“Looking is constant but actual seeing is only occasional,” writes painter John Ballantyne. Crisp, clean, and outstandingly beautiful, discover how his works are exploring the metaphysics of Goethe and Cage.
Odon Wagner Contemporary is overjoyed to be playing host to a magnetic solo exhibition of recent acrylics by John Ballantyne. At first glance, one is immediately struck by the crisp cleanliness of Ballantyne’s architectural interiors. One may easily marvel at the verisimilitude of the artist’s brush and his keen observational skill. Without further investigation, one might fail to grasp the works’ much deeper message.

John Ballantyne, “Bull’s Eye,” acrylic on panel, 30 x 45 in. (c) Odon Wagner Contemporary 2016

John Cage once wrote, “Music is constant. Listening is intermittent,” and Ballantyne has worked to translate this idea — among others — into the visual world of form and content. Donald Brackett, author of the exhibition’s catalogue, writes, “Paintings such as Ballantyne’s are invitations to a ritual of looking that engages our imaginations far above and below the apparently straightforward substance of the images represented. They are what they appear to be: placid architectural spaces, portraits of both interiors and exteriors, still life with rooms and buildings instead of fruits or flowers, designed and built landscapes at once tightly contained and yet fully open to conjecture.”

John Ballantyne, “Visitors,” acrylic on panel, 18 x 42 in. (c) Odon Wagner Contemporary 2016

If granted, the resulting dialogue between painting and observer is truly fascinating and invigorating, launching into a subjective realm of interpretation that is captivating. Continuing, Brackett writes, “As such they also aspire to be accurate diagrams of something impossible to behold, something which the poet Goethe once offered as an ideal definition of what architecture is and what it does: frozen music. In Ballantyne’s work we witness a certain kind of mathematical precision which is not strictly realistic per se but in fact actually arrives at quite a different destination: a metaphysical dwelling place for the frozen music of form and content. Another primary and recurring focus of his work is the frequent element of illuminated objects which remind us of the original meaning of the word photo-graph is: drawing with light.”

John Ballantyne, “The Office,” acrylic on panel, 33 x 37 in. (c) Odon Wagner Contemporary 2016

“John Ballantyne: Silence and Light” opens on April 2 and will hang through April 23 at Odon Wagner Contemporary in Toronto. To learn more, visit Odon Wagner Contemporary.
This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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