IN THE WORKS is a new online series that offers intimate glimpses into artistic processes and exhibition development. Artists currently immersed in conceptualizing and producing upcoming projects at the Koffler Gallery share insights and ponder critical moments of their work’s progress. They reflect on the internal drives and external factors that generate new directions, perspective shifts and deeper understandings in their ways of thinking and making.
 


François Xavier Saint-Pierre


This week, IN THE WORKS features Toronto artist François Xavier Saint-Pierre, who shares some thoughts on his upcoming exhibition at the Koffler Gallery, The Spiders and the Bees. Initially scheduled to open this past June, Saint-Pierre’s exhibition was postponed to summer 2021 due to COVID-19 related closures and changes. This shift in plans and the added development time enable further reflection, both on the personal interests and socio-historical influences that shape the artist’s approach.

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“During the pandemic, I’ve been drawing and painting and thinking about the detritus of culture, the persistence of historical tropes, pictorial traditions, and creative problems posed by the weight of history.

My summer 2021 exhibition at the Koffler, The Spiders and the Bees, is inspired by the quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns that originated in late 17th century France and went on to inform European artistic and political thought.”

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"The Spiders and the Bees (the title of my summer 2021 Koffler Gallery show) references Jonathan Swift’s satirical take on the quarrel between the Ancients and the Moderns – those that valued tradition as the basis for artistic creation, and those who favoured innovation and the new. In Swift’s telling, the two warring camps were portrayed as insects. He likened the Ancients to bees, who took from various flowers to create something beautiful, and the Moderns to spiders, who spun something new literally out of nothing.

I reference this framework in order to navigate artistic forms and the notion of progress and to examine the value of the present moment and the utility of the past. How do we endeavour to create meaning and structure in the present moment and address the value of history?"

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“English natural philosopher Francis Bacon (1561-1626) declared his allegiance to the “moderns” by criticizing “ancients” who lacked scientific method. He rejected 2000 years of Aristotelian thought in favour of his own system of reasoning. The frontispiece for his Novum Organum (1620) displays a ship sailing through the Pillars of Hercules (symbolizing the supposed limits of human exploration).

The column or pillar also resonates in the story of the pillar saints or stylites (from stylos, Greek for pillar or column), holy men of both eastern and western cultures who set themselves high atop pillars to meditate on the sinfulness of mankind.

My painting La Serenissima presents a floating column and capital, with an ambiguous form that may represent a sail or pennant. I’m thinking also of the two columns in the Piazzetta in Venice, in front of the Doge’s palace.” 

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“I’m interested in imagery from early print culture, practical treatises on painting and pre-photographic ways of rendering images. Historical imagery offers us a window into how to think differently about the creation, veneration and consumption of images.

Lately I’ve been contemplating the role of time, both as a chronological measure and a psychological experience. My painting Traghetto shows a satyr-like figure, which may be traced back to historical depictions of Time as a winged figure.

This painting will be included in my solo exhibition The Spiders and the Bees which opens at Koffler Gallery in June 2021.”

– François Xavier Saint-Pierre
 

François Xavier Saint-Pierre is a Canadian painter who received his BFA from Concordia University in Montreal, where he studied under Guido Molinari and Yves Gaucher and his MFA from the University of Waterloo. He was a finalist in the 2006 RBC Canadian Painting Competition and has participated in international residencies in the UK, in Italy, where he was an artist in residence at the French Academy in Rome, and in the middle of the Balitc Sea on a remote island with more sheep than people. He has exhibited across Canada and internationally.

Saint-Pierre's work is also currently included in an exhibition that opens on August 14, 2020 at König London.

Images at top: (left) François Xavier Saint-Pierre, Capital. Oil on panel, 83 X 74 cm, 2017. (right) François Xavier Saint-Pierre, Capital in Evening Light. Oil on linen, 83 X 74 cm, 2017.
Koffler family FoundationCIBC Wood GundyOntario Arts Council | Conseil Des Arts De L'OntarioToronto Arts Council | Funded by the City of TorontoCanada Council