Joseph Plaskett Award/prix de Joseph Plaskett
The Joseph Plaskett Foundation in partnership with the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA)
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News Archive

2014 January 29

Recognized Author Tina Dickey Directs New Film on Joe Plaskett

Underway is a new film on the life and work of Joe Plaskett. Filmed and directed by Tina Dickey in England, France and Canada, the film will be released in 2015.

Dickey is the author of Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann (2011). Based on an oral history of Hofmann's students, the book includes Joseph Plaskett. This beautiful and elegant publication demonstrates her extensive knowledge of the significant artist Hans Hoffman and his theories and practices.

For Plaskett's recent exhibition (2013) at the Winchester Galleries in Victoria, BC, Tina Dickey provided the following text and has graciously allowed us to reprint it here.

Joseph Plaskett at 95 Years: A Celebration

by Tina Dickey, artist, filmmaker and author (Color Creates Light: Studies with Hans Hofmann, 2011). Written for the exhibition in 2013 at The Winchester Galleries, Victoria, BC Canada

What colour is the sky between leafy green branches, or that thin strip of sea on the horizon at dusk? Fascination drives the need to capture and to relate. Yet the sheer magnificence of visual experience so often induces a sense of defeat. Joseph Plaskett's courage to continue builds the forceful concentration that gives his work its presence. Such grace can only emerge through a humble generosity of spirit.

History is always much wilder than what's written. Quiet, unassuming, like a stream finding its way through multiple layers of art history, Joseph Plaskett's life merges deeply and unpredictably with Canadian art history despite having lived mostly abroad since 1949. Admired and mentored by Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson of the Group of Seven, he received the first Emily Carr scholarship award, which brought him circuitously to New York and to study with Hans Hofmann. He encouraged some Toronto painters to join him there; the result: Painters Eleven. Along with his fellow Hofmann student, the New York painter Paul Resika, Plaskett's work was fueled by a rebellion against abstraction and the later rediscovery of its structural forces through realism. Plaskett and Tak Tanabe toured and painted in stunning landscapes together: the Canadian Rockies, Haida Gwaii (both were lifelong friends of Bill Reid). In Paris, Plaskett became an informal Canadian consul for nearly five decades: traveling artists, writers, filmmakers, dancers were sent to his studio upon their arrival in France. International friendships built a community stretching from South Africa to Japan, although Plaskett sustained a nearly anonymous existence in Paris then Suffolk, UK, despite growing fame across Canada. His home in Suffolk is a timeless island on a busy road, breathing birdsong, gardens, wild ducks, feral cats, impromptu gatherings, abundant letters, music, and paintings. A place of peace.

Familiar objects litter the big wooden table in the middle of his studio, migrating in a haphazard way. The precision of their organic relationships, like those discovered in the garden or portrait or bouquet, begin to suggest violence or joy, effervescence or solidity, commonness or sublimity, connection or isolation. No slave to reality, sometimes in the middle of a still life he'll paint an object that isn't even there. Plaskett's ability to grasp the seen and unseen energies of the natural order of things, to emulate and integrate these rhythms, elicits that which most deeply humanizes us all.

On the table this July, just before the party to celebrate his 95th birthday, three varied figurines stood dwarfed by a round alarm clock. This likely accidental still life brings to mind his fervent hope for the future of the planet: may peace be contagious.


copyright 2013 Tina Dickey
Not to be changed or used without permission of Tina Dickey

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