Leave it to Douglas Coupland to change the façade of Oshawa’s Robert McLaughlin Gallery with eccentric humour. His new public art installation there, Group Portrait 1957, offers 11 circular shapes that, according to Coupland, “contain concentric rings which are then placed above a painted white metal framework so that in symphony, all 11 forms become ‘transmitters.’” What is transmitted is a clear-cut reference to the history of the RMG as a haven for the works of Toronto abstract art collective Painters Eleven; Coupland’s sculpture functions as a group portrait of them.
As part of his process, Coupland requested an archival portrait of the artists from the RMG, then researched the colours that were most prominent in their individual paintings. Each set of circles represents a different artist: from Jack Bush and Harold Town to Hortense Gordon and Kazuo Nakamura, all members are rendered as a type of abstract art in themselves. Linda Jansma, curator at the RMG, notes that “Coupland is architecturally contributing to a building that was built by a friend of his, Arthur Erickson, so it became an unexpected collaboration between colleagues. And these additions mesh perfectly with the gallery’s original mandate of collecting and exhibiting the work of Painters Eleven.”