SA: Do you know Botticelli’s drawings for Dante’s Divine Comedy?
HP: No, the only ones I know are by Doré. Growing up, my bedroom was in the basement and my dad’s library was down there too. We had a copy of Dante’s Divine Comedy with Doré’s engravings. That’s been in the back of my mind while painting some of this imagery.
SA: Botticelli made schematic drawings of hell and the various circles, there’s a lot of circular imagery. When they get out of purgatory, Virgil can’t go to paradise because he was born before Christ. So Beatrice comes to take Dante on the final leg of the trip. They become very abstract in Botticelli’s drawings, these little flames in concentric circles, different than the circles of hell.
HP: There’s an analogy here…
SA: Right. And the Botticelli drawings are almost like a film, like a storyboard. Virgil and Dante are seen together several times within the same frame as if they’re moving through it.
HP: Could we see them as co-existing parallel universes of Dante and Virgil?
SA: I think you’ll find the connections fascinating.
HP: It’s interesting that when Dante comes to describing paradise, he does so in a very abstract and poetic way, versus the realness of hell. This transition from representation to abstraction is also happening in my paintings over the course of this series. This is a whole other lens through which to think about the work.
It is a great privilege and pleasure for the Koffler Gallery to organize the first presentation of Howard Podeswa’s stunning new painting series, A Brief History, and to produce the accompanying catalogue that complements the experience of these complex works with further perspectives on the artist’s creative process and ideas.
The captivating conversation between Podeswa and fellow artist Stephen Andrews offers insights into the genesis of this work. Periodically visiting Podeswa’s studio, Andrews was in a fortunate position to witness the development of Hell and Heaven. We owe him gratitude for deftly revealing the layered intellectual and emotional charge of Podeswa’s thought process. Profound thanks to John Bentley Mays, who furthers our understanding with his penetrating analysis and remarkable prose. Our appreciation extends to Toni Hafkenscheid for his skillful photography, Tony Hewer for the elegant design of this catalogue, and Shannon Anderson for her astute editing. Our thanks as well to Alrik de Ridder for his patience and accuracy in transcribing the Podeswa and Andrews’ recordings.
We are indebted to Jonathan Weisz for the loan of Watching Goya’s Colossus in my Sorels from his private collection. It is a key work that beautifully completes this presentation. The dramatic design of the exhibition would not have been accomplished without the expertise and attention of a dedicated installation crew led by the incomparable Corinne Carlson.
The artist would like to thank Mona Filip for her unwavering support and vision, as well as Joy Walker, Jeremy Podeswa, Stephen Andrews, Andrew Jones, John Brown, Stanzie Tooth, John Bentley Mays, Gary Michael Dault, Corinne Carlson and Andrew Bugden.
None of the work we do would be possible without the generous support and enthusiasm of our funders, donors and patrons, the commitment of our staff and the guidance of the Koffler Gallery Advisory Committee. Nor would it have significance without a receptive audience embracing it with thoughtful outlook and a thirst for knowledge, fostering its reach through meaningful dialogue. Most of all, we thank Howard Podeswa for his passionate mind and generosity of spirit, for bringing this work into the world.
1 Patti Smith, M Train (New York/Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), 215.
2 Ihor Holubizky, PREDISPOSED (…to thinking through the eye of mutual convenience) (Hamilton: McMaster Museum of Art, 2015), 47.
3 Patti Smith, 247.
4 Robert Hughes, Goya (New York: Knopf, 2003), 335.
Howard Podeswa lives and works in Toronto, Canada. Over the past twenty-seven years he has exhibited his work in Canada, the U.S., and South Africa. His paintings are held in numerous private and public collections including The Donovan Collection, The Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Ciba-Geigi AG, SEI Investments and The University of Toronto. His work often begins with personal history as a catalyst for meditations on art historical legacy, physics, theories of perception and the state of the world.
Stephen Andrews was born in 1956 in Sarnia, Ontario Canada. Over the last twenty-five years he has exhibited his work in Canada, the U.S., Brazil, Scotland, France and Japan. He is represented in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Belkin Art Gallery, the Schwartz Collection, Harvard as well as many private collections. His work deals with memory, identity, technology and their representations in various media including drawing, animation and painting.
John Bentley Mays is an award-winning Toronto writer on art and architecture. He was art critic of The Globe and Mail for 18 years, and his criticism now appears in magazines, catalogues and the website johnbentleymays.com.
Design: Tony Hewer | Editing: Shannon Anderson
Digital publication to the exhibition Howard Podeswa: A Brief History
Presented by the Koffler Gallery | January 14 to March 27, 2016 | Curator: Mona Flip
© Koffler Centre of the Arts, 2016, in collaboration with the individual contributors. All rights reserved. ISBN 978-1-928175-08-7.