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Jack Chambers: the light from the darkness, silver paintings and film work

Organized by Museum London
Curated by Mark Cheetham and Ihor Holubizky

Named "Exhibition of the Year" by the Ontario Association of Art Galleries.

October 1, 2011 to January 15, 2012

From a young age, Jack Chambers’s art received significant recognition. Beginning in the early 1960s, exhibitions of the artist’s work were displayed in Madrid, Spain, and New York. Upon his return to Canada after his travels in Europe, several one-person shows of his art were held in Toronto at the Isaacs Gallery. Internationally renowned, Chambers’s art is included in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Art Gallery of Ontario, The McMichael Canadian Art Collection, and institutions across Canada

In this exhibition, Jack Chambers: the light from the darkness, silver paintings and film work, we are offered a rare opportunity to study a selection of works from a specific period in the artist’s development. Chambers’s art production from 1966 to 1967 marks a major transition in the rethinking of his approach to painting. The artist focused on establishing a link between an exploration of the effects of light upon a painted surface through a reduction of colour and the use of reflective aluminum pigment that produced images with a film-like quality in the final result. Simultaneously, he also involved himself with filmmaking, which served as a complementary medium through which he introduced ideas that would stimulate this current direction of his painting.

This exhibition is the first time in decades that Chambers’s films have been shown together with his silver paintings of the period. The reflective surfaces of Chambers’s painted works offer different optical effects depending on the source of light and the viewer’s position as the viewer moves in front of the art. The artist intended to remove from his paintings the more controlled but subtle colour palette that had been characteristic of his earlier works. The sprayed aluminum paint that he used to produce the grounds for the image as well as elements of the image achieved a more neutral result. In addition, images can be viewed as positive or negative depending on the light source. Chambers stated that the shift for the viewer in seeing the image as positive or negative—and subsequently the reverse—transformed the experience of viewing the painting (in terms of its spatial characteristics) to a more temporal one: the introduction of the element of time being based on how long it takes for this visual shift to occur between positive and negative.

Chambers’s intention in moving from painting to film was to begin an examination of a process that would allow for analyzing the manner in which individuals perceived the world. The artist felt that his painting may be too static; film would introduce a more dynamic means of visualizing. Chambers felt that the act of painting was comprised of a series of experiences that ultimately were brought together in a single visual moment in the final work.

Filmmaking for Chambers was a way in which he could move away from the strict discipline of his early art training which he perceived as constraining. His personal approach to the medium of film was less planned and more spontaneous in its construction in comparison to his approach to painting. Overall, the artist employed both of these media as a means to gaining awareness about himself and about the perception of the world around him.


Please note that the films in this exhibition contain some graphic content.

Mary and Olga Visiting by Jack Chambers
Jack Chambers (1931-1978)
Olga and Mary Visiting, 1965
oil paint and mixed media on Douglas fir plywood Collection of Museum London, Art Fund, 1965 Courtesy of the Estate of Jack Chambers and Loch Gallery, Toronto

Mosaic by Jack Chambers
Jack Chambers
Mosaic, 1966
b/w film, with sound, transferred to DVD, 9:00
Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, presented with the permission of the Estate of Jack Chambers


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