Pierre Savatier

30 August 1983 - 17 September 1983
Opening Reception 30 August 1983 8pm

West Gallery:

Drawing Room Ballad

Pierre Savatier has been working for several years with photography, interested in the photographic object and how this object works in space and time.

“The Point from which I start is a situation, an understanding which has nothing to do with events. To me a situation is a space and a time inside of which I see something. A lucid and enlightening act in which there is a phenomenon of exchange, a reciprocity, carried by photography.” – Pierre Savatier, 1983

Pierre Savatier and Richard Larzell, at Mercer Union
John Bentley Mays
Globe and Mail, September 1983

Two separately conceived installations which surprisingly come together as a single tale of two countries (Savatier is French; Layzell is English) and two contemporary artistic attitudes.

The more severe and elegant of the two is Savatier s array of photographs, distributed far apart on walls painted flat white and flat black, and at odd heights and angles. One melancholy sequence of images seems to describe an apprehensive woman walking down a boardwalk – but whether it does or not doesn’t matter. Savatier’s main concern seems to be philosophy, not narrative. And, if you had to name the philosophers Savatier seems most interested in, Heidegger would be at least one choice – simply because this artist, like Heidegger (and like many interesting European performance artists active before the recent painting avalanche), is principally engaged with the large conceptual issues of time, space, perception and situation.

You can appreciate Savatier’s piece. You can actually like Layzell’s, which is a personal, humane piece about birds, the reality and symbolism thereof, especially their usefulness as symbols of peace.

To remind us to think about peace – the show’s explicit aim – Layzell has provided a videotaped bird’s-eye view of Toronto, a big wall piece built up from large, scrappy drawings of hands and wings, lightly, stapled down, large scarf-like scraps of paper, suggesting wings, and other elements. The piece could be destroyed in 10 seconds with a cigarette lighter, or ripped down in not much more time, it is that vulnerable. And that vulnerability to damage (and, by implication, to the contempt of cynics, high-art prejudice against such flimsy stuff, etc.) is one component of the piece – a reminder of how fragile a thing peace is.

If this all sounds precious, it isn’t. It is however, out of sync with most artistic discourse in Toronto, which is a good reason to see the show.