Press Release – “Sacred Places – Culture, Colour and Craft” – the stunning talent of Canadian artist and medical professor, Jack Rootman – 24th Aug to 3rd Sept 2006

Eye doctor and professor at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital, Jack Rootman now trains his artistic eye on corners of worship in both Singapore and Mexico. His meticulous and detailed painting style will be showcased at his first solo painting exhibition in Asia which will be held at Utterly Art Exhibition Space, 229A South Bridge Road (2nd Level), Singapore 058778 from Thursday 24th Aug to Sunday 3rd Sept 2006. The opening hours are from Monday-Saturday: 11.30am - 8pm and Sunday: 12pm – 5.30pm. The opening reception will be held on Thursday 24th Aug 2006 7pm. Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Second Minister for Information, Communication and The Arts will be the Guest of Honour. Members of the press are most welcome to attend. Attendance at the exhibition is FREE.

About the exhibition:

The exhibition Sacred Places is a visual log of quiet spiritual corners observed by Canadian artist Jack Rootman in his many travels. He reveals his fascination for the pervasive presence of the sacred amidst the mundane, of placement and juxtaposition in his chance encounters of brightly-coloured objects of worship in unexpected places. Lovingly crafted or of dignified manufacture, these corners provide meditative contemplation for the passerby and glorious subjects for the artist. Sensitively rendered in oils or pastels with attention to the interplay of light and colour, the paintings may be as transformative and evocative as the original shrines themselves.

Jack Rootman has participated in 24 group shows internationally and mounted six solo exhibitions in Vancouver and Adelaide. He has attended courses at the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, the National Academy of Design, New York, The Art Students League of New York and The New York Academy of Art, and won a number of awards at several juried shows. He is also Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences, and of Pathology at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver General Hospital. Sacred Places will be his first solo foray in Asia.



The Artist’s Statement


Culture, Colour and Craft

I have been fascinated in my travels by the ways in which cultural iconography inserts into our daily lives. This can occur both in the formal and casual contexts, may be pervasive, and is often unrecognized or subliminal. Because of this, we often unwittingly celebrate the rituals of different cultures.

For me, I find it also interesting that craft is such an omnipresent messenger, expressing the sacred and the spiritual through the hands and minds of the creator, thereby celebrating the rituals of life and sharing them with others. My observations have made me aware of an almost universal fascination with the use of bright colour in the making of these objects and their placement in both private and public spaces.

Often it is spiritual energy that drives the need to communicate a specific view through craft. For instance, I have taken objects of diverse geographic origin and displayed them in a similar context to show how they make the mundane sacred. Take the two objects of devotion that I found in unexpected places – “Kitchen gods” and “Garage angels”. One I discovered in a quiet laneway in the heart of Singapore and the other was found tucked away in a parking garage in Mexico. Both share a need to sanctify the ordinary and provide a reason to stop and reflect. Both are colourful, arranged with great personal care, and strategically placed to capture the attention of the passerby or to provide a place of contemplation for the worker. They reflect our common need for the spiritual with a tender regard for the mundane places in which it may exist.

I have also tried to show how “manufactured icons” can evoke the spiritual, sometimes in odd ways or even in odd places, like the “Tree gods” found in an almost abandoned lot in Singapore. These and similar gods were also seen awaiting placement in shrink-wrapped anticipation in an emporium where they are sold. Even here these icons contained within plastic and awaiting exposure exude a sense of power, reverence and dignity.

Several of the works show aspects of Mexican craft that I found in shops and markets in Mexico. One is an array of bright handcrafted crosses and the other is a casual arrangement of both religious and secular objects, conveying a similar sensibility through colour, craft, and placement in space. As an example, the unusual juxtaposition of Frida Kahlo as a background to a wooden sculpture of a priest, adjacent to several Christian icons and behind two wooden angels struck me as surprisingly harmonious, even though they represent vastly different worlds and philosophies.

The paintings I did of incense in urns arose from a similar fascination with context. These pieces are, in my view, especially transformative and evocative of not only place but time through the ancestral connotation of the burning incense and smoke-filled background. The bright shafts of light serve only to emphasize and illuminate these striking juxtapositions.

My artistic journey has been driven by the natural curiosity of an observer and by an interest in spiritual values. As I became committed to artistic expression, I was attracted to landscape and natural still life, particularly of British Columbia but also from my travels. My media choices started with watercolor then grew to include ink, gouache, gesso, acrylic, oil, and collage. I am interested in the interplay of light and color in nature, and stylistically attracted to the romantic realist mode. Experimentation with texture produced by manipulating and mixing media is a major challenge. Art brings a joyful focus into life, creating a sensitivity to our environment, the color, and textures of the natural world. I have a particular fascination with interpreting design, contrast, and texture. I have also become interested in scale, painting from miniature to mural sizes.

If I am to paint from the heart, mankind must be at the core of the narrative. My principal goal is to represent some of the universals in human behavior and interaction, with special emphasis on those moments that touch the spirit of humanity.


I have employed two techniques in preparation of this exhibition. The first is the use of traditional oils on canvas or wood over an acrylic underpainting. The oil provides luminosity, historical reference, texture, and permanence. The second medium that I have used is handmade dry pastel on board. I used wooden board in order to avoid a paper surface, which would be vulnerable in a humid climate. These boards are specifically and archivally designed for this exhibition so that they can be mounted behind glass with an air gap. Pastel also provides significant permanence; indeed, the Pastel Society of America suggests that pastels are more archival than oils, as exemplified by work done in the last century by Degas. I have also visited a recent exhibition of the artist, Rosalba Carriere, from the 1730s in which his pastels were remarkably vibrant and well preserved as if they had been done yesterday. I wanted to include some pastels because of their brightness and for the felt-like and velvet quality produced by the multiple layers of medium used.



Tonight, we witness the artistic accomplishments of Jack Rootman in his first solo show in Asia: Sacred Places – Culture, Color and Craft.

Jack has always been an artist. He chose to practice as an orbital surgeon because he realized he was blessed with a pair of steady hands and he wanted to fulfill his gift.

Art was the love which grew stronger through the years. After he was stricken by a debilitating illness, he immersed himself further in art-making. For a year, he trained in New York at the National Academy of Design, The Arts Student League, and the Academy of Art. He has since held 6 solo shows and 24 group shows around the world. And he has received the top award in the 50th Federation of Canadian Artists show for his work “Ocean’s Edge”.

In combining his practices of Art and Ophthalmology, Jack created the Lester Jones Award-winning “Orbital Surgery” - a landmark textbook on orbital anatomy based on an artist’s perspective.

Jack’s art goals have been depicting human behavior and interaction, and capturing the human spirit.

In Sacred Places, Jack takes us to a journey across the world in the eyes of a man open to spirituality. With him, we find at unexpected places and quiet corners, brightly-colored mundane objects of worship that have been reverently assembled by devotees. Whether these spiritual sanctuaries at ordinary places are in Singapore, Mexico, or Vietnam, they represent a universal need of humans to be close to the divine.

These ordinary places in Singapore include the parking lot at Flanders Square, the loading bay at Amara Hotel, and an emporium at Rochor Road. These same places are extra-ordinary in that private spiritual spaces have been carved out from public open spaces.

In Jack’s works, we see his mastery of pastel and oil, and his appreciation of contrast, texture, and color.

In Jack’s works, we draw a picture of a man who is sensitive and observant, analytical and imaginative, passionate and adventurous.



In waiting


oils and pastels by Canadian artist

Gallery Tour and Talk by the artist
SATURDAY 26th AUG 2006 3PM
Utterly Art Exhibition Space (above Teck Soon Medical Hall,
opposite the Sri Mariamman Temple, Pagoda St Entrance)
229A South Bridge Road (2nd Level) Singapore 058778
Tel: 6226 2605 Fax: 6226 2645
Mon-Sat 11.30 am - 8 pm Sun 12 noon - 5.30 pm
The exhibition runs to SUNDAY 3rd SEPT 2006 .