REVIEWS, ARTICLES, AND CATALOGUE TEXTS:
Rui Pimenta, text for Whatever Form This Moment Takes, Galerie Nicolas Robert, April 2018
For now we see through a mirror, darkly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known
Amidst the visual noise and clutter that seems to be an increasing and inevitable part of everyday life, the work in the exhibition Whatever Form This Moment Takes offers a much needed respite, a welcomed opportunity to slow one’s gaze and enter a more self-reflective state. Aside from demonstrating a high level of rigorous technique, Verburg, through these works, subtly allows for chance and the un-calculated to reveal itself. The pieces presented here convey highly determined sense of form and composition while simultaneously defying these qualities through a radiating sense of ephemerality. It’s as if the work is reduced to a trace of its former self, inviting our eyes to focus on something that exists somewhere between the material and the immaterial - somewhere between form and spirit.
So much of what surrounds us today rarely requires more than a “surface reading”. The idea that something might lie beyond this surface is rarely even a consideration, and something that I often find myself lamenting as I look upon so much contemporary visual art. Verburg helps reacquaint us with the act of seeing, and in doing so to realize how, even though it’s something we are constantly negotiating, we take this immense responsibility for granted. The work presented here is both necessary and highly capable of helping us with and through that negotiation process. It invites us to recognize our blind spots by looking beneath and beyond the surface of things, and existence itself for that matter. They are meaningful precisely because they are profoundly concerned with this task.
The tablet-like shape of these works brings to mind the ubiquitous black-mirrored surfaces of our technological devices, reflecting us back to ourselves both literally and metaphorically. By contrast, there is something essential and radically refreshing about this work which calls upon the viewer to witness both the possibility and impossibility of surface.
To stand, or to sit as the case may be, before these deceptively subtle works, that appear to be in a state of degeneration right before our very eyes, is to experience the paradox that all humans are innately engaged with - of being in the constant state of living towards death, which is the essence of consciousness itself. The creative force of these works seem to lie in their minimal aesthetic and the restraint they exude, revealing a type of erasure that implies their own negation. In doing so, they make themselves more relevant and more of an authority on what presence and existence might actually mean.
In fact, it is not so much that the viewer stands before these works as it is that the work stands between us and something other, something unknown and full of mystery, that we are gently prompted to look upon. In this transaction, the viewer is invited not only to look at, but also to look through what resembles frail pieces of parchment or even weathered textiles. One cannot help but to think about these traditional materials - paper and woven fabric, long used as vehicles of visual information, and how they fade and deteriorate over time. A frailty that even the content they convey does not entirely escape.
It is this eternal condition of frailty that permeates the work. Perhaps it is even the frailty of communication itself, and how we foolishly take for granted that communication, and the promise of understanding is somehow our indisputable birthright. All communication, even when through artistic endeavours, is like the present itself - in a constant state of flux. If it is to remain alive and vital, it is continually in need of the renegotiation that is essential for thoughtful interpretation. In the process of doing this, we ourselves reaffirm our own being in the present moment, and perhaps this is the greatest gift that this exhibition bestows upon us.
For his first solo show in Toronto, Dutch-Canadian multimedia artist Jim Verburg has presented a series of magnanimously minimalist works. With the background in film, photography, bookworks, and installation, Verburg developed the bulk of his current method during a printmaking residency for non-printmakers. Instead of relying exclusively on traditional approaches to this mode of production, he utilizes the tools of printmaking in exploratory and unintended ways, creating monochromatic compositions that stand as a testament to the balance between playful experimentation and a painstaking attention to detail.
Although categorically minimal, several of the works in A Certain Silence are markedly complex in their construction. Verburg has developed a notable method of layering materials in order you achieve his characteristic glow or “hum”. By painting directly onto a sheet of clouded Mylar, hinging it on plexiglass then setting it in front of the second piece of painted Mylar, he creates delicate portraits of depth, focus, and texture. This play of surface on surface adds dimension to the subtle visual noise already present where dust and debris prevents the transfer of ink from roller to support. With a sustained gaze, viewers will uncover moments of pure vibrating energy as though the paintings themselves are alive with breath. This is ever-present sense of movement is confident and exact, but still open to the rich history of an undefined present. As though aware of their own transience, the works seem to communicate an awareness of astounding beauty tempered only by the latent whiff of a pensive sadness.
Present also in these cascading tonal gradients and overlapping geometries is the pressure, resistance and rhythm of Verburg’s own body passing the roller back and forth over the pictureplane. The works are like monuments to the paint, ink, and powder graphite, and charcoal that made them. They revel in the nature of their material so that sheet of starched cotton tarlatan becomes yet another perfectly-suited medium for transference of a new optical unconscious. This is, in the end, an exhibition of unity, both universal and tangible. Each piece features distinct horizon and borderlines that delineate space for a more focused meditation. In particular works such as Untitled (afterimage) read like ancient philosophy, turning our thoughts both inward and outward. Our direct experience becomes a surrendering to what was, and what is yet to be. In this way, we are presented with the idea of perfection, so that moments of emptiness serve only to strengthen our experience of being here now. It is almost as though the works are holding on to our deepest secrets, not out of greed, but for the sake of a true and examined connection to a life worth living.
Painting in the guise of photography: Jim Verburg’s monochrome works evoke old photographic processes, Nicolas Mavrikakis
(translated by Jo-Anne Balcaen from the original text: Quand la peinture se donne des allures de photo, Les oeuvres monochromes de Jim Verburg évoquent les anciens procédés photographiques, Le Devoir, 17 septembre 2016)
Just what are the black and white monochromes – currently occupying the exhibition space at Galerie Nicolas Robert in such a minimalist way – really all about? Are they yet another study on the specificity of painting, or paintings about painting? Not quite. Jim Verburg knows how to play with our perception of things and with the tools of artistic production.
His black works, which form the series Metaphysical Obstacles and The Acceptance of the Inevitable, appear to be scientific photographs taken by a telescope, or an electron microscope, or perhaps even by some other, newer technology. At first glance, the viewer may pause and wonder if these images are of atomic or subatomic particles colliding in a particle accelerator. Or perhaps they are closely examining the confines of the universe. For example, Untitled #17 from this series might evoke the starry sky as seen from another planet – or from the moon, perhaps – as with Rober Racine’s 1999 drypoint titled Mare Serenitatis. Another piece, Untitled #12, looks like an image taken from the immense obscurity of the ocean’s deepest depths. Only a few white spots, like air bubbles or condensation on the surface of a porthole, serve as markers in space.
Verburg’s white works, from the series An Accurate Silence, are also clever mimics of the photographic image. There is an aqueous quality to them that reminds us of the (now old) process of traditional photography, where images were developed in darkrooms. Their white rectangles seem to float on a liquid surface, as if still soaking in their chemical baths. They also bring to mind how overexposed negatives would produce photographs that were almost entirely white, and where only a few faint details might suggest the presence of a horizon line or an evanescent landscape.
Photography as the new reference point? In fact, it’s none of these things. These are not photographs, but rather paint applied to frosted Mylar, a type of translucent polyester film, that gives the paintings the appearance of photographs. These works relate to ideas put forth decades ago by the art theorist Rosalind Krauss, whose writings argued that postmodern art saw photography as the new paradigm, the new model, the inevitable new visual image.
Long held in contempt by painters, photography is nevertheless completely ubiquitous today (thanks to advances in technology), and has taken a dominant place in the creative sphere. Photography today has, in a sense, contaminated painting and other forms of artistic expression.
Chance and trans-genre. Jim Verburg arrived at this new form of art making somewhat by chance. During an artist residency in 2014 at Open Studio, a Toronto printmaking centre, he experimented with monotype printing, among other techniques. While transferring ink from a roller onto a monotype plate, he noticed the effects of light and texture created by this thin layer of ink. The results provided a kind of visual richness akin to his previous material explorations. Verburg pushed this research further, spreading thinner coats of ink onto multiple glass plates before applying to a sheet of Mylar. As his gallerist Nicolas Robert explains, this is painting inspired by printmaking techniques, and by monotype in particular.
For the past several years, Verburg has developed a body of work that examines light and its various effects. As the art theorist and artist Alex Bowron stated, Verburg seeks to depict light in its many states, including “reflection, absorption, opacity and translucence.” And it is still the case here, particularly with the white works, where the framing method accentuates these effects. The Mylar is suspended in front of an off-white background, allowing the white paint to stand out even further, to vibrate even, heightening the sense of flotation. These images play with the impression of depth and space in very subtle and sensual ways, giving new, intelligent life to the genre of monochrome painting.
When Light Becomes Form, Alex Bowron, text in A New Relationship Between Reflective Sides, 2015, ISBN 978-0-9921337-5-7
Almost ten years before Mark Rothko’s transition into his now famed method of colourfield abstraction he was already fascinated by the potential for light to act as an instrument of unity and emotionality in art. Rothko had noticed how humans attribute certain emotions to the varying effects of light, endowing it with the power to function as a sort of conduit through which moods can be transferred. It only takes a few seconds gazing at the vibrating optical glow of a Rothko to experience deep emotional connection to the work. There is something specific to abstraction that allows for a clarity of communication between artist and viewer. Abstract works – specifically minimalist monochromes – are atmospheric; they offer non-hierarchical zones for contemplation where the mind is free to wander. They are, in many ways, the purest form of human communication because they do not rely on existing physical forms to represent internal thought.
With this in mind we turn to Toronto-based, Dutch/Canadian artist Jim Verburg. Using a range of techniques that stem from photography, video, illustration, and book art, Verburg is in search of ever-new ways to express the subtle, nuanced, and fleeting affects of light. Each piece originates in the single moment when light is cast into space. In order to harness the embodied emotionality of this moment Verburg employs materials such as charcoal, powdered graphite, and oil-based ink to interact with supports like cotton paper, newsprint, frosted mylar, and vinyl. The resulting compositions perform various behaviours of reflection, absorption, opacity, and translucence. With a subtle self-reflexivity each piece nods gently toward its own internal order, conveying everything from leakage to infinity. Contained within the cascading tonal gradients and overlapping geometries of the work is a personal expression of pathos. It reminds us to be aware of the equal portions of beauty and sadness that each passing moment contains. In Verburg’s work, the ephemeral is eulogized.
Recently, Verburg discovered a new material ally in printmaking. With no prior experience in this method of production he quickly developed an exploratory technique rooted in mindfulness and intentionality. The works in this series contain deep pigment planes and overlapping textures of red, white and black that treat light as both material and subject. They maintain a characteristically clean and ordered appearance, with close attention to detail and a commitment towards experimentation. Applied with careful purpose, each successive tonal zone mimics the affects of a layered transparency. The strength of these works lies not only in the structure of their design, but in the way that they communicate the artist’s ongoing fascination with the balance between control and chance.
Materially speaking, these works can be read more specifically as close relatives to printmaking. Each piece is composed of what is traditionally known as the ‘off-roll’: the act of ridding the roller of excess ink before its application to a matrix (the plate, block, or stone on which the image is prepared). By removing the matrix from the equation Verburg has chosen to use the roller as a direct tool for transferring ink onto to its intended surface. With surprising versatility, the roller produces marks that range from fully saturated fields of pigment, to ordered geometric rows, irregular gradients, and overlapping translucencies.
The density and viscosity in these ‘off-roll paintings’ depend on a wide range of factors. These include the size of the roller, the amount of pressure applied, the speed of each pass, the number of overlaps, and the number of passes. By layering pigment in this way, Verburg is able to build a depth and dimension to each piece that closely mimics some of the more fleeting effects of light. Viewers are offered the chance to be present at the exact moment when light becomes form. With a self-declared long history of ‘obsession’ with light, Verburg has achieved a unique method of capturing its most elusive characteristics. In a sense, he has rendered light physical, transforming it into a tangible material for art-making. The effects of this transformation appear in a variety of ways: sometimes as grainy swaths of semi-translucent grey forms floating in space, and at other times as flickering patches of reflected sunlight, captured within the confines of a smooth white surface. Always monochromatic and composed of simple geometries, and yet, endlessly nuanced in the complexity of their detail, these works possess a deceptively minimalist appeal.
Throughout the process of the building up and transferring of ink there are a great number of elements that can affect the work’s final impression. Each piece in the series emerges out of a careful negotiation between discipline and accident. Every decision made takes into account specific characteristics of the roller, the density and texture of the support, and the numerous markings on the studio work surfaces themselves. The surprise is in the making – from never quite knowing what will show through and what will be absorbed or left behind. Any visual noise that may occur (like the tiny white spots that appear when dust has prevented the ink’s transfer), is carefully monitored in order to control the proportions of solid and uneven forms. For Verburg then, abstraction involves the a strategic calculation of variables that are always already out of his control.
This delicate balance between structure and intuition can be articulated in how the work distills the initial impulses of traditional minimalism. Contained within Verburg’s zones of non-representation are distinctly human geographies that act as indicators towards what we might refer to as an emotional minimalism. Without overtly evoking the emotive, the work does not deny its presence if and when it may happen to surface. By allowing abstraction to embody emotion, Verburg has tapped in to a unique and powerful aesthetic ambience that can only come from understatement. The question of the subject in minimalism is answered by the constant presence of the artist’s hand (in the never-quite-perfect lines and alternating densities of pigment) as well as his consistent attention to the experience of the viewer. There is an engaging sensitivity to these intimate monochromes that serves to massage and encourage, rather than manipulate, the experience of viewing. Nuances and connotations in the work then, evolve both out of the act of making and the act of viewing.
Although minimalism emerged out of a rejection of the overwrought emotional impulses of abstract expressionism, there is a quality of mood present in abstract art that encourages a self-generated sensitivity to the personal. Rothko himself denied any attempt at categorizing his works, insisting instead that they be read as accumulations of his own sense of self. There is something specifically satisfying that happens when we are presented with a non-representational image. At first we insist on defining what it is we see. In the case of Verburg’s varied compositions we might decide that we are looking at spectrums of light or Xeroxed photocopies. Upon further reflection however we begin to allow our minds to settle on the not-knowing. We can appreciate the depth of colour and clean lines of form, but most importantly we begin to see how even formal elements can give way to the work’s own inherent autonomy. By allowing ourselves purpose in such a pause we are able to exist in the very moment that Verburg’s work strives to capture. We can, in a sense, find our own light.
AB: I’m curious if in your practice, you might dedicate or address work to a particular person, movement, history or subject?
JV: In a way, I definitely address work to a particular movement history or subject. I’ve been greatly influenced by the writings of Agnes Martin, and the experience of Rothko’s work in the Rothko Chapel. I wouldn’t necessarily say that the work is dedicated to, or made with these specific artists in mind, more that these are some of the artists who weave spiritual or intangible concerns into their minimal works. Something that I aim to do. I’m definitely interested in the relationships between minimalism and spiritual matters, and in turn, interested in artists who have explored these relationships.
AB: How did you come to know the work of these artists?
JV: When I studied photography, I learned a lot about the major figures in that specific field, but after a gradual move to a more minimal, abstract and multimedia practice, I realized that there were significant gaps in my art education. I knew very little about the prominent artists working with shape, form and minimalism that are currently of great inspiration to me. It has only been in the past few years (through recent studio visits with curators and other artists) that names such as Agnes Martin, Josef Albers, Robert Ryman, and Mark Rothko have come up- artists that I had previously known very little or absolutely nothing about. I believe is during a conversation a few years ago with Sondra Meszaros (one of other artists in this exhibition), she said something like “…similar to Agnes Martin” and I said “who?” It seems odd that any artist today wouldn’t know of these giants, but sadly, painters really aren’t discussed in the photography department. These are a few of the holes in my art education.
Last year I visited the Rothko Chapel in Houston. I was always into the shape and line in Rothko’s work (the images of the work I’ve seen before - those sections, the horizon) but I was so moved by the subtle layered black/blue works in the chapel. I got lost in them as I sat there I saw mountains, fields and then the moon appeared. What is it in this work that elicits this sort of introspection - is it the space? The layered minimalism? The light? It’s amazing that an art work, or a grouping of works can effectively provide a space for being absorbed, lost, reflected inward. There is something about that work that seems so honest. I know that’s a big statement, but there’s something about the spirit or intention in the work that’s coming through when viewing (can an artwork be the vehicle of intention?) Almost impossible to accurately photograph. Martin and Rothko, like the wonders of the world, needing to be experienced in person rather than through a photograph.
AB: I’m interested in the way you describe your relationship to Rothko and Martin, and then, the impact of spiritualism and minimalism. Is there a connection between the formal decision making processes in your work and the manner in which you address spiritualism?
JV: The title of the series that the larger painted white works are from (“An Accurate Silence”), is a reference to the Rothko quote “silence is accurate.” It’s interesting to think about silence as being something that is accurate- that can be defined as such, or defined in any way at all- that silence could be so much more than nothing- something that could connect to so much else- or perhaps the state to achieve in relation to so much else... These beautiful minimal works that both Martin and Rothko have made, these monochromes, these fields of blacks and whites are often (at first look) deceptively simple and in a way starts- or resets the viewer to a rich and full state of nothing where the subtle gesture or line can express or reveal so much. It seems to connect to a different place or provide a different base for the experience of, and the engagement with things that cannot be said, that may not have any words at all. Where a work could almost look like ‘nothing’ in certain light, but can reveal so much when viewed at a different perspective. It’s in these works where I feel a connection to whatever might be considered spiritual- it’s in the undercurrents where all of the good stuff might live, there the less obvious things lie to be pondered.
...The results were surprising and often beautiful. Sometimes the pieces felt like paintings come to life, as was the case with Diane Borsato’s spitpop, in which Valerie Calam did disgusting and hilarious things with her bubblegum – think of a misbehaving cartoon character from Mad Magazine. Other pieces were more explorative and task-based. I’m thinking in particular of Jim Verburg’s Shape and Light #1, in which dancer Justin de Luna manipulated a white rectangle through a shaft of light, creating Rothko-like divisions on his improvised canvas and, later, prisms that revealed wedges of the colour spectrum. Dance, in any conventional sense of the term, came only from de Luna’s determination to direct light and shape, whether this meant lifting his legs to make shadows or twisting onto his side to reconfigure an effect.
...and Jim Verburg's elegant Shape And Light #1, with Justin de Luna, explores in a simple way what happens when you interrupt light. Here, the choreographic teams achieve quiet studies that seem genuinely cooperative.
Marcie Bronson, Curator, Rodman Hall Art Centre/Brock University
Jim Verburg's work is inspired by the transient phenomena of light in everyday environments. Through simple materials and a range of techniques, his works capture and recreate how light passes and illuminates. Emphasizing formal elements of line, shape, and texture, these works are often the result of experimentation and the confluence of planning and chance. Playing with visual perception, Verburg confuses the boundary between the material and the immaterial, giving form to the fleeting and ephemeral experience of light as a means of representing the intangible layers of personal relationships. Meditative and introspective, Verburg's work reflects on the complexities of partnership and communication: the luminous moments of connection, the darkness of discord, and the myriad points in between.
from the press release for the group exhibition Chroma, Inman Gallery Houston, October 30, 2015 – January 2, 2016
Although the most obvious theme to the work in Chroma is the artists’ shared use of mindful process and almost monochromatic palettes, the more telling comparison might be the way in which all three overstep those boundaries. As attentive to their surfaces and materials as they clearly are, none of them shies away from farther-reaching connotations. Gilad Efrat’s diaphanous pastel fields, for instance, are in fact skin-color studies. Jim Verburg’s improvisatory transfer process, accumulating thin translucent layers of oil-based ink, takes on the depth and luminosity of photography. The rich blacks, smooth gradations and nebulae of white specks bring to mind the vacuum of the night sky or an empty scanner bed while staying firmly grounded in touch and technique. Carl Suddath’s folded, dyed and bleached sheets of paper are perhaps the closest to purely concrete objects, but subtle asymmetries and variations of tone breathe space and vitality between the creases.
The affinities between the works are the more striking because these artists don’t, under other circumstances, pursue similar ends. They each arrived at this mutually intelligible language from fairly disparate precincts, and part of the fun is in comparing dialects. Suddath’s work oftentimes implies a function or system, some point of reference that draws it away from uncomplicated abstraction. But his drawings and sculptures never settle into legible representation. Efrat’s paintings, on the other hand, have moved from methodical renderings of photographic source material towards progressively more exuberant mark-making. Jim Verburg expressly imparts emotional character to his treatment of light and transparency. In fact, what unites these artists, and what marks their meeting as noteworthy, isn’t so much that they all find themselves in the same place, but that they’re all just passing through.
In Secret Life (2015), thirteen artists freely build on the theme of the non-religious born-again through text and image. Quiet Spell is the publishing project of Zoë Chan (Vancouver) and Karin Zuppiger (Montreal). Secret Life is the first book in a series that will focus on a specific theme with responses by a range of artists. This is the text that accompanied images from an ongoing series of photographs taken daily over the past few months.
initial notes on the topic born again.
coming from where i came, growing up where being born again was an expected and eventual stop on life’s path…and not to diminish those moments of immense clarity or revelation that can happen throughout a life, but could all these revelatory experiences happen on a more muted level?
it’s kind of a trap - searching for grand moments of clarification or truth - this background of the religious experience (based in feeling or being moved in someway - moved by the spirit - filled with the spirit) the religious lens is thick and lasting, providing a constant expectation of a religious high.
side tangent (but relevant)to accept the paradoxical "all knowing and all loving" idea of god, perhaps one would have to accept the evil in the divine - that all of it needs to be embraced (and not categorized as positive or negative).
what if the darkness is a crucial element of the light, the mundane just as important as the extraordinary?
for me it’s the everyday that has been hard to accept. the extremes, or the desire for the extreme high - the knowledge, the happiness, the infatuation, the love, the rush, the climax.
i’m smart, ugly, talented, privileged and unlucky. whole and aware without perspective.
of course it’s important to shake things up - to stretch, to grow - but the highs can be addictive, and can eclipse the important daily work - the consistency, the routine, the reminders.
what if those moments could happen more often in a smaller way - the realization of what is lucky or unfortunate, ugly and beautiful
if you were travelling you’d have those stories about the crazy things that happen to you in a day - could these things also take place in the daily routine?
there is that delicate balance between accepting where you’re at, and knowing when you need to get out of your circumstances or scenario. as i’m sitting at this cafe typing, everything is possible - i feel good, life is open and everything is OK. If I were home I might feel the opposite.
reminding myself to be still, to walk, to stare, to allow for everything to bubble to the surface to be contemplated or dismissed. this is it - everything you want to be is there already.
Bill Clarke in the article Canadian Highlights at New York's Art Fairs for Canadian Art Magazine online, March 12, 2015
... An introspective and minimalist display by Toronto's Jim Verburg was presented by Zurich gallery widmertheodoridis. Process and materials were paramount here, in works featuring subtle gradients of grey and silver created using transfers onto newsprint, bond paper and mylar. An absolute gem of a piece, Untitled (reflected/repeated/red) (2014), made with oil-based ink painted on glass, and then rolled, transferred and layered onto mylar, looked like a little stained glass window and was sold during opening night.
widmertheodoridis is pleased to present the work of Dutch/Canadian artist Jim Verburg at VOLTA NY. March 5 - 8, 2015
Booth E1, Pier 90 New York City.
Verburg's multidisciplinary work subtly mines the complexities of relationships, and explores the quiet, spiritual, and intangible undercurrents that exist in everyday life. Often working with minimal or abstract shapes and images to create an emotional topography revealing the intricate layers that constitute intimacy, and the harmonies and dissonances inherent in a personal or interpersonal dynamic. His installations take shape as a poetic puzzle - where many individual pieces offer divergent perspectives and sit in relation to each other.
Using light as visual inspiration, he employs various techniques in the creation of this recent body of work. Paint is rolled onto glass, then transferred and layered - powdered graphite is rubbed into translucent tape, cut and rearranged - black vinyl in a corner creates a new relationship between its reflective sides. These processes aren't necessarily tied to conventional disciplines, they are rather the result of an artist engaging with different methods and materials to create layered dynamics of interplay & tension. Verburg couples a minimal design sensibility with emotional concerns, creating a dialog where each tempers and informs the other. These subtle, often quiet works reference a projection or photocopy, offering translucent layers that the viewer is invited to be absorbed by. Shapes and light patterns are photographed and formed, painted, folded, cut, placed, reflected and repeated, providing a visual metaphor for personal reflection and introspection - exploring the subtle layers inherent in everyday thoughts, negotiations, and experiences.
…Jim Verburg's exhibition Afterimage at Galerie Nicolas Robert was particularly strong, tight and playful. I've followed Verburg's work for a number of years and enjoyed witnessing the trajectory of his practice from more overtly photo-based and narrative driven work to a multidisciplinary, formally concerned practice, which always manages to maintain an intimate, minimal and poetic quality. With Afterimage, Verburg (now Toronto-based but formally residing in Montreal) has assembled a cohesive body of work loosely investigating the delicate folds and overlaps of light patterns. The spectrum of line, light and shade, from grey to black, is explored through a variety of media and the works are carefully installed in the gallery, often reflecting one another in mimicking and opposing senses. At the vernissage Verburg told me that the work in the exhibition came out of "play" in the studio, and casual playfulness with a variety of media can indeed be witnessed – from ink and roller prints on newsprint, to work with tape and charcoal, layered sheets of mylar, and more sculptural wall work investigating folded forms, including paint applied directly into a corner of the gallery with seeming spontaneity.
Pamala Meredith, A Numbers Game, In Toronto Magazine, p 30-31, September 2013
Jim Verburg's Test #4 is part of his ongoing (divided/defined) series that consists of a photocopied circle that has been folded and refolded creating multiple lines that bisect its black surface. It is geometric, elegant and precise, but taken in context with the artist's predilection for exploring the intricacies of human relationships, it becomes a poetic mapping and measuring of the fragments that form personal, emotional connections.
Toronto artist Jim Verburg’s work in photography, video, print, installation, and text subtly mines the complexities of romantic and familial relationships. Often working with minimal or abstract images to create an emotional topography, his work reveals the intricate layers that constitute intimacy, the harmonies and dissonances inherent in an interpersonal dynamic. Taking shape as a “poetic puzzle”—where many individual pieces offer divergent perspectives and sit in tension with one another in a shared space—his work here suggests how differences in visual perception parallel the often disparate points-of-view held by individuals navigating relationships.
from the press release from the show Where I Lived and What I Lived For curated by Jon Davies, Oakville Galleries, 2012
As a body of work, Verburg’s compelling and extraordinary pieces provoke us to think about relationships, the connection of bodies, shared spaces, doubt, and the inherent work they require. Verburg’s work is marked by an acceptance of the unseen, the unknown. The pieces in Scenes from Here (gorgeous, fading spots of light and framed, neighboring images of nature and bodies in various states of colour and contrast) challenge not only the often definitively drawn lines of narrative photography, but also suggest the efforts of a stubbornly dedicated emotional cartographer trying to make sense of shifting landscapes and unbeckoned erosions. What is unknown remains so, yet the yearning for it, the striving toward it, toward understanding, is unending. Verburg’s work reminds us of what we are always gaining but also that we have lost something, are always losing something. The hinting, communicatively labeled Untitled (where we’re at) presents two partially overlapping geometric circles demarcated by parallel lines of black vinyl. The viewer is quickly alerted to the overlaps, revisions, gaps, divergent thickets of interpretation, and evaluative difficulties of interpersonal relationships and their dependency upon perspective and location. There is the illustration of a demand here, one that never lets us find a way of taking hold, of clearly defining – subjecting us to the whirling, wrinkling weight of the task of finding a tempo with one another, a companion along impermanent routes, a home in promissory love letters full of honesty and hope. And so we gasp and strain, point out and deny, and ultimately, and to Verburg’s satisfaction, we think and we remember.
There is, in his work, the complete absence of self-indulgence, and instead, the feeling of being led by a masterful and reassuring hand, one that does not simply point out and deny, alert the viewer, however cleverly, to the arrhythmic twists and sometimes unintelligible, low-burning resentments and doubts of relationships. These insights certainly exist in Verburg’s work, but they are matched by a delight in common events, and the bravery and risk involved in leaping forward with someone else. There is caution and celebration, and in One and Two, the concentric lines of trees measuring time and marking distance – here we met, here we folded into one other, here things appeared vividly clear, here we came closer, here we grew apart. This is not only the work of a poetic, patient Romantic, placing us in arresting sceneries, but also a gentle realist who fairly and heartbreakingly stages quiet, prosaic hurt and ordinary disappointments.
The diverse, creative entanglement of mediums – video, photo, text, print, texture, interaction, and installation – draws in the viewer, telling stories of knotted rhythms and punctuated with reminders that our boundaries of singularity are constantly blurring (if we let them), and that the traces of others constantly circulate and resurface. His stories are stirring, beautiful, and contemplative, coming at us in absorbing, reassuring fragments of nature, bodies, light, memory, and love. Verburg reassures us that however precarious and provisional these things might be, we must never stop searching for a place to land, to live, to share. Verburg takes his viewer gracefully to spots of uncertainty and vulnerability, placing us in the inviolate center of relationships, replete, as they are, with unarchivable messiness, fated complications and failures, and intense wonder. And so what is our responsibility to each other, to ourselves, to art, to the natural and social world? “To look!” Verburg might answer.
Five Notes: CONTACT Photography Festival Favourites, Jim Verburg at Circuit Gallery/Gallery 345, Magenta Magazine Online 06/07/2012
Toronto-based Jim Verburg's elegant installation was part of a two-person show (with photographer Eamon McMahon) titled Scenes From Here that looked at "our ambiguous relationship with nature." Both photographers created affecting narratives, but Verburg, by combining photos with some gorgeous abstract prints, pushed the envelope in regards to what constitutes a 'photographic' narrative. Simple gestures, such as hanging images of interior and natural landscapes vertically instead of horizontally, provided visual surprises, while large, moody black-and-white prints of a young man on a beach felt like film stills. Overall, the installation took viewers on a tour through an emotional topography rather than a literal one.
Tess Edmonson, Review, Le Mois de la Photo a Montreal, Various Locations Canadian Art Magazine, Winter 2012, p 134
The most potent works provided attractive alternatives to the prolific auto-portraiture of our digitally enhanced era and instead engaged in considered representations of subjective landscapes (Jesper Just, Luis Jacob, Jim Verburg). Less appealing interpretations of the theme were displays of self-documentation in which the conceptual appeal was obscured by heavy-handed solipsism (Christina Nunez, Claire Savoie).
Mary Reid, Review Haven't We Been Here Before? Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts, Winnipeg, June 9- July 23, 2011, C Magazine 112, International Contemporary Art, Winter 201, p 54-55, ISSN 1480-5472
…Turning around, I am absorbed by Jim Verburg's motion sequence composed of two years of still photographs. Many images are of banal family gatherings and getaways to the cottage, interspersed with some particularly intimate sexual moments, overlaid with a staccato-like clicking and a soft-spoken monologue. "A can't share anything real and you can't talk talk about anything real" and "I am everything you fear about yourself" are two powerful confessions in the voiceover, which are not uncommon sentiments within the dynamics of any relationships. For a Relationship (2007) is thus a haunting and eloquent document of the artist's own attempt to come to terms with his relationship with a closeted family member. Due to its rawness, this work transcends the specific to become a critique of the difficulty of communicating very personal feelings and the consequential failed relationships because of this common human flaw.
Anne-Marie Ninacs, Waiting to See, Lucidity, Inward Views, Le Mois de la Photo a Montreal Catalogue, p 64-71, 199, 269 and 331, Edited by Anne-Marie Ninacs, ISBN 978-2-9808020-3-4
...To plunge into the heart of this tacit rapture, to open it, to expose it and understand its texture is the project that Jim Verburg has set for himself. Here again, the young artist began closer to home, observing the unspoken elements in his relationship with his parents. As the narrator of For a Relationship (2007), he divulges a family member's repressed sexuality while the frenzied animation of thousands of photographs make explicit his own daily reality with his lovers. In Family Album Number One (2009), his mother confides to him that she is the illegitimate offspring of a secret liaison while a palimpsest of images from the family archive parades past. The parallel between the the video and audio tracks in these two works is bot merely incidental but represents the concurrent paths of idealized life and lived experience. By expressing the gap between them, the spoken work acknowledges the taboo borne by the image and diffuses its power. These confessions thus become models of a liberated space between two people in which the truth of what is can be spoken at any moment, a truth without which, the artist tells his father, "nothing is real". Inspired by his current love relationship and increasingly occupied by the influence of our emotional lives on our public lives, Verburg continues to model the infinite subtleties of relational space. In the exhibition One and Two (2011), circles (found in nature, produced by the lens, traced, imprinted, superimposed, animated) take over for human subjects and compose a set of theory constantly relativized by the unstable factors of position, movement, framing, focus and perspective. All the more so in that the artist (who delegated his self-portrait to a growing tree that gives access to his heart) squares the equation by introducing this essential factor; "I forget you're trying to interpret all this as well."
Mark Clintberg, from The Domestic Queens Project, Exhibition Catalogue, Pages 20-23, FOFA Gallery, Concordia University Montreal QC, ISBN 978-0-9868715-0-4
Jim Verburg's Untitled (where we're at) presents two geometric circles formed by narrow bands of black vinyl: the first circle is adhered to the vitrine glass, and the second to the gallery wall behind. The result is a pair of shapes that change position relative to one another depending on the perspective of the viewer. While not a portrait in the conventional sense, Verburg's piece gives a set of variable perspectives on the nature of relations between two persons and is suggestive of romantic or erotic relations between humans, or at the very least, the physical intersection of two bodies. Like the navigational technique of parallax, where the trajectory or location of an object (or subject) seems to change according to the observer's position, Verburg's piece suggests the shifting arrangement of two people in a relationship. It also shows the shifting perspective of the viewer in evaluating that relationship. While the piece does not literally represent any architecture or activity of the domestic sphere, it does convincingly evoke the situation of sharing a domestic space with another person. It uses a small architectural space - the FOFA vitrine - to parallel the close space of a domestic environment. Untitled (where we're at) uses modernist geometric aesthetics to offer a poetic view on the way that individuals do or do not relate, do or do not align.
Erin Silver, Review, The Domestic Queens Project (Domestic Queens:Jim Verburg, Jason Henderickson, Zachari Logan, Ryan Conrad, Liam Michaud, And REB (Richard E. Bump). and 27 x Doug: Larry Glawson) C Magazine III, International Contemporary Art, Autumn 2011, p 39-41, ISSN 1480-5472
If Domestic Queens functions, in a sense, as a home for a series of homes, then I take Jim Verburg's Untitled (where we're at) (2010) as my point of access. Here, a series of vinyl strips form two large distinct circles, one affixed to the gallery vitrine's window and one on the wall behind. Produced over a had a century after Robert Rauschenberg's employment of like forms, notably, the number 8, composed of two circles, which art historian Jonathan D. Katz reads as a "visualization of the conjunction of identical forms, seemingly another oblique pictorialization of the attraction of same to same" Verburg's circles tug and blend into each other, mimicking the tensions and harmonies of interpersonal relationships and the dissimilarities that are born out of likeness.
Mark Clinberg, Frottage: Love affairs in Photography (Part 2) Blackflash Magazine, Art, Photography, New Media, Summer 2010, p 14-15, ISSN 0826-3922
...A case study will assist in testing these waters: the artwork of Jim Verburg, a young Canadian artist working in Montreal and Toronto. Verburg's photographic practice offers a daily account of his romantic dealings, and relationships with friends and family. For a Relationship (2007) is a video made of still photographs the artist has taken over the course of two years; tranquil landscapes, family portraits, erotic assignations, and domestic activities merge to form an archive of two years' lived experience. As I have discussed elsewhere, Verburg's project is diaristic. A voice-over encapsulates the artist's values and also his desire to express his values and sense of interpersonal turmoil to an unknown subject, His hopeful attempts at communication with this individual are riddled with expectations, and are continually foiled. Verburg's video might generate feelings of either sympathy or dispute in the viewer, but since the piece is formulated for public presentation, its status as a genuine emotional performance is compellingly suspect. If we feel for this work, if we manage, in a way, to care not just for its subject, but also for the tenderness and respect that it presents, and for the artwork itself as an object, is our judgment clouded-or enabled? Are we duped by the artist's ability to deposit a performed emotion in the work? The uncertainty that results is abrasive for the viewer.
The uncertainty produced by out possible presentiments of the artist's fakery are part of the lure and potency of photographs of this kind. The abrasion I describe above is part of the viewer's pleasure when confronting a work that begs them to feel. It is a proposition. Any emotion born from the question the work asks cannot be divorced from it's aesthetic content. Though when I confront my position as a writer, I can't help but wish that they could be divided; getting too close to work of this kind can easily result in heartbreak.