Imaging Bacteria: Jon Sasaki’s New Photographic Work
Jon Sasaki’s recent photo-based work situates itself decisively at the nexus of humour, history, art and science. Three works in particular, Microbes Swabbed From a Palette Used By A.J. Casson, Microbes Swabbed From a Palette Used By Frederick Varley, and Microbes Swabbed From a Palette Used By Tom Thomson, all from 2013, embody Sasaki’s characteristic critical wit; the delicate abstract formations are bacterial cultures, grown in Petri dishes and born of microbes culled from paint palettes. Enshrined at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection, the palettes belong to late members of the Group of Seven.
A nod to the history and mythology of Canadian art and a persistent fascination with landscape, the microcosmic bacterial formations, while formally abstract, hint to painterly landscapes in their subtle tones, organic structures and tectonic shapes. The process of swabbing Group of Seven palettes speaks to a different mythology: that of the ‘Great Canadian painter.’ Is the use of such specific microbes, tied inextricably to the individual painter, an homage to the artist – or a clever critique of artistic genius? Regardless of critical intent, the inherent visual variety of the work affords each image a personality and the ability to act as a portrait of the artist whose palette microbes were used.
Sasaki’s photographs bridge the methodical and the mythological, re-imagining both the traditional Canadian landscape painting and the artist-worship trope. His employment of science-based methods in artistic practice works to undermine harsh disciplinary categories. Classification is cast off playfully; at the site of this betrayal, a rare experience of simultaneous wonder and amusement is afforded.
These and other new works by Jon Sasaki are on view at Jessica Bradley Gallery in Toronto from January 12 through March 16, 2013.
More of Sasaki’s work can be seen here.