Standing among the drawings by Gerald Pedros on exhibit in the main gallery of the St Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre (May 30 – July 25, 2015) brings you close to an uplifting transcendental experience, where the art serves to transport you to a sense of oneness with the world.
But before viewing the main body of work, you should start first with the conception for the exhibition, which is presented in the ongoing video playing in a small room away from the main exhibition. The video, which was shot in warm grey tones by Brian Saby, a close friend of the artist’s, is one continuous fixed view of the artist drawing a line in the wet sand of a long empty beach on a Costa Rica shore (the artist’s winter vacation spot). Mainly the focal point held in the camera frame is the line being drawn, and the stick, the medium that creates the line. At times the feet of the artist, walking, are also visible. From the video you can readily make the obvious connection to the title of the exhibition, Taking a Line for a Walk.
As the eye connects with the mind in this moment of oneness, philosophical underpinnings erupt when viewing the work
This conceptual video piece sets the theme for the drawings that fill the main gallery space. Placed in a comfortable position to the viewer’s line of vision are 18 drawings, on which a line, drawn horizontally in each one, figures prominently. The materials used for the drawings are raw and basic, and in their nature are interwoven with the content of the work, where the themes of essence, the natural, and abstraction bring you to the transcendental experience.
Two of the drawings are created on translucent mylar paper, each approximately 16 feet long and 3 feet high. The medium is dark charcoal. A strong line drawn across the work holds your gaze, and you connect the line drawn on the beach in the video to the line representing the beach in flat surface on the wall. Large water markings like a liquid spell are roughly washed over the surface of the mylar, creating the feeling of a vast body of water as well as a sense of flow. A few simple dark forms placed apart create the illusion of depth and perspective, and lead the eye to the infinite vastness of the ocean that lies beyond.
These two large drawings are positioned among sixteen other pieces. In these works also the content and the material are interlaced. The same horizontal line connects all the work. Minimal dark projecting shapes are positioned within an infinite oceanscape. But this time the drawings are on raw birch board, where the grain of the wood is clearly visible and serves to echo the receding lapping water of the shoreline as seen in the video.
In addition to suggestions of water, ocean, beach, horizon line, and outcroppings of land formations, the works also at times include small simple white or black squares or rectangular shapes, representing washed up debris, or small huts, or the occasional figure or figures one might encounter on a near empty beach. Charcoal, pencil, and white acrylic wash are the only media. All objects in the vast landscapes are reduced to a single flat line, or light or dark shapes. Yet the viewer does not have to struggle to know what the work is about. Indeed, as your eye connects with the horizon line and follows it along, through the simplest of lines and shapes you experience being on a beach in Costa Rica, and of taking a line or the self for a long, meditative walk. You feel the warmth of the ocean air, and hear the quiet lapping water on the shore. A strong feeling of calmness comes over you as you experience the spaciousness that envelops you, and a sense of oneness enters where human existence and the natural world come together.
As the eye connects with the mind in this moment of oneness, philosophical underpinnings erupt when viewing the work. The particular moves to the universal, the invisible is made visible, the grounded, with bare feet in the wet sand, transcending the present. A line on the beach signifies an immediate shore line, but also a horizon line, or something more abstract like the invisible line of the relational — the line that connects the self with the Other as you walk along. Simple shapes position you in space and place you somewhere in relation to the world, but your existence seems also to transcend your immediate world.
How is it that an artist can apply simple childlike scribbles of shape and line to a flat plane, like that seen in the work entitled Beach Drawing #8, in such a way that the viewer not only grasps immediately a certain reality but transcends it, a skill one attributes to a master artist trained in Eastern thinking.
Gerald Pedros is a senior Canadian artist and has a long list of exhibitions to prove it. He has studied the history of the art world he was thrown into. He was a student in the now highly popular Dawson College of Creative and Applied Arts program and received an MFA from Concordia University. Both institutions offered intense formal training in drawing, painting, and sculpture, with the kind of discipline one associates with “old school”. (He himself says his current work is influenced by Rembrandt and Goya’s Black Period.) This is an artist who has put in his 10,000 hours (Gladwell, 2008) and now masters his skill. Only when someone has applied himself and put in his time, does he embody his art and is he able to make a simple gesture such as three spontaneous strokes so convincingly on a surface, (paper, wooden board, wet sandy beach) that they stand as art, and we are transfixed by it and at the same time lost in it.
The line is where all artists start, but only after a lifelong career of being an artist can one return to the line to create an experience such as Gerald Pedros offers in his current exhibition — his strongest work to date.
The exhibition Gerald Pedros: Taking a Line for a Walk continues to July 25, 2015
at the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre, 301 Talbot St., St. Thomas
This post originally appeared on The Yodeller (no longer in publication).