Critics’ Picks

Jon Sasaki, Microbes Swabbed from a Palette Used by Tom Thomson, 2013, digital print, 38 1/4 x 38 1/4”.


Jon Sasaki

Jessica Bradley Gallery | Dundas West
1450 Dundas West
January 12 - March 16

Jon Sasaki has perfected the persona of the eternally optimistic everyman in his video and performance works over the past several years. In his latest exhibition, he turns his conceptually inflected wit to the messy particulate matter that underpins the Canadian obsession with the landscape, unearthing both its lyricism and its bathos.

A suite of three large-scale photographs anchors the exhibition, which comprises painting, photography, sculpture, and video projects. Documenting bacterial cultures that the artist grew in petri dishes from swabs of the palettes once used by Group of Seven painters, the images materialize the otherwise invisible life forms that cling to these historical artifacts. The shapes that result from Sasaki’s simple experiment—in mossy greens, milky whites, and buttercup yellows—uncannily resemble the same forms and hues favored by those twentieth-century painters. Microbes Swabbed from a Palette Used by Tom Thomson, 2013, evokes the delicate, crystalline structure of a snowflake, for instance, while at the center of Microbes Swabbed from a Palette Used by Frederick Varley, 2013, is the unmistakable form of an elongated leaf.

This tension between idealized natural forms and their gritty materiality continues in a pair of works in the center of the gallery. In We Are Made of Star Stuff, 2012, Sasaki re-creates the night sky by lobbing “spitballs” of white confetti onto a black swatch of the ceiling, bits of which come loose and flutter to the ground throughout the course of the exhibition. On the floor nearby, displayed on an old tube television tilted so that it “looks” up at the stars overhead, the video Interactions, 2013, documents the artist overturning rocks on a recent trip to Tasmania, tracking the reactions of insects and worms as they respond to the sudden change in their environment. Like the bacterial cultures, these miniature versions of the cosmos are the products of human intervention and biological chance, recalling a sense of awe and bodily familiarity.