After the hustle and bustle of the holidays, it’s no wonder most of us begin the New Year looking for ways to slow down and relax.
The Cambridge Art Galleries – Idea Exchange have an ambitious track record. For more than 40 years Cambridge Art Galleries has worked to present engaging and challenging contemporary Canadian art exhibitions that create opportunities for all ages to appreciate the value of the arts. The current exhibit, Tawâskweyâw ᑕᐋᐧᐢᑫᐧᔮᐤ / A Path or Gap Among the Trees, features Cree Métis visual artist Jason Baerg, and provides an opportunity for visitors to access leading edge works that show what art is capable of.
Jason Baerg is a ground-breaking artist whose most recent works are taking him into the world of digital media. What began as a career in traditional drawing and painting has continuously evolved throughout Jason’s 25 year career. “As an artist, you throw down a seed, and you plant it, you go into your studios,” he explains. “You experiment, you get bored, you keep on pushing forward, you experiment some more, and then you have a breakthrough.”
Iga Janiek, Curator at Cambridge Art Galleries – Idea Exchange, first met Baerg when the two were students studying at Concordia University in Montreal for their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. Now, 25 years later, their paths have crossed again as they collaborate on this exhibition that celebrates Jason’s first 25 years of artistic practice.“I think what’s exciting about Jason’s work is that he’s been fortunate to do residencies in different places around the world, which allows him to explore new technologies and new artistic methods” Janek says. “His beautiful Nomadic Bounce piece, which in our exhibit is a Hawk, is a great example of a work evolving over the past 7 years, one that germinated from an opportunity to use new tools. And we get to show it here in Cambridge – a painting that changes every time it’s shown.”
Baerg likes to push the boundaries of his art – taking practices from the past, and pushing them into the future. “I believe that new media is really pulling 2D painting into a new space, because of our relationship to technology and media,” he explains. And while he challenges himself through his art, he also wants to challenge the way his audiences experience art. “When an elder comes into a space, you want to make sure that she has the good chair, or he has the tea that he needs or likes,” he explains. “When I think about art, it’s special and I want to make it special for whoever it experiencing it. Art has personalities, it has flexibility, it can move in space. And it’s loaded with a lot of ideas.”
Baerg’s laser cut paintings and digital media projection pieces, both of which are on display at Idea Exchange in Cambridge, are some of the first produced and presented anywhere in the world. This exhibition also marks the first time a solo artist/ solo exhibition has been featured in both the Queen’s Square and Preston Galleries of Idea Exchange at the same time.
“These are two tight exhibitions that are quite different but also link up. They are in separate venues, but really are one cohesive unit that have slightly different approaches to their stories,” says Janiek. “Preston features a very impactful digital piece with a lot of audio, whereas Queen’s Square has this beautiful introduction of neon, as well as Jason’s Nomadic Bounce piece. It’s a great mixture because both venues feature both old and new works; we never tried to be in any way linear in casting Jason’s 25 years of practice.”
Following his exhibition in Cambridge, Baerg’s work will be featured at a solo exhibition at the Canadian Embassy in London, England. The exhibition will then travel back to Canada to Prince Edward, Saskatchewan – where Baerg was raised and where his sense of community comes from. That sense of community is very important to Baerg and to his art. ”My work is about the ‘us’,” he explains, “It comes from a desire to connect with others. My art is for dialogue, discussion, for healing, for pushing forward.”
“It’s been an honour and a privilege to bring such exquisite contemporary art practices to Cambridge,” Janiek says. “Cambridge Art Galleries has a reputation for supporting emerging and mid-career practices. With every exhibition we try to find that perfect space that will engage and challenge people, but also encourage them to push their own boundaries of what contemporary art looks like and what it might be doing.”
Jason Baerg: Tawâskweyâw ᑕᐋᐧᐢᑫᐧᔮᐤ / A Path or Gap Among the Trees
On display at the Queen’s Square Gallery and the Preston Gallery of Idea Exchange until March 1, 2020