Helen Cammock They Call It Idlewild
28 January – 13 May 2023

Oakville Galleries at Centennial Square


Recipient of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women and a joint recipient of The Turner Prize, British artist Helen Cammock has a multi-disciplinary practice that stretches across film, music, print, performance, and text. For her first exhibition in Canada, Oakville Galleries is showing Cammock's They Call It Idlewild, a film and text installation that considers the notion of idleness, both its potential as a profoundly generative space of creativity and sustenance, and the political misuses, structural power play, and racial stereotyping that surround it.

At the core of the exhibition is a film that was created while Cammock was in residency at Wysing Arts Centre in a rural part of Cambridgeshire in the UK. The film responds to that context as a site and as an idea. Layering photographs and footage taken at Wysing over a highly poetic narrative voiced by the artist, it considers the politics and history of attitudes towards labour and insists on the value and right to idleness for all. Alongside this film are watercolour paintings, silkscreen prints, and a large-scale banner that uses the visual language of workers' protest movements to suggest slowing down—choosing to walk, for example—might be an act of defiance, a gesture against the mindless hurrying of the status quo.

Created just before the pandemic as well as during the first periods of lockdown, these works resonate ever more meaningfully in today's world. Amid the unrelenting pressures of precarious work conditions, widening inequality, and the ongoing persistence of colonial and class-based power structures, They Call It Idlewild calls for a different way of working, one not based on extractive ideologies of production and consumption, but on care, creativity, protection, and solace.

Access Exhibition Handout PDF

Opening Hours

at Centennial Square

Opening Reception: Saturday, 28 January 2023, 2:30 – 5 PM.
Remarks and Refreshments beginning at 3:45 PM in Gairloch Gardens.

Winter Gallery Hours in Gairloch Gardens and at Centennial Square, beginning Tuesday, 31 January 2023:

Tuesday – Saturday: 10 AM – 5 PM
Mondays: Available by Appointment
Closed Sundays and Statutory Holidays

Related Programs

Tour @ 2 PM: Art & Heritage Tour

Thursdays, Beginning 2 February 2023

Experience Oakville Galleries' Outdoor Art & Heritage Tour every Thursday at 2 PM!

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Performance by Charles Curtis

15 March 2023

In conjunction with the exhibition A Many-Sided House by US-based collaborative group Wolf Tones, cellist Charles Curtis will give a performance in The Studio at Gairloch Gardens on the evening of 15 March 2023.

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Daytime Exhibition Tour: Helen Cammock

18 April 2023

Join us for a guided tour of our Winter exhibition, Helen Cammock: They Call It Idlewild, led by Associate Curator and Registrar Theresa Wang.

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In Conversation: Helen Cammock with Tara Bursey

4 April 2023

On Tuesday, 4 April, join us for our first In Conversation event of 2023! Artist Helen Cammock will be in conversation with Tara Bursey, Director of the Workers' Arts and Heritage Centre, Hamilton.

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Textile Workshop: Mending with Gabrielle Trach

16 April – 7 May 2023

During this series of Textile Workshops: Mending, our guest artist Gabrielle Trach will guide participants through the different mending techniques used to repair and extend the life of your clothes and other loved textiles. Join us for a single session or sign up for a few sessions to build on your newly learned skills!

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Related exhibitions

Wolf Tones

28 January – 13 May 2023 Oakville Galleries in Gairloch Gardens

A Many-Sided House is the first exhibition in Canada of work by Wolf Tones (currently Nancy Shaver, Maximilian Goldfarb, Sterrett Smith, Pradeep Dalal, and David Levi Strauss), a collaborative group of US-based artists, convened in 2019 by Nancy Shaver, that has been creating densely constructed installations over the past four years.

Learn more