-related abstract, and cut four doors into it. In the interior I then built rocks and waves effectively creating a sort of 3-D replica of the 2-D exterior. Since then I have not ceased to work in this format, attempting to refine and experiment with an endless series that has enabled me to explore both emotions and plastic solutions that I cannot achieve in other mediums. Realizing that a traditional type of gallery exhibition would be impossible to mount on such short notice, yet still wanting to mark the 40th year of working in this format, I conceived the idea of a cross-country show where each of the 26 or so institutions that owned a box sculpture would put that piece on view during the month of November 2007.

Also realizing that within the various institutions, individual exhibitions spaces would already be committed to other shows I ask that curators be creative in the placement of the boxes. These sculptures look good in places where often regular paintings and sculptures do not, for example, at the top of a stairway, in corridors, between galleries, or even next to the admission desk.

In order to fully realize their interactive potential, viewers should be allowed to move the doors. In this regard the National Gallery's Jean Sutherland Boggs solved the traditional 'Do Not Touch' problem by placing a small panel next to the label stating `Please Handle Gently.'

I would be grateful if your institution could participate in this celebration.

Tony Urquhart
June 2007


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