Oeno Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by Toronto-based artist Ben Woolfitt. Accompanying the exhibition is the book launch of "Ben Woolfitt, Paintings" with essays by renown art critic Donald Kuspit and former editor of Canadian Art Richard Rhodes.
Woolfitt (b. 1946, Saskatchewan) moved to Toronto in 1965 where he studied at York University and explored the local art scene. Intense artistic experiences came through workshops at Therafields, an experimental psychotherapeutic commune in Toronto which he joined in 1969. He participated in the group until the late 1970s. A cornerstone of Therafields was the therapeutic expression and analysis of emotions, a theme which runs through many of Woolfitt’s artworks.
Woolfitt had his first solo exhibition in 1969, at Founders College, York University after travels to NYC where he drew inspiration from the paintings of Hans Hoffman, Jules Olitski and Jackson Pollock. In the 1970s, Woolfitt exhibited with Toronto art dealer Olga Korper and ran a school of contemporary painting. In 1978, he launched a successful art supplies and picture framing business. During this time, Woolfitt turned to working on paper but by the 1990s returned to acrylic on canvas.
In his paintings, Woolfitt applies layers of acrylic on canvas over a period of time, even months, to create a dynamic, flowing impasto. Each painting is a narrative of the process of its creation, the experience of applying paint – how it flows, its texture, quantity. Woolfitt’s canvases are “at once inviting and intimidating, awesome and unsettling,” wrote New York art critic Donald Kuspit in Therapeutic Abstraction. Kuspit is publishing two books on Woolfitt’s artwork in the spring of 2018.
Woolfitt’s works on paper, in contrast to his paintings, are diaristic expressions that incorporate frottage, graphite and black pastel. The application of silver leaf and hand written phrases complete these poetic images. These works were exhibited in Woolfitt’s solo show at the Canadian Embassy’s Prince Takamado Gallery in Tokyo in 2011. Reviewed in Canadian Art by Ken Carpenter, the show that included a 55 page catalogue with text by Dennis Reid, former chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, was an important moment in Woolfitt’s career. Reid, who included Woolfitt in his third edition of A Concise History of Canadian Painting, wrote that the artist’s use of text was “evidence of the artist’s aspirations, anxieties, his deepest feelings and concerns, all laid out for our consideration.”
Woolfitt’s artworks are held in numerous private, corporate and public collections including the MacLaren Art Centre, Hart House at the University of Toronto, the Remai Modern and the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Most recently, Woolfitt has launched the modern.toronto a museum in the city dedicated to abstract painting.