April 19, 2024

Jen Aitken: Romantic Gestures

Opening Thursday, April 25, 2024
5:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Jen Aitken will be in attendance. Snacks and beverages will be served.

Artist’s Talk
Saturday, April 27 at 1:00 p.m.

Opening and Artist’s Talk held in conjunction with
the Art Dealers Association of Canada Art Hop 

TrépanierBaer is thrilled to present Romantic Gestures by Jen Aitken, the artist’s inaugural solo exhibition at the gallery. Widely known for her cast-concrete sculptures, in which stacked and cantilevered architectonic forms seem to morph from different viewpoints, Romantic Gestures features the artist’s most recent work titled Palaces, a series of small scale sculptures, and their accompanying drawings. These immobile geometric configurations are activated by the viewer’s movements around them.

Based in Toronto, Jen Aitken received her MFA in 2014 from the University of Guelph, and her BFA in 2010 from Emily Carr University, Vancouver. Over the past ten years, she has worked assiduously with her practice steadily gaining recognition and praise through major commissions, solo exhibitions and residencies in Canada and the United States.

In 2023, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery presented Aitken’s first solo Canadian institutional exhibition titled The Same Thing Looks Different. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue with full colour illustrations and texts by curators and art writers. That same year, Presque Vu, her first large-scale public sculpture commission, was installed at the new headquarters of the National Bank of Canada, Montréal. At fifteen-feet tall, this major sculpture is comprised of 6,000 lbs of architectural bronze bar shaped into bands that are arranged together as if frozen mid-movement.

During the summer of 2022, she was in residence at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario where she used the Tom Thomson Shack “…as a studio space in which to create a site-specific installation that responded to the site’s architecture.” The resulting sculpture – which touched the entire width, length and height of the space – is titled The Forest for the Trees, and was on display all summer until October of 2022.

This fall, Jen Aitken will present her first overseas solo exhibition in Shanghai to be held at the Yearly Plan House.

With respect to this new body of work, Jen Aitken has remarked:

My Palaces refer most immediately to Anthony Caro’s tabletop sculptures – they’re constructed intuitively from discrete parts and they are about carving up space…To make the Palaces I start by hand-building ceramic components that mimic the shapes I will later make out of steel bands…Each stage of making these works is in service to the other. This creates an interdependent relationship between the two materials: the fragile strips of ceramic rely on the strength and structure of the strips of steel, and the steel parts conform to the shapes of the ceramic parts, cradling and protecting them, while also lifting them up like dance partners… My Palaces are three-dimensional paintings. It’s in the thickness of their bands and the colour variation and malleability of their materials. But it’s also because they share a certain romantic quality with gestural painting – something intimate, decadent, emotional… 

In summation: “Jen Aitken’s sculptures are singular, dynamic, philosophical. Their volumes are intuitive. They occupy space confidently one minute and precariously the next. They speak through metaphor using the language of sculpture, defined by their material, volume, shape, surface, texture, line, and scale. They are three-dimensional bodies occupying, holding, demarcating, and contemplating space…They can be defined by what they are not: not body, not furniture, not monument, not machine, not building. This is where their art resides, in their not being ordinary things. There is beauty in their autonomy and as markers of human expression.”

[ Op. cit., Alex Bowron, “From Inside, Out,” in Jen Aitken: The Same Thing Looks Different, exhibition catalogue, The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, 2023, p. 76]

In addition to the credentials mentionned above, Aitken received a Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Award in 2021, and the Hnatyshyn Foundation and TD Bank Emerging Visual Artist Award in 2017. Other exhibitions have been held at: the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2021); Arsenal Contemporary Art, Toronto (2021); the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, DC (2020); and Royale Projects, Los Angeles (2019). Her works have been acquired by the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Kamloops Art Gallery; McMichael Canadian Art Collection, Kleinburg; Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal; and RBC, Toronto.

Image Credit:

Assembled Drawing 11, 2023
Ink on paper  / 17″ x 15″
Photo: LF Documentation