Enduring Statements: Joseph Plaskett

In honour of Joseph Plaskett's solo retrospective exhibition Repose, Bau-Xi Gallery presents a selection of excerpts from Plaskett's former artist statements which address the home and his places of repose at various points in the course of his long career.

While Plaskett spent much of his life travelling and seeing the world with eyes and heart wide open, these statements indicate the artist's enduring pull towards, and reverence for, the smallest of details present in his personal world: the way a change of light would throw an oblique shadow on a moved chair; the sculptural curve of the drying leaves of a windowsill plant. His understanding of the visual and emotional impact of these elements prompts viewers to reexamine and appreciate the often overlooked small presences in their own individual worlds.

Joseph Plaskett Repose opens at Bau-Xi Vancouver on January 13 and runs through January 27, 2024.

Joseph Plaskett, Lily, Red Dahlia, White Rose. Oil on canvas, 26.25 X 37.75 inches.

From solo exhibition A Selection of Pastels 
July, 1977

I feel that I have been through the "Modern Art" thing and have come out the other side, having absorbed only what fits me and thrown off what doesn't, so that I am content in the end to make a personal statement, without complications.

From solo exhibition Inside Out 
August, 1978

Art finds ordered solutions for disordered living. The artist steps out of the frustrating confusions of the world into the free air of the white canvas, and there he finds order and clarification. Instead of looking in every direction at once and accepting every experience mid-encounter indiscriminately (this particular artist's vice), he narrows his vision down to a window; not even one that opens on a distant horizon, but one whose perspective is blocked by a facade not fifteen feet away, albeit he can see through windows in this facade to other windows and so through to a courtyard. This is the sole window of his "space" where his whole life takes place, where food and drink impose their daily rituals, where friends and others come, and stay, and go, where plants grow and flowers have their passage, where music is made, and where the sacred deity "Puss" demands constant veneration. This is not a studio where the artist retires; it is more like a club, a resort, a public place. The artist seems to thrive on this hubbub of life flowing constantly around, the outside coming in, and the inside going out.

Joseph Plaskett, The Ash Tree. Oil on linen, 118.5 X 93.5 inches.

From solo exhibition New Subjects, New Forms
July, 2006

Much of my work in the past has been inspired by whatever my eye chanced to fall on in the spaces where I work - the disarray on a table after a meal, or sunlight illuminating the furnishings of interior space, or plants, flowers and fruits that accumulate in pots, vases and bowls - all these in innumerable juxtapositions. But the new work exhibited here has often concentrated on objects isolated from the former abundance of forms. 

I have in my possession a very large green glass vase, which over a period of a year never ceased to excite my spirit of invention. It was midwinter. The sun [was] very low on the horizon so that it penetrated far into the studio, casting shadows on the floor and higher on the table where stood the green glass vase holding fading chrysanthemums, the vase surrounded by apples from my orchard field, green at first, then turning golden yellow. These shadows, translated into colour, made abstract patterns new to my palette.

As season followed season, the challenge to pictorial invention seemed inexhaustible. In my studio are three octagonal tables whose complex shapes kept recurring, adding new dimensions to space. But the large rectangular table was also constantly in use, though I took pleasure in turning it into a circular table, or else eliminating it altogether so that the still life objects existed in a single surrounding colour.

In the very latest paintings something strange began to happen. When I made a change of colour, usually to a background space, I left a rim of the preceding colour. This aura, or auriole surrounding forms, introduced a new lightness, a marrying of form to background space and a breathing pulsation hinting at ambiguity.


Joseph Plaskett, Still Life With White Amaryllis. Oil on canvas, 40 X 27.5 inches.

From solo exhibition New Challenges 
May, 2010

In more youthful days I was constantly  travelling, being confronted by new subject  matter. Yet my primary inspiration always existed in the interior space where I worked. There I always easily found inspiration in seeing new subject matter, for the world I lived in was not static. New people  entered my life. I had new things to say about the human condition. My inspiration came also from the environment that chance had furnished me with, first with Madame Frere's sumptuous salon, then with the semi-medieval aspect of the environment I created around me in the house on rue Pecquay in the Marais and finally after my retreat to my country residence in Suffolk, a whole new vocabulary was added to the language I used.

The visible world is so rich in material to inspire, that in the end the artist has to retreat into an intimate, personal figuration. Several years ago I found inspiration in a bulrush that grew in my pond. Since then I have been spectacularly inspired by vegetables, and for some reason the cabbage seems to have awakened my creativity the most. Fifty years ago I gave an exhibition in Vancouver  based on vegetables. In my old age I return to this theme.

-Joseph Plaskett

                         Joseph Plaskett.

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