Sunday, 12 May 2013

Joseph Muscat


view toward Mel Lastman Square

Maquette by Joseph Muscat, 2013.
My obsession with the image of the cabin, a minimalist representation of a house, began 32 years ago while still a student at OCAD. I was drawn to this simple isometric form for reasons unknown to me at the time but which became clearer with the passage of time. In 1997, I took a trip to Moosonnee aboard the Polar Bear Express. In twenty-four hours I was transported from the frantic crowds of Union Station to the remote dirt roads of this James Bay outpost. On the way to and from Moosonnee, I passed hundreds of these remote one room cabins splayed among the trees of the boreal forests and low brush bush. These ubiquitous cabins, with their smoking chimneys suddenly took on a different meaning. It was a déja-vue followed by an Aha! moment which made a long lasting impression on my image repertoire ever since. I have drawn and painted, photographed, made prints of and constructed this icon throughout my entire career.

When the call for the Oh Dear project arrived, I immediately thought of my cabin. A number of house motif ideas instantly popped into my head; my choice to work with this depiction was quick and easy and for obvious reasons. As Curator Paola Poletto outlined in her Call for Submission, her intent to organize a show by North York Artists in North York on the subject of housing and mobility in this suburban enclave seemed to fit perfectly with my artistic preoccupation and building history in North York.

The open leaning skeletal structure consisting of a façade, a roof, and a side wall and stabilized by a floor base will stand in the middle of the shallow water pool in Mel Lastman Square. The sculpture embodies my long history of living and working in this Yonge and Sheppard neighbourhood. Besides the symbolic implications I attach to this image, I now know that my family’s uprooting from my native Malta during my teen years and settling in Toronto must have also been an influential factor. For the first time, my family owned a home and this feeling of security and comfort offered me the opportunity to later own my very own house and studio, bring up a family, teach and be conveniently close to all the amenities of the city of Toronto within just a quick subway ride.

Symbolically, HOMEOSTASIS represents both the personal yearning for and the right to shelter and protection. The sculpture stands tall and solid and yet its leaning stance and wind-sensitive wavering gives it a tentative and uncertain sensation. The sparse use of material does not take away from its solidity but gives it transparency and interaction with its surroundings and the use of primary colours gives it visibility and playfulness. As its namesake, this construction is caught in the act of maintaining equilibrium suggestive of the juggling act of every individual and family trying to make a comfortable living in a community close to the largest city in the country; it is also symbolic of the constant balancing act between the built and the open green environment.

HOMEOSTASIS will be installed in the water pool in Mel Lastman Square. Visit any time between July 2 and August 24.

Mel Lastman Square
5100 Yonge Street, Toronto

Thanks to the City of Toronto's Mel Lastman Square and the office of Councillor Filion for hosting this installation.


Photo of Joseph Muscat by G. Akouna
Joseph Muscat's work is diverse; it includes painting, mixed-media, serigraphy, lithography, photography, experimental video and three-dimensional construction. He is Chair of Propellor Centre for the Visual Arts, a Director on the board of the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, a founding member of Le Labo d'art and an associate of Padejo Art Collective. He is represented by the David Kaye Gallery in Toronto, Shayna Laing Art International in Montreal and Danielle Wohl Fine Art, Palo Alto, california. For Oh Dear, Joseph returns to the archetypal house image that has dominated his practice over the years.

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