If you like looking at bodiless hairy faces, naked ladies, toque-headed hipsters and almost everything in between, then you would definitely enjoy The Saskatoon Portraits series by local artist Joseph Anderson. All of this and more graced the walls of the Gordon Snelgrove Gallery from Sept. 25 to 29.
Anderson is not a new face in the art business — in fact, he has made quite the name for himself in the past nine years. Anderson studied painting at the University of Saskatchewan, convoking with a Master’s of Fine Arts in 2008, and earned his Bachelor’s of Fine Arts at the University of Lethbridge. In addition to being an alumnus, Anderson has also instructed courses on the foundations of drawing at the U of S.
During Anderson’s artist talk at the Snelgrove Gallery on Sept. 27, Marcus Miller — the director of the Snelgrove Gallery — noted that Anderson has held exhibits across Canada and even in New York City at the Daniel Newburg Gallery. Anderson’s display at the Snelgrove was composed of three separate portrait series, exhibited under the title of The Saskatoon Portraits.
At the talk, Anderson mentioned that, in the past, he has been careful to avoid painting his subjects as perfect, which he believes includes keeping them hairless, genderless and ageless. In The Saskatoon Portraits, he intentionally does the very opposite, catching each detail of his subject’s individuality within his watercolour paintings.
“I attempt to capture the personality of the person I’m looking at,” Anderson said, during his presentation.
When observing the Men with Beards portion of the exhibit, the only image you see in the middle of each canvas is a head, detached from any other body part. Anderson commented that, in order to keep the focus on the facial details and the characters themselves, he avoids painting any backgrounds or other body parts.
Anderson shared that the intention of his Men with Beards series was to connect men from different backgrounds and groups with something they all have in common: facial hair.
In the other series displayed, the characters are more brightly painted and are less disembodied than the subjects in Men with Beards. Some even have elaborate clothing and jewellery, in keeping with his objective to capture the entire personality of the subject.
Although the art is the main attraction, painting was only one part of the work that went into producing the exhibit. Anderson explained that he had to overcome his shyness in order to get photographs of complete strangers for his paintings. He noted that not every stranger was willing to be part of his exhibit, and for every participant, there were more than 10 refusals. Despite this, Anderson managed to find enough willing subjects to create the exhibit.
The Saskatoon Portraits demonstrates a different use of Anderson’s talent. While he is known for his whimsical and unique take on watercolour art, seen at past exhibits in Lethbridge and even here at the Snelgrove, this exhibit uses a more mundane approach.
Needless to say, The Saskatoon Portraits showed Anderson’s wide artistic range, and he produced an exhibit that was well worth the visit.
Photos: Shirley Charles