Adding Softly, Hardly Subtracting

Jessica Bell et Robert Taite


The exhibition Adding Softly, Hardly Subtracting is the result of the juxtaposition of two respective proposals by Jessica Bell and Robert Taite as they form a collection through formal, material and conceptual associations. Indeed, Bell and Taite’s installations emanate from common decisions: interfering with one another and interwoven by additions and subtractions of matter and painting.

On the one hand, Jessica Bell presents, on the floor, an enormous quilt made entirely by hand. Laborious and careful at the same time, it consists of 40 patchworks of muslin fabric meticulously dyed and painted, one by one, at the artist's home. Using a traditional quilt design — Drunkard’s Path — and through means of repetition, Bell constructs, deconstructs and reconstructs her painting gestures into a plethora of pictorial surfaces that behave like sculpture. The distinct forms of each piece converge into abstract patterns subjected to manipulation and transformation and are only temporarily assembled for the moment of the exhibition. In anticipation of possible iterations, the quilt remains formally and physically tangible: manageable, flexible and moreover fragile.

On the other hand, Robert Taite proposes a series of modular combinations that are specifically configured for the architecture — the structure — of the gallery and which pay particular attention to Bell’s installation. A total of 409 rectangular pieces cut from poplar have been wrapped in canvas and painted in several colors of found mistinted latex house paint. The prisms are transposed into the space of AXENÉO7, then arranged both strategically and intuitively to delimit negative spaces by diverting or surrounding architectural elements. Inspired by the abstraction of the 20th century, especially between the support and the surface, it takes a primitive gesture to overcome the traditional support and to deviate or decline the usual surface — material — in various volumes. In this sense, only the essential component remains: painting.

Jessica Bell (Vancouver) received an MFA in 2015 from the University of Ottawa. She has twice been a finalist in the RBC Canadian Painting Competition (2013, 2015) and received a residency at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (North Adams) in 2016. Her recent solo exhibitions are Jessica Bell, curated by Tobin Gibson at Unit 17 (Vancouver), Fits and Starts (Ottawa) and All Things Being Equal (Ottawa). Adding Softly, Hardly Subtracting at AXENÉO7 (Gatineau) is Jessica Bell’s first exhibition with artist Robert Taite.

Robert Taite (Winnipeg) holds a BFA from the University of Manitoba. He was a finalist for the esteemed Royal Bank of Canada Painting Competition (2014, 2015). He has exhibited in artist-run centres, museums and galleries throughout Canada and the US and has participated in numerous fair presentations including Art Toronto (2014, 2016, 2017) and at Art Los Angeles Contemporary (2017), all with Lisa Kehler Art + Projects, who he is represented by (Winnipeg). Taite has been the recipient of numerous grants from the Art Councils of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Canada. He has held a long-term residency at L'oeil de poisson (Québec), where he had his first artist-run centre solo exhibition (2014). More recent exhibitions include Minimal(ist) Effort at Angell Gallery (Toronto), curated by Bill Clarke, and Vague Motives at CYDONIA Gallery (Dallas, Texas). Taite will be participating in an upcoming group exhibition titled Real Shapes, at DATELINE Gallery (Denver, Colorado).