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John Murchie: À rebours


21 January 2023 - 23 April 2023


21 January 2023
23 April 2023

Works by

John Murchie

Curated by

Emily Falvey and Felicity Tayler


A rectangular canvas is painted a vibrant orange. In the centre, the silhouette of a duck cut from smooth acrylic paint is attached. The edges of the duck curl slightly. To the left text reads "Duck Decoy" and to the right "Paint Portrait".

John Murchie: À rebours

About this exhibition

A sense of the impossibility of something just being what it is
—Fernando Pessoa, 1932

John Murchie’s art explores the relationship between order and accident. By focusing on simple actions, such as drawing a line, applying paint, or selecting colours, he seeks chaos in constraint and humour in seriousness. Straight lines end up crooked, evenly applied layers of paint become strange formations, crossword puzzles reveal modernist abstractions. À rebours (Against the Grain) spans fifty years of Murchie’s artistic practice, which found its direction in the 1970s, when he was Director of the Library at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

Murchie is also widely known for his generous mentorship and support of artists and cultural producers at all stages of their careers, his tireless work building artists’ networks, and his significant contributions to artist-run culture in Canada. These contributions have led many artists to express their respect and admiration for him through their work. This exhibition is accompanied by a small selection of these homages done by artists Erin Brubacher, John Haney, Micah Lexier, Deborah Margo, Graeme Patterson, Felicity Tayler, and Tara K. Wells.

Originally from New Jersey, John Murchie immigrated to Canada in 1967 and has lived in Sackville, New Brunswick, for the past thirty-two years, earning a living as a gallery director, curator, writer, teacher, farmer, and cook. From 1972 to 1990 he worked as Director of the Library at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. His art practice spans more than fifty years during which time he published several artist books including A Quiet Evening (1978), Lines (1979), and One Way Ticket (1983). He has had several solo exhibitions and participated in group exhibitions at venues including AC Institute (New York), Dalhousie Art Gallery (Halifax), Articule (Montreal), Mercer Union (Toronto), The Nickle Arts Museum (Calgary), and Open Space (Victoria). He participated in Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival in 2003 and 2008. As a curator, he has organized exhibitions for Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery (Halifax), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (Halifax), the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton), and the Confederation Centre Art Gallery (Charlottetown). He received awards and grants including two Canada Council for the Arts “Curator and Critics” awards, and, in 1995-1996, he was a Research Fellow at the National Gallery of Canada. From 2003 to 2013, he worked as the Coordinator of Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre (Sackville, NB).

Meet John Murchie

John Murchie in discussion with Felicity Tayler

John Murchie joins curator Felicity Tayler for a conversation about the exhibition À rebours, his career and artistic practice, libraries, and other points of connection and divergence.

Image Gallery

Image: John Murchie, Duck Decoy Paint Portrait, 2001, acrylic on canvas, private collection