Basket Works and Other Related Objects
28 March – 10 May 1998
at Centennial Square
Robert Fones has garnered wide recognition as a visual artist and writer. His interests have often led him to research overlooked or forgotten systems of signification or bits of local culture, which he analyzes and then reinserts into a different form of representation.
With Basket Works and other Related Objects Fones takes the gallery visitor both outside and inside, on a journey into local history and contemporary re-thinking of established urban themes. Fones has looked through local archives and found traces of Oakville’s industrial heritage that was forgotten: The Oakville Basket Company, a local business located along the Sixteen Mile Creek near Centennial Gallery that once produced baskets for fruit growers. In the banner project for the standards outside Centennial Square and at the entrance to Gairloch Gardens, Fones pairs photographic image with a motif suggestive of a flattened bushel basket, like the one once manufactured by the factory. The derivation of the abstract form from a bushel basket is significant – in its physical presence from the field to the market to the kitchen, this utilitarian object connects agricultural production with urban consumption and is a symbol of the balance that must be maintained between the two.
The complimentary exhibition at Centennial Square represents selected directions in Fones’s work since 1993. The motif of the flattened basket is re-interpreted as a wall sculpture, where broad strips of flat wood have been stacked, joined together at the mid-point, and then fanned out to form a circle. The bands, which overlap to define the basket’s volume, are given different colours. In the form and colour of their present shape they evoke crosses, compass points, wagon wheels, and cosmological symbols. Because of the simplicity of their form, they are open to many possible interpretations. Similarly coded in primary colours, his Lathed Letterforms are three-dimensional non-objective forms constructed by turning letterforms in space around a center axis, reminding the viewer that letterforms can only be read frontally. These strange new forms only take on meaning when they are contextualized – grouped together and given word-titles relating form and colour back to language. The exhibition also includes several paintings of illusionistically rendered letterforms in typefaces that Fones either has designed himself or discovered through his research into the early history of typography. With an acute awareness of the content available in form, either in terms of historical context or structural characteristics, and colour, Fones constructs compositions rich in associations. With his objects and installations, Fones prompts the viewer to slow down, take a long second look, and reconfigure the references and representational systems with a new awareness.