FIFTEEN: new paintings from the quodlibet series

Statement for a 2007 Weiss Gallery exhibition

The fifteen new QUODLIBET paintings in this exhibition are part of an ongoing series begun in the summer of 2003. One of twelve Canadian painters invited by the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts to produce a twelve by twelve inch painting for a limited edition portfolio of reproductions, I did a painting of marbles in a small ceramic vessel. This painting was interesting enough for me to do two more, then seven more of suckers and other candies; seven of grapes, lemons, limes and plums, five of another set of glass marbles, some accompanied by an old friend the rose, and six of marbles with a small Mexican pre-Columbian vessel.

Modest in size, measuring twelve by twelve inches or ten by fifteen inches, the Quodlibet series has now grown to nearly fifty paintings.

A small acrylic painting by John Hall titled Quodlibet IV

Quodlibet IV

A small acrylic painting by John Hall titled Quodlibet XVI

Quodlibet XVI

A small acrylic painting by John Hall titled Quodlibet XXXI

Quodlibet XXXI

A small acrylic painting by John Hall titled Quodlibet XLIV

Quodlibet XLIV

I stumbled upon the fairly obscure word quodlibet while doing a search for an appropriate title for the first Quodlibet painting. I liked both the look and sound of the word, although the more I thought about its meaning the more it seemed to strike just the right tone. I intend QUODLIBET to have its philosophical meaning rather than its musical one (a typically humorous medley). The meaning I prefer is “a philosophical or theological issue presented for formal consideration”. So, just what is the “issue” being presented for consideration in these paintings? That an almost wholly artlessly depicted set of ordinary objects can be considered art. By artless I mean paintings that eschew the qualities frequently considered central to works of art. Overly active surface notation, usually in the service of emotional expression or decoration, and pictorial distortion, also used for the same reasons, are the qualities these paintings avoid. Nevertheless, quite apart from any other considerations these paintings manifest my ongoing passion for describing the appearance of often-overlooked common and everyday things.

The fifteen paintings in this exhibition comprise five groups of three paintings each. Each sub-set is initially defined by the “subject” chosen, and consistent with the earlier paintings in the series the subjects are modest: small polished pebbles, used paintbrushes, Liquorice All Sorts, tape measures. The objects chosen then become the occasion for examining questions of compositional and technical presentation. For example, the following two paintings represent my interest in informal and formal compositional presentation. In QUODLIBET XXXI, the painting second from the right, the pebbles appear to have been scattered in an almost careless fashion and recorded in a similarly neutral manner, while the stones in QUODLIBET XLIV on the right have been arranged symmetrically, resulting in a composition that is more clearly formal and deliberate. Similarly, the lighting conditions and resulting colour qualities present in the two paintings enhance the initial decision to present the stones in an either formal or informal way.

John Hall

November 2007

Photo of John Hall in his West Kelowna studio