MICHAEL PITTMAN

AVAILABLE ARTWORKS

Within the veil, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Within the veil, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Trance state, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5. x 30.5 cm Trance state, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5. x 30.5 cm Emergence and retreat, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm Emergence and retreat, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm His Holy Arm, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm His Holy Arm, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm Proof, 2016, acrylic, India ink and Graphite on archival rag board, 31.5 x 31.5 inches Proof, 2016, acrylic, India ink and Graphite on archival rag board, 31.5 x 31.5 inches Rigid Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 20.5 cm Rigid Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 20.5 cm Sleeper, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel, 31.5 x 31.5 in., 80 x 80 cm Sleeper, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel, 31.5 x 31.5 in., 80 x 80 cm Spring. Ink on acid free rag board, 50cm x 50cm Spring. Ink on acid free rag board, 50cm x 50cm Walter, 2016, Acrylic India ink and graphite, 31.5 x 31.5 in. Walter, 2016, Acrylic India ink and graphite, 31.5 x 31.5 in. Trance state, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5. x 30.5 cm Trance state, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5. x 30.5 cm Sitting, 1933, 2015, Acrylic, graphite and India ink on Rising Museum Board, 20 x 30 inches, 51 x 76 cm Sitting, 1933, 2015, Acrylic, graphite and India ink on Rising Museum Board, 20 x 30 inches, 51 x 76 cm Rigid Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 20.5 cm Rigid Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 20.5 cm Proof, 2016, Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 13,25 x 16 in. Proof, 2016, Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 13,25 x 16 in. His Holy Arm, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm His Holy Arm, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm Emergence and retreat, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm Emergence and retreat, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm A great truth, 2016, Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., A great truth, 2016, Circle (Cataleptic), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., Intention and survival, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in.,51 x 81 cm Intention and survival, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in.,51 x 81 cm A great truth, 2016, Acrylic and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10-in, 30.5 x 25.5 cm A great truth, 2016, Acrylic and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10-in, 30.5 x 25.5 cm Scrutineer, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Scrutineer, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Poole, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel, 31.5 x 31.5 in., 80 x 80 cm Poole, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel, 31.5 x 31.5 in., 80 x 80 cm Trance products, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 13.25 x 16 in., 33.5 x 40.5 cm Trance products, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 13.25 x 16 in., 33.5 x 40.5 cm Intelligent manipulation, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Intelligent manipulation, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 12 in., 30.5 x 30.5 cm Bear Cove. India ink, charcoal and acrylic on rag board. 20’” x 30” Bear Cove. India ink, charcoal and acrylic on rag board. 20’” x 30” Caribou. India ink, acrylic and graphite on rag board. 20’” x 30” Caribou. India ink, acrylic and graphite on rag board. 20’” x 30” Loader with wide furrow. India ink and charcoal on rag board. 20’” x 30” Loader with wide furrow. India ink and charcoal on rag board. 20’” x 30” Skein. India ink and acrylic on rag board. 20’” x 30” Skein. India ink and acrylic on rag board. 20’” x 30” Mooring. Ink on acid free rag board. 50cm x 50cm. 2014 Mooring. Ink on acid free rag board. 50cm x 50cm. 2014 Hamilton house, 2016 Acrylic india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm Hamilton house, 2016 Acrylic india ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm Fantastic teleplasm 2016 Acrylic and graphite on rag board 12 x 10 in. 30.5 x 25.5 cm Fantastic teleplasm 2016 Acrylic and graphite on rag board 12 x 10 in. 30.5 x 25.5 cm Differentiated plasm # 2, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm Differentiated plasm # 2, 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 16 x 16 in., 40.5 x 40.5 cm Differentiated plasm #1, 2016 Arcrylic india ink and graphite on archival rag board 20.2 x 31.75 in. 51 x 81 cm Differentiated plasm #1, 2016 Arcrylic india ink and graphite on archival rag board 20.2 x 31.75 in. 51 x 81 cm Control, 2016 India ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm Control, 2016 India ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm Cabinet (three mediums), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm Cabinet (three mediums), 2016, Acrylic, india ink and graphite on archival rag board, 20.2 x 31.75 in., 51 x 81 cm Ambiguous plasm, Acrylic, India ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm Ambiguous plasm, Acrylic, India ink and graphite on cradled birch panel 31.5 x 31.5 in. 80 x 80 cm 1937, 2016, Acrylic and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 25.5 cm 1937, 2016, Acrylic and graphite on archival rag board, 12 x 10 in., 30.5 x 25.5 cm Travellers (A Horrible Thing has Crossed my Path), 2011, Mixed media on panel, 49.25 x 48. 3 inches, 125 x 123 cm Travellers (A Horrible Thing has Crossed my Path), 2011, Mixed media on panel, 49.25 x 48. 3 inches, 125 x 123 cm Tranducer (light trap), 2013, Charcoal, graphite and acrylic on birch panel. 32 x 32 in., 81 x 81 cm Tranducer (light trap), 2013, Charcoal, graphite and acrylic on birch panel. 32 x 32 in., 81 x 81 cm Not Afraid of Nothing, 2009, Mixed media on panel, 32 1/4 x 49 in., 82 x 124 cm Not Afraid of Nothing, 2009, Mixed media on panel, 32 1/4 x 49 in., 82 x 124 cm Nursery, 2013, Charcoal, graphite and acrylic on birch panel, 32 x 32 in., 81 x 81 cm Nursery, 2013, Charcoal, graphite and acrylic on birch panel, 32 x 32 in., 81 x 81 cm Semaphor (error), 2012  Acrylic, charcoal, india ink and graphite on panel, 25 x 23 in, 63.5 x 58 cm Semaphor (error), 2012 Acrylic, charcoal, india ink and graphite on panel, 25 x 23 in, 63.5 x 58 cm Shadow ladder, 2008, Mixed media on panel, 48 x 49 in., 122 x 124 cm Shadow ladder, 2008, Mixed media on panel, 48 x 49 in., 122 x 124 cm The Harrowing of Hell, 2012, Mixed media on panel, 49.25 x 36 inches, 125 x 92 cm The Harrowing of Hell, 2012, Mixed media on panel, 49.25 x 36 inches, 125 x 92 cm

Michael Pittman was born in Corner Brook Newfoundland in 1977. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Memorial University, and a research-led Master’s degree in painting from the Waterford Institute of Technology in Waterford, Ireland. He creates images and objects that are informed by a tangled relationship between psychology, folk belief and personal narrative.

Pittman’s work “plots the airy geography between worlds of sleep and wakefulness, experience and intuition, the rational and the mad. Linking terrains of varying substance, his paintings and sculpture are shifting maps, marking territory as illusive as a childhood memory or an irrational fear. They ply the recognizable with the uncanny.”

In 2012, The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery (St. John’s, NL) curated a significant solo exhibition of his artwork entitled “Michael Pittman: Haunted Half” comprised of over 5 years of the artists visual
explorations. In 2013, Pittman was long listed for the prestigious Sobey Art Award, Canada’s pre-eminent award for contemporary Canadian art. In 2014 his work was included in a comprehensive exhibition of Contemporary visual art from Newfoundland and Labrador at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, ON.

When I make images or things, I project an accumulation of personal experience onto a specific subject. The result is something that is highly representative of the particular way that I decode the world. Though highly specific, I believe there is also commonality in the way that we all process and internalize experience. There is a disquieting strangeness that pervades the almost-familiar image; its unfixed meaning arouses an uncomfortable instability. I embrace the ambiguous nature of things: the terrifying uncertainty of meaning. I try to reflect, and sometimes deconstruct the processes by which we perceive and process information.

SELECTED SOLO EXHIBITIONS

Beacon – Bonavista North Museum and Gallery – Wesleyville, NL – July 23, 2017 – September 18, 2017.

Almost Ghosts – Abbozzo Gallery, Toronto, ON – October 14 – November 5, 2016.

Nightlights – Eastern Edge Gallery, St. John’s, NL – October 6 – October 17, 2015.

Stories –The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, NL – May 2, 2015 – May 30, 2015.

Michael Pittman: Haunted Half – The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s, NL, May 26, 2012 – August 26, 2012.

Implements of Capture – View Art Gallery, Victoria, BC – June 8, 2012 – July 7, 2012.

Terra Ephemera – View Art Gallery (Upper Gallery), Victoria, BC – April 17, 2009 – May 16, 2009.

A Disquieting Strangeness: New Work by Michael Pittman – The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, NL – June 30, 2007 – July 21, 2007.

Toward a More Indigenous Art – RCA Visual Gallery, LSPU Hall, St. John’s, NL – September 2006 – October 2006.

 

SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS

Great and North – Palazzo Loredan, Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, Venice, Italy – August 29 – October 29, 2017.

Adapting Heritage – Gower Street United Church, St. John’s NL – October 25 – October 28, 2017.

In Some Far Place – The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s, NL – February 4 – April 23, 2017.

Michael Pittman – Ryan Premises National Historic Site, Bonavista, NL – August 5
September 5, 2016.

Narrative NL – Grenfell Campus Art Gallery, Memorial University, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador – June 20, 2015 – September 12, 2015.

Keeping Current –Artwork from our country’s eastern edge. Abbozzo Gallery, Toronto, Ontario – March 22 – April 19, 2014.

Changing Tides: Contemporary Art in Newfoundland and Labrador – McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg, Ontario – January 25, 2014 – June 1, 2014.

25 for 25 – Provincial Seaman’s Museum, Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador – June 22, 2011 – October 12, 2011; Mary March Provincial Museum, Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador – April 21, 2012 – October 10, 2012; The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – December 1, 2012 – January 11, 2013.

Bestiary
– The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, NL – October 1, 2011 – October 23, 2011.

Interiors
– The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, NL – September 4, 2010 – August 25, 2010.

Penetralia
– Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – August 7, 2009 – September 26, 2009.

EHAA Toronto Fundraiser – Exhibition and Auction, Balmy Beach Club, Toronto, Ontario – May 3, 2009.

Big Juicy Brushstrokes, Etc. – View Art Gallery, Victoria, British Columbia – November 15, 2008 – January 31, 2009.

Erotic
– Group Exhibition, The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – November 8, 2008 – November 29, 2008.

New Works: Greg Bennett, Kent Jones and Michael Pittman – The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – October 11, 2008 – November 1, 2008.

Forecast: Andrea Cooper, Kym Greely, John Haney and Michael Pittman – Curated by Gail Tuttle, SWGC Gallery, Memorial University, Grenfell Campus, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador – September 25, 2008 – November 1, 2008.

Flattering the Masters III – RCA Visual Gallery, LSPU Hall, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – 2006.
2006 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards Exhibition – The Rooms, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – May 2006.
4 Points of View – The Leyton Gallery of Fine Art, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – 2006.

Divergence 
– Touring Exhibition
-Old Market House Arts Centre, Dungarvan, Ireland – October 2005.
-The Granary Gallery, Waterford, Ireland – November 2005.
-A&C Centre Gallery, Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador – February 2006.

2005 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Awards Exhibition – Group Exhibition, Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – June 2005.

Cultural Barometer Exhibition – RCAV Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador – Summer 2006.

Newfoundland Artists – WIT, Waterford, Ireland – 2003.

6.12.2.16 – Sir Wilfred Grenfell College BFA Graduating Students’ Exhibition – SWGC Art Gallery, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador – 2001.

The Works Visual Arts Festival: Emerging Newfoundland Printmakers – Edmonton, Alberta – 2000.

Art Space I & II – Installation and Performance-based works. Collaborative performance with John Carberry, Cement Plant & Aylward Building, Corner Brook, Newfoundland and Labrador  – 1999 & 2000.

Art(-ifacts) – Collaborative performance with John Carberry, Dark Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador – 1999.

 

PUBLICATIONS

“The Time Between.” Patria Rivera. Signature Editions, Winnpeg, MB. 2018. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

 

“All Violet.” Rani Rivera. Dagger Editions(Caitlin Press), Halfmoon Bay, BC. 2017. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

 

‘Till I Caught Myself.’ Ruth Roach Pierson. Seraphim Editions, Niagara Falls, ON. 2017. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘Precious Energy.’ Shannon Bramer. BookThug, Toronto, ON. 2017. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.
‘Untranslatable Thought.’ Ruth Roach Pierson. Anstruther Press, Toronto. 2016. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘Realignment.’ Ruth Roach Pierson. Palimpsest Press, Windsor. 2015. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

Johnson, Bruce. “Michael Pittman: Haunted Half.” Exhibition catalog, St. John’s: The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, 2012: 7. Print.

‘Sweetland.’ Michael Crummey. Doubleday Canada. 2014. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘Straight Razor Days’ Joel Thomas Hynes. Pedlar Press, Toronto. 2011. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘Ktaqamkuk/Across the Water/Thar Muir: Irish Journal of Newfoundland and Labrador Research.’ Edited by Deirdre Nuttal. Ireland: Waterford Institute of Technology, 2009. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘Riddlefence’ #2 & #14.  Edited by Mark Callanan et al. St. John’s: Literary Arts Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2008.  Featuring artwork by Michael Pittman

‘The Drowned Lands’ Poetry by Stan Dragland. Pedlar Press, Toronto. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘The Echoing Years: An Anthology of Irish and Canadian Poetry.’ Edited by John Ennis, Randall Maggs and Stephanie McKenzie. Ireland: Waterford Institute of Technology, 2007. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘I’m Not Going to Lie to You.’ Poetry by Michael Blouin. Pedlar Press, Toronto. Cover Art by Michael Pittman.

‘The Book of Skeletons.’ Poetry by Rachel Vigier. Pedlar Press, Toronto. Cover art by Michael Pittman.

‘Óisín’s Journey Home.’ Poetry by John Ennis and Niall McElwee. WIT/AIT. 3 Illustrations and cover art by Michael Pittman.

‘The March Hare Anthology.’ Edited by Adrian Fowler. ISBN: 978-1-55081-228-2. Artwork featured.

‘Cutting My Mothers Hair.’ Poetry by Stephanie McKenzie. 5 Illustrations and cover art by Michael Pittman. Salmon Poetry, Cliffs of Moher, Ireland. 2006.

‘Living at the Edge, Living at the Centre: The Birth of a New Demarginalized Creativity.’  WIT School of Humanities Publications, Waterford, Ireland. 2006.

 

COLLECTIONS

The Rooms, Provincial Art Bank.  Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Rooms, Provincial Art Gallery Collection.  Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

City of St. John’s Art Procurement Collection. St. John’s, NL.

SWGC Art Gallery Collection and Print Study Archive – Memorial University, Grenfell
Campus, Corner Brook, NL.

Waterford Institute of Technology Collection – permanent display – Waterford, Ireland.

Central Newfoundland Visual Arts Society (CNVAS) Collection – Grand Falls-Windsor, NL.

James Adams. ‘Sobey Award Long List Revealed.’ The Goble and Mail. Friday, April 19, 2013.

Kay Burns.  ‘Snapshot Review – Michael Pittman: Haunted Half.’ Visual Arts News. Fall 2012 Issue.

Joan Sullivan.  ‘Solo shows compliment each other.’  The Telegram. Tuesday, June 5, 2012.

Joan Sullivan.  ‘Visual Artists Join Forces for Penetralia.’  The Telegram. Friday, October 9, 2009.

Landry. ‘Michael Pittman Shrinks Heads.’ Things of Desire: Canada’s Alternative Art Weekly.  Issue #8 [Internet]

Joan Sullivan.  ‘Small works, new works.’  The Telegram. Friday, October 11, 2008.

Jennifer Pelley.  ‘Local artist land sizable arts council grant, award nomination.’  Advertiser. Thursday, April 17, 2008.

Joan Sullivan.  ‘A Fresh Look at Madness.’  The Telegram. Friday, February 22, 2008.

Joan Sullivan.  ‘Unsettled attraction.’  The Telegram. Friday, July 6, 2007.

Mandy Cook.  ‘Top Three’  The Independent.  May 25 – June 31, 2007.

Karla Hayward.  ‘Four styles, one gallery.’  The Telegram. Friday, March 3, 2006.

Jennifer Pelley.  ‘Local Artist Shortlisted for Provincial Award.’  Advertiser. Thursday, May 24, 2007.

Jennifer Pelley.  ‘Local Artist Lands Solo Show’ Advertiser.  Monday, February 19, 2007.

Stephanie McKenzie.  ‘Exchanging Traditions.’  Newfoundland Quarterly (volume 96, number 1).

______________

 

Michael Pittman: Haunted Half at The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery

 Beyond these supernatural encounters, the recurring motif of the bed (within the paintings and as sculpture) works as a broader human symbol, with its associations to sex, birth, death, dreams, illness and impairment. 

Discussing his original plans for his bed sculptures, Pittman says: I endeavored to create beds for very specific uses, or that relate to very specific ideas – imagine a bed only for dying, a bed for the depressed, a bed inspired by childish fears associated with sleep.

Our relationship with beds is intimate, charged with the imprint of our corporeal and emotional, mental lives. Beds are milestones, their use and meaning changes as we age. For children, it can be a night stage, making them pirate masters or captains of starships, or a place to fear the dark. Adults find solace, sex, comfort and retreat. Many of us will die in one.

While creating these sculptures, Pittman’s father was hospitalized, bedridden for approximately three months and given a poor prognosis for recovery. Once again, the personal invaded his art, and the works reflected themes of dread, containment and protection. Some of the final sculptures are decidedly cage-like, playing on the artist’s ongoing interest in traps, while others in his words “became devices to ward off fear”.

Pittman’s preoccupation with states that bridge the rational and irrational, or the natural with the supernatural, expanded while undertaking graduate studies in Ireland (2004-06), when he began developing a series of paintings collectively titled A History of Madness. His investigations linked the critical writings of philosophers such as Michel Foucault (in particular, Madness and Civilization) with subjective, personal experience and what Pittman calls ‘the psychology of place’. Following Foucault’s analysis of how our definitions and subsequent treatments of madness have changed over the centuries, Pittman explored the thin boundary between creativity and mental illness, as well as how individual and collective psychologies are formed by a specific place and culture. Images common to his life here in Newfoundland stand in proxy for the island’s collective unconscious. Man-made things (lures, axes, coffins, hunting traps) meet with natural forms (dogs, bulls, birds, forests) and supernatural beings (angels, devils). The ghosts of memory lurk as well, as ethereal horizons, wisps of houses, remembered doorways and portals.

His method of painting reflects this thinking process. He begins by brainstorming ideas and images directly and densely on the canvas, liberally applying paint as his thoughts dance and coalesce. By heavily working the paint, these initial layers are slowly refined; areas are blotted out, built up, incised or scrapped away. It is a reductive progression, the distillation of paint and gesture into a final, crisply articulated surface that balances bold iconography with semi-formless fields of colour. A final thin skin of semi-reflective varnish completes the union.

In his 2007 memoir, Haruki Murakami writes: Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness. Like Murakami’s novels, which seamlessly mix magic with the mundane, Pittman’s art pries open and expands the thin space separating our physical world from the realms of memory, dreams, illusion and intuition. The border dissolves, inviting us to consider our mirror-self, the half that haunts us.

– Bruce Johnson, Curator of Contemporary Art

 

The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery

MICHAEL PITTMAN plots the airy geography between worlds of sleep and wakefulness, experience and intuition, the rational and the mad. Linking terrains of varying substance, Pittman’s paintings and sculpture are shifting maps, marking territory as illusive as a childhood memory or an irrational fear. They ply the recognizable with the amorphous.

In our waking lives, and more often in our sleep, we encounter the uncanny; the sight of something nearly familiar, yet foreign or out of place. Things lost, somehow forgotten or only nearly seen, standing askew in our periphery. A Newfoundland example is the ‘fetch’, defined by the Dictionary of Newfoundland English as an apparition or double of a living person. An orphaned strand of time, a fetch is a premonition of the future, in human form, which winks into the present. You might be walking about town or alone on a beach or barrens, when suddenly you recognize a figure who should not be there, who should not be then. It may be a friend; it may even be you. The fetch is a forerunner or omen leading you into the dark. Such experiences lay at the heart of Pittman’s research and his art. Consider him a cartographer, exploring the edges between worlds of perception. This exhibition draws from four recent bodies of work, loosely titled A History of Madness, Hagridden, Thresholds and Traps. Following unique lines of inquiry and iconography, each series shares in this consideration of images and purposely-unanchored signs whose meanings float in a half-light.

Here in Newfoundland, the past is evident and persistent; the present buttressed (or harnessed) by more than four centuries of collective memory and traditional lore. It is a place where common narratives include tales of tests and death and afterlife; an island where icebergs take the shape of the Virgin Mary and ‘The Old Hag’ continues her nocturnal haunting.

Traditionally, visual art here has followed an audience’s penchant for realism, its subjects swinging regularly between landscapes and images of the former dominion’s mythical past. Many artists, including Christopher Pratt, Gerald Squires and David Blackwood have, in varying ways, worked to define the Newfoundland character through depictions of land and sea, architecture and history (real and imagined). Pittman, born and raised here, continues this line, but in a decidedly tangential manner. While his themes appear universal (life/death, natural/supernatural, fear, illness, madness, dreams…), his explorations and imagery are firmly rooted in the Newfoundland psyche and its symbols. He describes his work at “quasi-diarist investigations into perception”, revealing an art that is personal and self-reflective while sharing empathy for the broader human condition.

The Hagridden paintings and bed sculptures perhaps best illustrate Pittman’s blending of the personal and common, the universal with the local. The Old Hag is a folk belief widespread in Newfoundland. Her victims describe waking up in the night with an evil presence pressing down or positioned on their chest, rendering them immobile and terrified. Described as being “hag-ridden”, contemporary science regards the experience as a combination of sleep paralysis and a hypnagogic hallucination. Hypnagogic states are levels of consciousness leading out of sleep, combining characteristics of both dreaming and wakefulness (consider the Newfoundland word ‘dwall’: a state between sleeping and waking). It is an experience of two worlds overlapping, a place where the dark subconscious meets the light of reality. Pittman, like his father, (and myself, for that matter) have had repeated encounters with The Old Hag. He has felt her weight and the reality of this grounds him.

2013 Sobey Art Award Semi-Finalist

2013 NLAC Bank of Montreal Artist of the Year Finalist

Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Professional Artist Project Grant: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017

2012 NCSD Learning Partners Project – Milltown Academy, Milltown, NL.

2012, 2011 & 2006 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council Visiting Artist Program grant

2006, 2007, 2011 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council ArtSmarts Grant.

2007 Nominee for the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council’s CBC Emerging Artist of the Year Award

2007 VANL/CARFAC Excellence in Visual Arts (EVA) Award – Large Year Award.

2006 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Award – Visual Art.

2005 College Street Art Awards (WIT, Waterford, Ireland) – Premier Prize.

2005 Newfoundland and Labrador Arts and Letters Award – Visual Art.

Franklyn Gallery Book Award for the visual arts.

James C. Pratt Award for the visual arts.

Kathleen Wagstaff-Maccallum Memorial Scholarship for the visual arts.

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