Dave Casey – Mataphoric Landscapes Closes today

September 25 – October 30, 2013

Thank you Dave, a great show!

The power of Dave Casey’s works stem from the fact that they cannot be placed in any one ‘school of painting’. They are consistently and simply his own, and are always about the search for something that is perceptually elusive. His paintings ask the viewer to make a visual, emotional and spiritual journey. The richness of that journey and the concept of place are what make Casey’s art so compelling and so important.

Born in August 1944 in San Francisco, Dave Casey started his formal training in visual art at the College of San Mateo in San Mateo, California, followed by graduate studies at the Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana (Master’s Degree in Applied Arts, Jewellery and Metal with a minor in Painting in 1973). That year, Casey arrived in Calgary and assumed a teaching position (currently Associate Chair of the School of Visual Art, Assistant Professor and Head of First Year Studies) at the Alberta College of Art + Design. His broad academic knowledge in modern and contemporary international visual culture, unconventional teaching methods, and his accomplishments as a visual artist, have won Dave Casey the admiration from students and professional peers.

For nearly 40 years, Dave Casey’s art has given a critical role to the area of landscape, environmental art, and the concept of place with its own symbology and socio-political context. Some of his works in the exhibition, such as: “Requiem”, “Feather In Red”, “Pelican In Blue”, or “Mountains And Window”, refer metaphorically to fragmented memories and associations, past experiences, journeys/relocations – both geographically and temporally. Other works: “Sweeping A Clean Floor”, “I Am That”, “Stampede Bar U: Pattern”, “Stampede Bar U: Map”, “Stampede Bar U: Bison”, “Stampede Bar U: Sequence”, or “Stampede Bar U: Last” – containing notes, maps, grids, directional compasses, sketches, digital imagery, etc. – are assembled as ‘visual collages’ that bear strong symbolic connotations of various provenances. The symbiotic relationship between these symbolic/formal elements and the specific environment/site in which each particular piece was created remains critical to the concept of Casey’s work, especially his semi-abstract landscapes. Outside of the tradition of abstract landscape, yet still related to it, Casey found source material in nature but has developed unusual ways of approaching it. Some of his earlier works dealt with forces or processes in nature that usually elude visual presentation: gravity, wind or even quasi-geological stratigraphic classification of landscape component, sometimes symbolically represented. In his later works, Casey has continued to explore and expand the rich terrain of minimal art and colour field abstraction combined with more identifiable imagery, but they do not evoke place, even if their titles would suggest otherwise.

In August of 2011, Casey along with four other Alberta-based artists participated in a seminal Calgary Stampede Western Showcase Artist Ranch Project at the famous Bar “U” Ranch, south of Calgary – an initiative designed to transpose traditional western heritage and values through contemporary art. A suite of Casey’s nine paintings from that residency is featured in this exhibition. Here, the works are quite deliberately enhanced with digital imagery and worked over in an open, wash and drawing technique which tends to bring the background to a visual level with the foreground. Through the juxtaposition of large areas of stained canvas and gestural marks, Casey establishes figure/ground relationships that activate the image and add a visual dynamic to the entire composition. The painting rather than the depiction is of primary concern, even though the subject matter would suggest a more traditional landscape approach with the sense of the land’s vastness. In some of the works from that residency, the treatment of landscape is far less abstract, but the references are just as secondary to the method of painting. Casey’s paintings thereby become not depictions of place at all. They reflect a sensibility of landscape rather than its visual description. Seen from the perspective of the landscape tradition, his work reminds us that certain types of abstraction may in fact contain more of a sense of place than faithful rendering does. Casey’s search for the basic forms of landscape, no matter how geometric in their delineation, and a concern with the primary colours of natural phenomena, presents more visual information about place than the spatially undifferentiated surface detail and tonal patterns, however representational.

Jacek Malec
Exhibition Curator