Museum London purchases Fanshawe professor's work for permanent display

Header image for Interrobang article CREDIT: GARY SPEARIN
401EXIT232: East and West. Digital print on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Bright White 308gsm paper mounted on aluminum 40 x 100in /101.6 x 254cm (2panels each 40 x 50in 101.6 x 107cm), 2018. Collection of: Museum London

Artist and Fanshawe College Fine Arts Professor, Gary Spearin has reinvented an iconic painting done by Jack Chambers in 1968. His work, 401:EXIT232: East and West was unveiled at the Woodstock Art Gallery and has now been purchased by Museum London as part of their permanent collection.

Spearin had recreated Chambers’ painting of Exit 232 near Woodstock, Ont. off Highway 401.

“This work was created with historic work in mind,” said Spearin. “The painting by Jack Chambers in 1968/1969 was that same bridge in Woodstock off of the highway. So, the main reason I chose to make this my artwork was because I wanted to relate it to that historical aspect. Also, being a London artist and recreating a famous Canadian painting sort of updates that I suppose. But I also think that the photographic work feels like the contemporary situation of today, of the highway. The highway being a lot more overwhelming, a lot more noise. And definitely, an endless flow of river like traffic that just keeps going on, which it didn’t in the 60s.”

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Spearin further explained that his art piece may have persuaded Museum London because of the local aspect of it. In addition, Spearin felt that it was important for local artists to take advantage of art galleries and artists within their surroundings.

“Museum London purchased this work, and it was originally displayed in Woodstock in 2018 at a show, which again, was there on purpose because it was to acknowledge the bridge and the original painting by Chambers. So, having that local knowledge or for an audience, seeing an exhibition, having that local experience, reiterated, or presented it in a different way in the art gallery kind of gives people an advantage when they’re looking at their work.”

Appropriately, the work will now call London home.

“So yeah, having that local aspect certainly probably ignited Museum London, as well as the historic aspect of Chambers’ painting. All of those things are important to London, London’s art community,” said Spearin.

Past images have always been inspiring and been of great interest to Spearin. His fascination with historic artwork is what leads him to recreate previous art.

“Chambers’ painting is something I’ve known about for years. I would drive on that highway and kind of search the viewpoint from the original painting. I kept thinking where is this place? So finally, I looked closer and found where it was. So that was an interest of mine, and in the past, artworks of mine have dealt with historical artists and where they’ve been especially more locally.”

Moreover, Spearin said that incorporating a variety of qualities from our daily lives into a piece work enhances the artistic nature of it.

“These past images have been inspiring, also with this piece, the highway is used all the time. It’s a part of our daily life and infrastructure as well as the economy and politics. With all that in mind, I felt that it was kind of important to bring all those things together and make a work that acknowledges all those aspects.”