Home » Art Gallery as Theatre: Goodwater, Toronto

Art Gallery as Theatre: Goodwater, Toronto

Although it’s the common model, art galleries don’t need to be commercially-driven. In Toronto, many galleries have a hard time, since the market for contemporary work isn’t strong compared to cities like London and New York.

The current work by painter Elizabeth McIntosh on view at Goodwater.
Image courtesy goodwater gallery.

But that’s why alternative models present possibilities that are often more interesting. Goodwater Gallery in Toronto is one such space. Artists are invited to create projects in the space that aren’t tied to the need to sell work. You won’t find nice 40x 50” framed works on the walls at Goodwater.

The current show, by the excellent Canadian painter Elizabeth McIntosh, doesn’t use paint at all. Instead, the main wall is covered, floor to ceiling, in sheets of coloured paper, thumbtacked in patterns. The back wall is covered, similarly in black paper. It’s an unusual show, for a painter.

We walked in and sat down with gallery owner John Goodwin, who showed us some images on his iphone of the installation process. McIntosh made many experiments with various colours and arrangements of backdrop paper that was purchased from a photography shop down the street, and Goodwin documented them all. Seeing these images is important to the exhibition, so you’ve got to ask.

More from the show. Image courtesy Goodwater Gallery.

What makes Goodwater so interesting is that it shifts the awareness of art from the final product (the painting) to where the real value is – in the artistic process.

The real value of ALL art is in the process of creation, not in the final object. The one who gains most from art is the artist – this is where the focus should be. The focus on the market has corrupted contemporary visual art. This needs to change, and Goodwater is a place that supports that change.

Elizabeth McIntosh, Untitled (Sectioned Composition – Triangles & Parallel Lines), 2008.
Image: diazcontemporary.ca

Elizabeth McIntosh, Untitled, 2007. Image: diazcontemporary.ca

Goodwater provides a theatre for artists, a place – like a temporary studio – where they can free themselves and create. And visitors are fortunate to witness the result.

Elizabeth McIntosh is represented by Diaz Contemporary. Click HERE to see more of her incredibly formed and balanced paintings.

12 Responses to “Art Gallery as Theatre: Goodwater, Toronto”

  1. Eric says:

    I’m very happy that non-commercial-oriented galleries exist, and enjoy visiting them, but I often leave wondering how they stay alive? What are the alternative models when it comes to paying the bills? (just curious)

  2. Andrea says:

    Well, as far as I know John at Goodwater has a day job, and runs the gallery in his spare time. I think he also has collectors who buy work from him (so it may not be entirely non-commercial, but I think it is in spirit) and he used to be in partnership with Roger Bywater, who runs Bywater Editions..

    There are also artist-run centres, of course…

  3. JD says:

    Having “collectors who buy work from him” makes it a commercial gallery.

  4. Andrea says:

    Well, I think the model is not primarily commercial. I think he may have a few collectors who are interested in the work that he shows, but from what I understand, it’s mostly his own money (from his other job) that supports the gallery. Maybe I’ll ask him!

  5. Eric says:

    That could make for a great series of interviews actually, finding out what fuels people like John to run a gallery at their own expense.

  6. JD says:

    Some of the dialogue around commerce in the art world can foggy. We applaud non-commercial ventures and yet curse people for not buying art. Galleries sell work and we curse them for taking a commission and creating demand for the work.

    At the end of the day, the money for the production of work has to come from somewhere. Should artists be working part-time jobs to support themselves and their practice? Should we have a more generous Art Council grants program? Or are we happy with the mix of commercial, non-profit, public gallery system?

    Now is a very interesting time for this discussion, being on the heals of a period of an unprecedented number of financially successful. As we are move further into a widespread recession less new work will sell; fewer artists are able to make a living from their work; grants from all sources are declining; collectors are buying less. Will people like John at Goodwater be able to continue funding exhibition spaces?

  7. mmm says:

    If, as you say, “real value in art is the process of creation” then the “final object” cannot be something that is cast aside and deemed irrelevant. The final object is the manifestation of the “process of creation”, the ultimate portal for others to share and evaluate “the process” that the artist went through. You take interest in the installation process but dismiss the “destination” of the process, which can only be the “final object”. Take away the painting and you have no process to.

  8. Andrea says:

    Mmm, good point. I think in the case of the show at Goodwater, the final result isn’t the point, but rather the process is, and I like that the gallery leaves the process open. I do agree, however that with the art object, “the final object is the manifestation of the “process of creation”, as you say.


  9. Julie says:

    Nowadays, most “commercial” galleries are run at the owner’s expense! What’s the difference then?

  10. Andrea says:

    I think there are many ways to run a gallery. A lot of galleries succeed with a standard commercial model, but in Canada and elsewhere in this economy, that is becoming increasingly difficult. So alternatives are popping up, which I think is interesting…

  11. Julie Sass says:

    ELISABETH, I havn’t seen you for so so long. Congrats on this show! Big hug, Julie Sass

  12. Francis says:

    Thanks for putting this review together, I like her paintings but I am not sure if there is much to her premise about it is all about the process and resolution. I think artists for years have commented on the process. On resolution, I think all non figurative artists can decide wherever they wants to finish. It is true even for figurative/representational art.

    Like all the links on your site.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>