Richard McNeill at Canadian Sculpture Centre

Opening reception / November 17, 2018
Canadian Sculpture Centre

David Lieberman for Richard McNeill

David Lieberman is reading his opening remarks. Photo: Xiaotong Cao

CONTINUA

a continuous extent, series, or whole … in mathematics, a continuous sequence in which adjacent elements are not perceptively different from each other, although the extremes are quite distinct …

I have been privileged to walk the fields in Brighton and to navigate the ordered chaos of Richard’s studio at Whitsend …

to share the space of the verdant and sometimes wild and untamed landscape and the space of making in the cyclical thoughts and ideas of conception and evolution …

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

today marks the publication of the second book in the series, GAZERS following the previous edition of STREAMS

an early painting, Vinculum (1973) following the first use of Continuum, a painting in the previous year, clarifies the significance of the PODFLOW series in its exploration of streams and of lifeforce …

it somewhat uniquely included a knot, a manipulation, an intentionality of pause … it also suggested a horizontality of the earth, and yet removed from the source, in resting on an articulate and spare plane

I am reminded of the evolution of dance and the role of gravity … classical ballet looks to lightness in its verticality and in its subtle and airy technique … modern dance, in reference to the horizontal, looks to the energy of the earth beneath …

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

the work rose from the context of its site to assume a verticality and totemic presence evidenced by most, if not all, of the work in this show …

at times, I am reminded of the megaliths of the outer islands of the Orkneys and the remote reaches of Ireland … timeless in their rich patina and textured surface, with whispered stories of times past and the fictive archaeologies of yet to be written histories of the future …

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

is Richard referencing his Celtic roots, or simply investigating the narratives of experience with the richness of aurality and visual tactility …

these sensibilities are increasingly intense as the work develops in the incorporation of multiple, often surprising, materiality, in its origins, its manipulations, and its hybridity, questioning that which we think we know and that which we assume to be familiar …

the GAZERS and the STREAMS appear and reappear, among the women …

 

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

from the figural, or at least referential, in their evocation of the traditions of modern sculpture, the GAZERS begin with a sense of calm, a reflective contemplation, sometimes distanced, and at other times, intimately engaged …

in the gaze of exchange, silent and intensely moving …

 

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

the pieces, again, become totemic in their repositioning, inviting and resisting, they form gates, portals, and thresholds …

do we observe from afar, do we listen, do we contribute to the discussion,

the compressed space of the gallery leaves us little choice …

to return to the idea of gate and invitation, to explore and to investigate the TORII in a Japanese garden
I ask a brief indulgence as I recount a few personal moments:

The aged gardener took a favoured stone, a stone selected not for its current shape or colour, selected rather for the knowledge that from within would emerge forms and figures, granular aggregate, chromatic narrative, folds, both seamed and sensual …

he took them to a rocky coast … he spoke to the waves … their rhythms welcomed his gift …

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

many years later, long after his own ashes had been scattered in the same surf, or was it, another location …

my great grand daughter opened the carefully written scroll and journeyed to the shore navigating the map to retrieve that stone …

its shape was perfect, its colour and its surface silently spoke of the years of conversation and immersion within the waves …

she new exactly where to place it …

only a few days later it cast shadows in the gravel of a dry rock garden, the light retelling the geology of its origins, the craft of its making, and the memories of its stories …

knowing that others would hear their own versions of those ideas as they danced with the rock and listened to the gentle sounds as they lightly touched the gravel surface.

Installation view of Richard McNeill, Continua 3. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

many years ago, we wandered in to a temple courtyard … snowflakes, the delicate shapes of wood block prints like lace mantillas draped over the stones … the ancient wooden doors creaked, young girls in white robes with twig brooms swept the snow, for a brief moment, the dampness of memory and its patterns adorned the surface.

that evening over tea, in the crackled glaze of my cup … I read, and I listened to the patterns …
moments in Japan, or was it Brighton … only yesterday, or anticipation of promises of tomorrow …

thank you, Richard, for your thoughts, for your friendship, and for the work …

I will continue to follow the streams and gaze with wonder.

Richard McNeill, Continua 3, opening reception. Photo: Xiaotong Cao

David J. Lieberman artist architect professor

*Transcript of a text as delivered at the opening reception of Richard McNeill, Continua 3, November 17, 2018, Canadian Sculpture Centre, 500 Church Street. The exhibition is open till December 7, 2018. Gallery hours: Tue – Fri, 12 – 6; Sat, 11 – 4 pm.

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