Artist Statement for latitude 43.431, longitude -80.5005 – Homer Watson House & Gallery, Glenhyrst Art Gallery, Agnes Jamieson Art Gallery. This exhibition later became “Outskirts”.
LATITUDE 43.456193 LONGITUDE -80.500507 are the geographic coordinates of the house and studio from which Robert Achtemichuk observed the small, faithfully detailed landscapes that make up this exhibition.
This project started in 1999 with a few images developed at St Michael’s print shop in Newfoundland. Now there are many more works, most of them gouache on paper or silk, and they will be shown from September 3 to November 6 at the Homer Watson House & Gallery.
Achtemichuk is curious about visual phenomena as seen from his own back yard. The views from his studio have become occasions for contemplation. Robert is especially receptive to colour – it fascinates him. Like Giorgio Morandi, he reuses the same motifs, exploring the ever-changing possibilities in his limited subject matter. Initially, his interest was the full moon in the sky, the trees and the buildings. From these his focus has expanded to include the effects of the moonlight, the street lamps and the atmosphere. What is the colour of those sodium vapour lights?
Observation, then memory, guides the development of these images. Elements of the cityscapes are emphasized by the use of composition, colour and simplification. What is the magnitude or capacity of my memory? What remains? Achtemichuk says this work is a form of portraiture, a civic and urban version.
Liz Wylie, in the text for the exhibition catalogue, begins with a quote by Virginia Woolf from To the Lighthouse:
What is the meaning of life? That was all – a simple question; one that tended to close in on one with years. The great revelation had never come. The great revelation perhaps never did come. Instead there were little daily miracles, illuminations, matches struck unexpectedly in the dark …
Ms. Wylie concludes with:
Robert Achtemichuk’s works are small in scale and narrow in their purview in comparison. But a viewer should not be fooled by Achtemichuk’s casual and modest means, and at times the almost naïve quality to his pieces; as an artist who has traveled a long road, he knows exactly what he is doing, and to excellent and transporting effect
In the catalogue essay Gary Michael Dault concludes by saying:
And is this place to stand that Achtemichuk so delicately provides for us in these winning paintings—which are, as we are ourselves, the intoxicating coming together of the peace of acceptance and the sweet agitation of yearning. (Robert Achtemichuk and the Neighbourhood Pastoral)