Robert Youds is an artist who works simultaneously across and within the conventional lines of practice. Although he initially trained as a painter he has expanded his engagement with the medium over the past two decades to include the materiality of the designed environment, including aluminum, Plexiglas, LED and fluorescent lights and digital signs. The artist’s use of artificial light has given rise to seductive and meditative explorations of perception that he refers to as “structures” and “light paintings” while critic Barry Schwabsky has described them as “light pictorialized.”
His artworks have been exhibited in major public institutions such as: Site Santa Fe (USA), National Gallery of Canada, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico, Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, Edmonton Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, and the Power Plant (Toronto).
Youds’ works have been placed broadly in both public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Canada, Cadillac Fairview’s RBC building, Toronto, Vancouver Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Ontario, Hamilton Art Gallery, TD Bank Collection, BMO Bank Collection and Museum London among others.
In the early 1980’s, he was one of the original board members/curators at the influential artist centre Mercer Union (Toronto). Youds has had his work represented by various art dealers over the years, including Sable-Castelli Gallery, Toronto, the William Turner Gallery, and the PostWilshire Gallery, Los Angeles. Currently, his artwork is represented
Our Aurora Borealis and everything else, Robert Youds, diptych, acrylic and enamel on 2 canvases, (overall 325.12 x 144.78cm), 2014
at the Diaz Contemporary Gallery, Toronto, Canada. He has been a Professor of Visual Arts at the University of Victoria since 1989.
Robert Youds Artist Statement
Through my artworks I challenge the gap between aesthetic understanding and our perceptual experience of objects, images, and things. I achieve this by engaging us with the poetics of renewed communicative possibilities for the familiar and existing vernaculars within material forms. My production of art has always crossed the conventional jurisdictional lines of disciplines involving painting, sculpture, architecture, and design.
I see the role of art as a vehicle to disrupt the routine partitioning of the everyday and to get us to remember our place within the long curve of time itself. I also assist the percipient in accepting the simple beauty of not knowing.
In the works “your constant waterfall” my goal was to cinematically destabilize the mark or print of the artist’s hand – albeit only briefly. That is to say the tondo on which I had imprinted with wood patterns could be self-activated into an actual spin. In perceptual psychology “waterfall” is a term used to describe a motion aftereffect – basically, the breakdown of our built-in visual tracking ability. I like the contradiction between perceiving an image of something so material and rustic, coupled with the possibility for motion and alternative compositional positioning (think Cezanne).
In the painting “our aurora borealis and everything else” my interests were similar. Although the diptych clearly doesn’t actually move like the tondo series, it does on the other hand, present a contradictory perceptual dilemma. Perhaps invoking a scenario of before and after, or, now and then - the simultaneity of time. It is also intended as a strong social and cultural pointer towards how we understand and construct nature (landscape).
Both series “your constant waterfall” and “handmade ultramarine mantra” (which “our aurora borealis” is part of) have an imbedded sense of critical regionalism within their aesthetic DNA.
Friday and Saturday, installation view at Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Lexan, fluorescent lights, assorted objects, (88.9 x 121.92 x 25.4cm each), 2006
Constant Waterfall, Galiano, Handmade Ultramarine Series, acrylic and enamel on canvas, (129.54cm diameter), 2013
Night Portal, cast plastic, fluorescent light, (60.96cm spheres), 2005