Biodata of the Artist
An Exhibit of the Pygoya Webmuseum

 

ROBERT J. DOWNING
Toronto, Canada

me.jpg (13537 bytes)    


Summary:                My work has been included in 77 exhibitions in 7 countries and I have completed 16 commissions in 3 countries.  I have also taught various aspects of the fine arts in 8 colleges and universities in 4 countries, as well as serving as an art consultant to IBM, Texaco and the Hong Kong Productivity Council.  At last count, 184 examples of my work reside in 31 public collections in 5 countries.

During my years as a practicing artist I have passed through many "periods."   Some of that work is best described as personal explorations.  Some as social statements.  But overall, I've been given to make art in celebration of life; as a humble song of praise to the Divine Creator of All.

Academic classification: Post-Modernist. 1966 forerunner of the Pattern and Design Movement.  First artist to represent Canada with a solo exhibition in a major European public gallery, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England, 1969.  Offered the first retrospective exhibition of an artist's life's work on the WWW,  in 1998, while serving as Artist-In-Residence at the University of Toronto's Dynamic Graphics Project.

 

Listed:        Marquis Millennium Edition,    Who's Who in the World.
                         University of Toronto Press,     Canadian Who's Who.

Elected Member Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, 1979

Elected Member Ontario Society of Artists, 1971     

Elected Member Sculpture Society of Canada, 1968 

Founding Member Canadian Artists Representatives, 1967  

Served As  Royal Canadian Navy Photographer, 1952-57

 

chop.gif (1288 bytes)

SOLO EXHIBITIONS

 

Dec. 5 - Jan. 10 1997

THE JAPAN FOUNDATION, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Breathing The Songs Of Birds: 108 Computer Graphics

Nov. 19 - Jan. 12 1992

ART GALLERY OF HAMILTON, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Curatorial Laboratory Project #8: DOCUmeditations,
The Robert Downing Archive

Nov. 15 - Feb. 15 1985

A ROOM IN THE ARTIST'S HOME, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Closet Art, A Priceless Installation Piece: DOCUmeditation Works

1981

COLLEGE PARK, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Light Crystals: The Fibonacci Series of Sculptures

1978

LIBRARY & CULTURAL RESOURCES CENTER, 
City of Huntington Beach, Ca., USA
Nothing Equation: One Geometrically Interconnected Sculpture in 8 Parts

1973

UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Portions of The Cube Series: Sculptures & Reliefs

1972

ROBERT McLAUGHLIN GALLERY, Oshawa, Ontario, Canada
Portions of The Cube Series: Traveled To -

RODMAN HALL, St. Catharines, Ontario
PUBLIC LIBRARY & ART MUSEUM, London, Ontario
ROTHMANS ART GALLERY, Stratford, Ontario
UNIVERSITY OF GUELPH, Guelph, Ontario
CENTENNIAL GALLERY & LIBRARY, Oakville, Ontario

1971

GALLERY HOUSE SOL, Georgetown, Ontario, Canada
Cosmokit & Early stages of The I'Ching Series

1970

YORK UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Portions of The Cube Series: Sculptures, Reliefs & Drawings

1969

WHITECHAPEL ART GALLERY, London, England
Portions of The Cube Series: Sculptures, Reliefs & Drawings

1968

GALERIE AGNES LEFORT, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
The Exploding Cube Group of Sculptures

DUNKELMAN GALLERY, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The Beginnings of The Cube Series

 

 

GROUP EXHIBITIONS

 

1988

SINGAPORE SCIENCE CENTER, Republic of Singapore

1986

NATIONAL GALLERY OF BOTSWANA, Gaborone, Botswana

1981

KOFFLER CENTER, Toronto, Canada,
Sculpture Society of Canada Exhibit

1979

AMERICAN FILM INSTITUTE, Los Angeles, Ca., USA

DAVID MIRVISH GALLERY, Toronto, Canada,
York University Fine Arts on Markham Exhibit

1978

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTE, Washington, DC., USA,
Sculpture Today/Canada

SCULPTURE SOCIETY OF CANADA, Touring Europe & USA

POLLOCK GALLERY, Toronto, Canada,
10th International Sculpture Conference

1977

LONNY GANS GALLERY, Los Angeles, Ca., USA

HARBOURFRONT ART GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

1976

BRAITHWAITE ART GALLERY, Cedar City, Utah, USA,
Sculpture Competition

LONG BEACH MUSEUM OF ART, Long Beach, Ca., USA,
CSULB Faculty Show

1974

PETER WHYTE GALLERY, Banff, Alberta, Canada

1973

CENTENNIAL GALLERY & LIBRARY, Oakville, Ontario, Canada

CITY HALL SCULPTURE SHOW, Toronto, Canada

LILLIAN MORRISON GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

ESTEE GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

BURNABY ART GALLERY, Burnaby, BC, Canada,
Mystic Circle Exhibit, Traveling Canada

1972

WINNIPEG ART GALLERY, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada,
Rental Library

ONTARIO SOCIETY OF ARTISTS, Toronto, Canada,
100 Years Exhibit

DAYSPRING FESTIVAL OF THE ARTS, Toronto, Canada

MARLBOROUGH-GODARD GALLERY, Toronto & Montreal, Canada

1971

ROBERTS GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

ARTS COUNCIL OF GREAT BRITAIN, London, England
Eight Individuals Exhibit, Traveling Great Britain

MIDDELHEIM PARK, Antwerp, Belgium,
11th Biennial of Middelheim

CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION, Toronto, Canada,
New Media Exhibit

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Jewelry Show

HAWTHORNE SCHOOL ART AUCTION, Toronto, Canada

GALERIE GODARD LEFORT, Montreal, Canada

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Recent Vanguard Exhibit

ROBERSON CENTER FOR ART & SCIENCES, Binghamton, NY, USA

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Signs & Symbols Exhibit, Traveling Ontario

1970

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
3-D Into The '70s Exhibit

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Sensory Perceptions Exhibit, Traveling Ontario

1969

ROBERTS GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

RICHARD DeMARCO GALLERY, Edinburgh, Scotland,
Two Person Show With Jack Wise

1968

ROTHMANS ART GALLERY, Stratford, Ontario, Canada,
Sculpture '68 Exhibit

WELLS GALLERY, Ottawa, Canada

MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ART, Montreal, Canada,
Survey '68 Exhibit

HUDSON GALLERY, Detroit, Michigan, USA

GLENHYRST GALLERY, Brantford, Ontario, Canada

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Artist's '68 Exhibit

PENELL GALLERY, Toronto, Canada,
Two Person Show With Sally Downing

CANADIAN NATIONAL EXHIBITION, Toronto, Canada,
Artist's Choice Exhibit

BROOKLYN MUSEUM, Brooklyn, NY, USA,
E.A.T. Competition

1967

NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA, Ottawa, Canada
Sculpture '67 Exhibit at Nathan Philips Square, Toronto

THREE SCHOOLS ART AUCTION, Toronto, Canada

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO, Toronto, Canada,
Plastics Exhibit

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO, London, Ontario, Canada

EXPO '67, Montreal, Canada,
Habitat Display

ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL, Toronto, Canada
Ontario Centennial Art Exhibit, Traveling Ontario & Quebec

ERINDALE COLLEGE, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

1964

JOHN PACE GALLERY, Laguna Beach, Ca., USA

WOODEN HORSE GALLERY, Laguna Beach, Ca., USA

1962

VANCOUVER ART GALLERY, Vancouver, BC, Canada,
Sculpture Symposium

1961

WESTDALE GALLERY, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

POLLOCK GALLERY, Toronto, Canada

1960

ROBERT ULMAN STUDIOS, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

1956

MILITARY HEADQUARTERS BUILDING, Ottawa, Canada
Royal Canadian Navy Salon of Photography (Awarded Honorable Mention)

 

 

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

Serafino Babini, Simultaneita, Italy, October 1998

Greg Quill, The Toronto Star, May 31st, 1998

Ihor Holubizky, Shape Shifters, Art Gallery of Hamilton, 1998

Barbara Caruso, Work Seen Artists Forum, Spring 1992

Jennifer Fisher, Art Gallery of Hamilton Catalogue, 1992

Julian Rowan, College Park Exhibition Pamphlet, February 1981

Robert Gretton, Canadian Architect, July 1978

Kay Kritzwiser, The Globe And Mail, April 1971

Dr. Theodore Heinrich, Arts Canada, November 1970

Michael Greenwood, York University Catalogue, November 1970

William Townsend, Canadian Art Today, Published 1970

Edward Lucie-Smith & Patricia White, Art In Britain 1969-70,

Dennis Young, Whitechapel Art Gallery Catalogue, July 1969

Paul Overy, Financial Times, July 1969

Bryan Robertson, Studio International, July 1969

Anita Aarons, Allied Arts Catalogue of Canada, October 1968

Alan Walker, Time Magazine, (Can. Ed.), February 1968

Dorothy Cameron, National Gallery of Canada Sculpture '67 Catlg.

Note:  Copies of every article written about the artist and his work are housed
at The Art Gallery of Hamilton with the Robert Downing Archive.

 

 

COMMISSIONS

 

1988

SINGAPORE SCIENCE CENTER, Republic of Singapore
Life-size heads of Newton & Einstein.   Chrome painted fiberglass-reinforced-polyester

1987

ESSO SINGAPORE Pte. Ltd., Republic of Singapore
Organized select group of students from La Salle to assist with construction of a 3 m L. X 2 m H. X 2 m D. mirror polished stainless steel and brushed aluminum sculpture.  Used as focal point on 22nd National Day parade float, and then permanently installed at Singapore's National Theater.

1981

WESTINGHOUSE CANADA LTD., Toronto, Canada
One fiberglass-reinforced-polyester wall mounted relief sculpture, (in 3 parts), 7'L. X 3'H. X 6"D. overall.  Installed in the main entrance to their head office.

1978

JEFFERSON SHOPPING MALL, Louisville, Kentucky, USA
One hanging sculpture, (in 3 parts), composed of polished aluminum, brass, rusted corten steel and colored fiberglass-reinforced-polyester.  Each of the 9'L. X 4'H. X 5'D. units revolve independently.

1976

UNITED GAS PIPE LINE COMPANY, Houston, Texas, USA
One welded and polished brass wall mounted sculpture, 6'L. X 2'H. X 1'D.

MONA DOBSON RESIDENCE, Newport Beach, Ca., USA
One bronze metalized, welded steel, wall mounted sculpture, 5'L. X 2'H. X 1'D.

1975

THE VALLEY BANK OF NEVADA, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
One bronze metalized, welded steel, wall mounted sculpture, 9'L. X 3'H. X 1'D.

1972

SHERATON CONVENTION CENTER, Toronto, Canada
Set of six motion finished aluminum and acrylic modular wall Reliefs, each 7'L X 7'H. X 9"D.  And one free standing acrylic and carved aluminum sculpture, (in 2 parts), 12'L. X 8'H. X 4'D.

1971

BERNARD & RUTH BETEL RESIDENCE, Toronto, Canada
Stained Glass Window.  Hexagonal design with aluminum edging, 7'H. X 5'W.

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
One multi colored acrylic and polished aluminum modular hanging sculpture, 12'L. X 9'H. X 5'D.   Installed in Student Services Building.

1968

MOHAWK COLLEGE OF ART & TECHNOLOGY, 
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Two welded and polished aluminum sculptures.  One free standing, (in 2 parts), 16'L. X 9'H. X 8'D.   And one wall mounted work, 18'L. X 9'H. X 8'D.

1967

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, MEDICAL SCIENCES BUILDING
Two precast concrete sculptured walls, each 44'L. X 11'H. X 4'D.  And one precast concrete mandala relief, 5'L. X 5'H. X 1 'D.

1966

HART HOUSE, UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, Toronto, Canada
Sculptured Styrofoam stage set for Herb Whittaker's production of Lysistrata.

1964

RED DEVIL RESTAURANT, Newport Beach, Ca., USA
Life-size cement fondu head of devil and one wall construction of scorched redwood.

JAN WALLACE ARCHITECTURAL OFFICES, Laguna Beach, Ca., USA
Door panel and entrance table.  Constructed of found objects cast in acrylic, within a square, scorched redwood, lattice.

1963

LAWRENCE HERTZOG, (Film Producer), Toronto, Canada
Life-size sculptured head of his wife Lynn.  Fiberglass-Reinforced-Polyester

 

 

PUBLIC COLLECTIONS

 

NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA

ART GALLERY OF ONTARIO

ART GALLERY OF HAMILTON

BAYCREST CENTER

GLENHYRST ART GALLERY

SINGAPORE SCIENCE CENTER

HART HOUSE GALLERY

UNIVERSITY OF WESTERN ONTARIO

ARTS COUNCIL OF GREAT BRITAIN

MONTREAL MUSEUM OF FINE ART

GLENDON COLLEGE

AGNES ETHERINGTON ART CENTER

LONDON REGIONAL ART GALLERY

SCULPTURE SOCIETY OF CANADA

CITY OF HUNTINGTON BEACH

UNIVERSITY OF SASKATCHEWAN

ONTARIO SCIENCE CENTER

OAKVILLE CENTENNIAL GALLERY & LIBRARY

ONTARIO INSTITUTE FOR STUDIES IN EDUCATION

MOHAWK COLLEGE OF ART & TECHNOLOGY

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO

SINGAPORE NATIONAL MUSEUM

NORMAN McKENZIE GALLERY

YORK UNIVERSITY

GOVERNMENT OF ONTARIO

MOLEPOLOLE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION

UNIVERSITY OF WATERLOO

SINGAPORE NATIONAL THEATER TRUST

NATIONAL LIBRARY OF CANADA

CANADIAN CONFEDERATION CENTER

THE JAPAN FOUNDATION, TORONTO

 

 

GOVERNMENT GRANTS & AWARDS

 

1985     CANADA COUNCIL, Senior Arts Award 'A'

1979     CANADA COUNCIL, Project Grant
   
          ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL, Recommendation Award

1978     ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL, Recommendation Award

1971      CANADA COUNCIL, Arts Bursary Award 'B'

1970     CANADA COUNCIL, Materials Grant

1969     CANADA COUNCIL, Arts Bursary Award 'B'

1968     CANADA COUNCIL, Short Term Grant

1967     ONTARIO ARTS COUNCIL, Purchase Award
   
          CANADA COUNCIL, Short Term Grant

 

 

TEACHING

 

1987 - 88

LA SALLE, (Formerly St. Patrick's Art Center), Republic of Singapore
Lectured part-time:  Sculpture + 3D Design.  Also completed Esso project, which is described under commissions.

1987 - 86

MOLEPOLOLE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, Republic of Botswana
Prepared and implemented a visual and tactile awareness program for secondary school art & design teachers.  Responsibilities included the drafting of a curriculum and physically setting up the art department.  Also contributed toward official opening ceremonies of the World Bank sponsored school.

1981 - 82

ONTARIO COLLEGE OF ART, Toronto, Canada
Lectured part-time:  Foundations of Three-Dimensional Design + Materials and Processes for Industrial Designers.

1979 - 80

SHERIDAN COLLEGE, ART'S SAKE, ONTARIO COLLEGE OF ART, Toronto, Canada       Visiting Lecturer.

1974 - 78

CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY LONG BEACH, 
Long Beach, Ca., USA
Lectured part-time:  Foundations of Three-Dimensional Design and also Directed 495 Class work/study program for graduate students.

1974

BANFF CENTER SCHOOL OF FINE ART, Banff, Alberta, Canada
Summer School Lectures on Patterns in Nature.

1973

APPLEBY COLLEGE, Oakville, Ontario, Canada
Art Program Director:  Grades I through XIII.

1971 - 73

ONTARIO COLLEGE OF ART, Toronto, Canada
Lectured part-time:  Formative Processes and Structural Systems.  Also worked with senior sculpture students to design and build a modular (reusable) corten steel construction fence, 90m L. X 3m H. X m D. - installed during renovation of the Art Gallery of Ontario.

1969 - 71

FANSHAWE COLLEGE OF ART & TECHNOLOGY,
London, Ontario, Canada
Lectured Part-time:  Basic Skills In Art & Architecture.

1967 - 68

UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO, Toronto, Canada
Lectured full-time:  Traditional Methods of Sculpture.

 

 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY

 

1966 - 68  "CUBE SERIES"

An intense study of cube oriented geometric phenomena - as manifested in crystal formations and several classic design doctrines - which led to the fabrication of 108 cube related sculptures, and brought about an invitation to become the first artist to represent Canada with a solo exhibition in a major European public gallery:   Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, England, 1969

1967  "CURTAIN WALL"

Contracted in partnership with Ted Bieler, RCA, to design three interrelated groups of sculptured precast concrete facing panels, for the exterior surface of the five floor Medical Sciences Building, located on the downtown Toronto campus of the University of Toronto.  Still remains the largest complex of sculptured precast concrete in the world.

1971 - 73  "COSMOKIT"

Assisted by the Computer Department at the University of Toronto, designed a children's printing set, utilizing imprint, stencil and transfer processes, to explore a number of hexagonal tessellation patterns, (like snowflakes).  It was produced in a limited edition of eighteen vacuum formed, packaged units, as a Concept Piece.  This direction evolved into the I'Ching Series.

1974 - 77  "FIBONACCI SERIES"

Through physical dissection and analyses of the five platonic solids, discovered a (quasi-crystal) system of combining squares, equilateral triangles and pentagons, and thereby generated a series of two dozen small solid stainless steel castings, as well as one geometrically interconnected work, composed of eight metal powder and fiberglass-reinforced life size sculptures.

1979 - 81  "ART ISn't?"

Became involved in what was soon termed "Socially Integrated Conceptual/ Performance Works" and with guidance from a team of management consultants, wrote to the presidents of Canada's top 500 corporations.  Results included a contract with IBM Canada Ltd., to research and develop a traveling exhibition concept depicting elementary geometric structural principles found in mathematics, art and nature; and a contract with Texaco Canada Inc., to prepare them a cultural policy and then assist in the formulation of their Art Collection Program.  Some of the material accumulated during that period was compiled into a large three ring binder and given the title "Some Letters".  A copy of that DOCUmeditation work was later acquired by The Art Gallery Of Hamilton.

1981 - 83  "TRANSENTIALS OF SPACE"

Viewed as a DOCUmeditation Work, this fully illustrated six volume, 2D/3D Visual Literacy Program, moves step by step from low relief through to high relief, while encouraging hands-on development of problem resolution skills. Functioning within the format of a loose-leaf work/study notebook, each of the 4.25  to 5.50 ratio horizontal pages has been designed for easy transmission or reproduction, in either black & white or color, on any standard image facsimile system.  A Canada Council Senior Arts Award, in 1985, enabled five Canon 400 color copies to be made for various public institutions.  The original manuscript, now encased in a 14" square black lacquered box, remains in the collection of the artists.

1984 - 87  "CLOSET ART"

An Installation Piece which outgrew the confines of two large storage closets and raised the question of how practical it was for a senior artist to continue playing the role of an unpaid custodian of earlier work that had long proven itself to qualify as legitimate cultural property.  By diligent effort and much good fortune, 142 assorted art works were gathered together to establish The Robert Downing Archive at the Art Gallery of Hamilton.  A 250 page DOCUmeditation Work, detailing every stage of those negotiations, is in the collection of the artist's daughter.

1989 - 91  "CONFESSIONS OF A CANADIAN SCULPTOR"
                        ISBN 0-9695387-0-7

Early memoirs, (1935 to spring of '67).  Unfolds the years of growing up in Hamilton, joining the Royal Canadian Navy at age seventeen, later becoming a police constable and then the hippie owner of a San Francisco furniture shop, etc., et cetera.  Published by the artist in a signed and numbered limited edition of 30 copies.  Each book has twenty four pages of laser print visuals.

1991 - 92  "FIRST COME, FIRST SERVE"

A visual essay addressing the question of whether or not current marketing practices are suited to the fine arts.  Consists of a series of 14 different (8 " X 11") Canon laserprint color images.  Each one of these unusual art works was signed, dated, numbered and supplied in a protective plastic sleeve.  The complete set of 14 was done in an edition of 5.

1991 - 94  "THE BITS AND PIECES OF TORONTO ENSEMBLE"

An assemblage of found objects composed into a group of 18 distinct reliefs.  The entire ensemble can be displayed upon a 8' X 20' wall.  This return to a medium used during my student days of the early sixties, represents a determination to remain an artist in the midst of difficult economic times.

1994 - 96  "GEOMETRY REVISITED"

In late 1993 my wife's parents gave her a computer:  An IBM clone with a 114 MB hard drive, 2 MB of RAM and a Magnavox VGA monitor - fully loaded with DOS 5.0.  With my wife's blessing I gradually adopted it.
When I soon ran up against a wall of my own ignorance I boldly approached Professor Eugene Fiume, head of the Dynamic Graphics Project at the University of Toronto Computer Sciences Department, who kindly invited me to make use of the university facilities as their  guest artist.
His teaching assistant, Victor Ng, bravely took me into his care and, among other things, provided me an opportunity to explore the magic of electronic filters, when he scanned unto 1.44MB discs a series of Oriental style black ink paintings I had completed during 1992 - 93.
My friend and mentor, Julian Rowan, had introduced me to the world of chaos theory and fractals back in 1980, but 14 years passed before the people at U of T helped me to realize how completely fractal geometry is linked to the computer.  In making that discovery I wrote to Dick Oliver at Cedar Software in the USA, and in exchange for a printout of my very first computer graphic he sent me his Fractal Vision book and software package, along with the version 18.2 shareware disc of  Fractint, by the Stone Soup group of mathematicians. Quite suddenly, I was up and running.
To give you some idea of the speed at which I ran, it took me more than a year to acquire another 8MB of RAM and a Super VGA video driver for my little computer - only to recognize that the images of fractal graphs on my monitor are a total illusion.  In the traditional sense of a 2D image they simply do not exist.  They are flickering manifestations of mathematical calculations.  They have not been drawn nor painted.  They electronically occur in response to a formulae.  Of course, to a chaotician this is obviously pretty basic stuff, but to an aging artist it borders on the occult.
Anyway, as a result of that veil being lifted everything I'd ever learned about the visual arts somehow got shifted, as I began to come to terms with the fact that I'm no longer making pictures.  Instead, I am manipulating numbers with the aid of a mouse and recording subtle changes to an excited flow of charged particles.  This newly altered perception of things encouraged me to ask different sorts of questions.  For instance, I was given to wonder whether or not some portion of a fractal pattern remains true to itself when it is modified by various filter effects.  After all, I reasoned, one is merely seeing the consequence of one mathematical equation interacting with another - and in the Gertrude Stein mode surely a fractal is a fractal is a fractal.
Through the generosity of friends, in the late spring of 1996 my toy computer was upgraded to something resembling a real machine.  (A 586 Cyrex with 44MB RAM.)  That major hardware breakthrough could be said to have represented one more step along the road towards a better understanding of the visual communications arts & sciences.
108 works from this period were mounted and displayed in a solo exhibition at the Japan Foundation, (Toronto), from Dec. 5th 1996 to Jan.10th 1997.

1997  Jan. - Apr.  "WEB SITE"

In January of that year a new window on the world was opened for me when I was able to acquire a  Modem for my computer and thereby gain access to the Internet.  By the end of the first week of March I had learned Microsoft's FrontPage web design software well enough to upload my first web site to Canada On-line.

1997  June - Aug.  "CLOSET ART #2"

In late June an array of over 500 of my unsold art works, displayed on the crowded walls and shelves of our two bedroom apartment, suddenly became overbearing.  In setting out to make some breathing space, it took me nearly two months to clean and package everything I could lay my hands on and stack it in the closet of the room which I use as my studio.  I gave it the title, "Closet Art #2."

1997  Sept. - Dec.  "NEW BEGINNINGS"

In mid November my friend, Prof. Eugene Fiume, appointed me Artist-In-Residence at the University of Toronto Dynamic Graphics Project - and offered to host my Web Site.  Hence, I tackled the redesign and updating of this site, with the objective of presenting a retrospective exhibition of my life's work on the Internet. 

1998  "TRANSITION"

I am tempted to title this phase, "Never Ending."  Because it seems to have brought a never ending stream of discouraging news.  I wont list everything, but here are a couple of examples.
The year started off well enough when my friend May Doherty gave me a new Dell Dimension XPS D300, complete with 128 MB of Ram.  As a gesture of gratitude for her kindness I gave her 12 mounted works from the Brush Painting Series.  Things began to go "funny" when she attempted to donate the 12 works to the Princes Margaret's Hospital Foundation in memory of her late son, who had died from cancer at that same hospital.  The Toronto Star article of May 31st, 1998, makes clear that not only were the works rejected by their donations committee, but that the works were appraised by them as practically worthless.
After all these years as a struggling Canadian fine artist one would think that I'd just shrug it off, as I've had to do so many times in the past.  However, that was not to be the case and it struck me very hard.  I ended up doing a 128 page DOCUmeditation Work for May Doherty, in which I catalogued copies of all the letters exchanged between me and the people at Princess Margaret's Hospital, the appraisers and various Government Officials, including Sheila Copps, Minister of Cultural Heritage.  The upshot was that they all told me to go to hell. My health began to noticeably decline and over the summer I was too unwell to do anything whatever.
Somewhere in the distant past I'd set myself the goal of presenting a retrospective exhibition of my life's  work on my web site.  In early September I took up that project again and by the end of November I had completed what was, to the best of my knowledge, the first and only such exhibition on the Internet.  By way of closure, and out of a sense of responsibility to my work, I sent out 24 copies of the following press release.  (18 copies to the media and 6 copies to various artist friends.)

PRESS RELEASE
Friday, November 27th, 1998

Robert J Downing,

Artist-In-Residence University of Toronto Dynamic Graphics Project, receives 38 web design awards from around the world for a retrospective exhibition of his life's work on the Internet.

This senior Canadian fine artist worked for a year to assemble and display 16 written works and 138 images on his web site. He believes it now offers visitors a unique picture of his evolution as a photographer, poet, sculptor, painter, print maker, conceptual artist, writer and digital artist.

On the first page of his site he states: During my years as a practicing artist I have passed through many "periods."  Some of that work is best described as personal explorations.  Some as social statements.  But overall, I've been given to make art in celebration of life; as a humble song of praise to the Divine Creator of All.

In addition to his poetry and a short story, the written works include his Early Memoirs:  A 4800 word autobiography in which he humorously describes, among other things, five years of service in the Royal Canadian Navy and over two years working as a police constable in his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

FOR A PRIVATE VIEWING PLEASE VISIT

http://www.dgp.toronto.edu/people/rdowning/

Should you require further information feel free to contact the artist at
(416) 481- 9023

or e-mail rdowning@dgp.toronto.edu

Apart from a single congratulatory phone call from Peter Kolysnyk the response could best be described as silence.  Once again I was more deeply effected than I expected.  Only this time the painful acceptance of the fact that I had been, for years, working in social isolation, seemed to weigh depressingly  heavily and I could not shake off the feeling that my society was sending the message that I should just get lost.
Perhaps it comes with old age.  Perhaps it is the result of living so long with poverty as a constant companion.  Perhaps it is because there are moments I despair when it appears we humans have ruined our planet beyond repair.
Whatever it may be, whether I look at the environment, the national and international art world's, current Government policies, the increase in child poverty around the world, or any other aspect of the so called, Global Society in which I live, I'm afraid I no longer see anything very  "inspirational"  happening.
On the brighter side, I have succeeded in making a small breakthrough in my work.   Inspired by Tibetan religious art, I'm now exploring the integration of multiple images within one larger image.   Needless to say, this has been made possible with my new highly efficient computer - and by the Grace of God.

1999  Jan. - Feb.  "NEVER ENDING"

Professor Eugene Fiume, Chairman, Computer Science Department, University of Toronto, terminated my Artist-In-Residency.  I deleted my web site and disconnected my computer from the University of Toronto. The details of this "turn of events" are recorded in what has turned out to be my final DOCUmeditation Work, titled, "In The Name Of Canadian Culture Eh."  As it happened, this DOCUmeditation Work evolved into a Socially Integrated Conceptual/ Performance Work in late February, when I published 16 copies of the "Work" and distributed them among some of Canada's more influential people.  Words cannot describe my state of mind during the week that followed the completion of that artwork.  There were times when I felt I had declared war against my own country.  My wife said, "It may well be the most significant artwork you have ever done."  I  don't know about that, but I do have to wonder if I'm  done.

1999  May - June  "UNTITLED"

For reasons I've yet to understand, I was motivated to make a desktop publication, of nearly 300 pages, showing the highlights of my life's work.  I bound it into a black loose-leaf binder and sent it off to the Canada Council, along with a request for a senior arts award.  This seemed to be the only way that I could find to present them with my digital art, in view of their unwillingness to accept computer disks.  I'm given to believe that I'll learn the results of my application in January of the year 2000.  (One has to give them an intended project.  My proposal was to continue with my work - whatever that may happen to turn out to be.) 

1999  Aug. - Oct.  "PURUSHA"

During the three weeks following my 64th birthday, the heavens decreed that I should be provided with the right combination of hardware, software and inspiration to make a CD ROM Disk, in the form of a web site, depicting an introduction to my life's work.  The disk includes a small number of digital art works, which may be reproduced, (printed), full-scale.  It has been done in a limited (first) edition of 64 copies.  It has no fixed price.  The recipient is free to give me whatever they may choose.

 

DATE & PLACE OF BIRTH:  August 1st, 1935,  Hamilton, ON, Canada

 

                                                         

 

Note:   The Chop seen here was made by my Chinese brush painting teacher, Dao Yan, (David Wu).  This Chop is a transliteration of my name, Dao Ning, and also the name given to me in the "lineage" traditions of Chinese brush masters. (The student's name associated with the teacher's name.  In this case "Dao.")   He made the chop  in the Han style.  Unfortunately,  some of the integrity has been lost in the process of scanning and then reducing it into a GIF image.  Dao Ning translates into English as, " The Peaceful Way."

 

 

Back to Exhibit Entrance


.