Serial Works
Paintings and drawings by Barbara Caruso
October 20 to November 20, 1999
Opening reception Saturday, October 23 from 2 - 5 pm.
Artword Gallery, 75 Portland Street, Toronto

An Essay by the Artist

My paintings are about colour, its energy and activity, its interaction and interdependence. My drawings are about the elements that constitute the work: line, direction, shape and surface. My work is abstract or non-objective, and it is rigorously planar. Since 1984, I have been working with irregular shapes on an orderly plane in my paintings and in my drawings.

The works in this exhibition present forms of seriality. In each series, the works can be viewed separately, in groups within the series, and ultimately as a series of interrelated works that together continue and complete each other to become one work.

The Paintings

On Redness #1-4, On Yellowness #1-4, and On Blueness #1-4 are three works, each consisting of four paintings. Each of the three series is focused on a primary colour. The four paintings in each series sustain a primary colour in four variations as coloured grounds. The relationships of the colour-shapes on the coloured ground to each other in each painting are as vital as the relationships of the colour-shapes, both as colour and as shape, between the four paintings in each serial work. The works were made to emphasize a particular aspect of the serial and were the consequence of the body of work that preceded them.

Chronologically, the seven small Eureka paintings are the earliest paintings in this exhibition. They are single, separate works, not a series. Seen together here, they show a consistency of purpose by which I pursued a diversity of colour and shape. In each painting, four shapes create two more highly irregular plane shapes; one is at centre, the other is a surround shape. These paintings grew out of an earlier approach taken in drawings that failed and that I have abandoned. The change from line (drawing) to colour (painting) clarified what I was after and gave impetus to the works that followed. The title of these seven small paintings reflects the breakthrough I believed I had made.

Three paintings, On Redness (red and blue), On Yellowness (yellow and red) and On Blueness (blue and yellow) followed the Eureka paintings. They were made as single works, but their colour, that is, the primary relationships within each and between the three paintings, have made them a group or series: three paintings as one work.

The three series of four paintings described above are the outcome of these 10 paintings. In them, six colour-shapes reduce to five, to four, then to three shapes on a primary ground. All is red, yellow and blue.

The Drawings:

Configuring #1-9. In this series, each drawing is complete in itself. The white page and the irregular shapes drawn on the page are in interaction. The surface of each shape is drawn with lines in directions relevant to its boundary. Each shape's surface is particular and integrates the white of the paper. The series shows a relatedness that turns similarity into difference. The drawings may be viewed singly or in groups of three, but it is as a series of nine that an essential constancy and continuation is realized and completed.

In Van Doesburg's Alphabet only horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines are drawn. Each letter-form is a square and I have drawn the square shape to co-operate with the square plane of the paper. The serial aspect of these works depends on the alphabet itself. One reads the letters from A to Z in their traditional positions. The series of drawings is understood by the serial form of the alphabet - each letter is separate from each other letter; each is defined by the letter that precedes and follows it, but the series is complete only when all 26 drawings are present. For this reason, I have included Van Doesburg's Alphabet in this exhibition.

There are 22 paintings and 36 drawings in this exhibition. They occur as single works and as serial works and are shown here in that manner. The extraordinary space of the Artword Gallery has allowed me to present groups of works as one work as well as show the chronological development that led to their realization. I want to thank Judith Sandiford, Curator of the Gallery, for the invitation to exhibit and the opportunity to mount this show.

Barbara Caruso,
October, 1999


BARBARA CARUSO graduated from the Ontario College of Art in 1965. She lived and worked in Toronto until 1985; she now lives in Paris, Ontario.

Since 1966, she has mounted twenty-one solo exhibitions. In public galleries: The Library & Gallery, Cambridge (1996); Blackwood Gallery, University of Toronto in Mississauga (1994); Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery (1988); Lynnwood Arts Centre, Simcoe (1994 and 1987); Erindale Campus Gallery, Mississauga (1983); Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston (1979); the Gallery/Stratford (1977); Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown, P.E.I. (1977); Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University, Sackville, N.B. (1975); University of Alberta, Edmonton (1974).

Solo exhibitions in private and co-op galleries include: Artword Gallery, Toronto (1999); Workscene Gallery, Toronto (1991); Manning Gallery, Toronto (1986 and 1985); A.C.T., Toronto (1982); The Pollock Gallery, Toronto (1973); Gadatsy Gallery, Toronto (1973); Aggregation Gallery, Toronto (1971 and 1970).

She has participated in numerous group shows including: in Montreal, The Empirical Presence (1991); in Woodstock, Ontario and touring, Formalist Encounters (1986-87); at Harbourfront in Toronto, Stimulus '78 (1978) and Festival of Women and the Arts (1975); at XXI Olympiad, Montreal and in Paris, France and London, England, Abstractions (1976-77); in Binghamton, N.Y., Festival of Canada (1971).

Her work is in public collections including the Canada Council Art Bank, the AGO, University of Alberta, Agnes Etherington Arts Centre, the Hamilton Art Gallery, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, the Gallery/Stratford, Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and in private collections in Canada and the U.S. She has received awards from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council.

She was editor and printer/publisher of Seripress (1972-1980) publishing visual and concrete poetry. Her writing on art has appeared in Canadian art and literary publications. In 1986, an issue of Open Letter was devoted to her work.