Landscapes : Reading and Memory

I have recently finished reading Elena Ferrante’s “Neapolitan Quartet” – which I thought was brilliant. As I progressed through the four novel set, which makes for a great summer read, I continually felt that I was experiencing the streets, the open windows, the smells of food, days at the beach, cramped apartments, gatherings and other interactions between the characters. Taking a step back I was intrigued at how something as simple as “text” – strings of symbols, concatenated or spaced – could conjure a fully fleshed out albeit imaginary world. The act of reading Ferrante created a flow; text became images, a fabric of sorts was sewn and stretched across my imagination.  I was delighted to find out that the Latin for “fabric” is textum. Texts can create paintings.

Shore Lines by Dan Nuttall
Dan Nuttall, “Shore Lines”, acrylic on wood panel, 4 x 8 feet

The opposite, of course, can occur. We can look at a painting or work of art and “read” it, creating a “text” of sorts. Symbols, signs, colour, forms and other stimuli create associations and messages that reach out to confront our gaze. Sometimes the story is robust and coherent and other times it is a rough assemblage of ideas, sometimes more like sentences, often just a few words or a notion. Sometimes art presents us with a blank page and it remains unwritten, unread.

Dan Nuttall, “Broad Stream” (quadriptych), acrylic on canvas board, 16 x 20″ each


The National Gallery in London breaks down the process of reading paintings as follows:

“Reading a painting is similar to reading a book:

  • The reader decodes symbols to establish meaning
  • The reader uses inference and deduction (e.g. body language) to deepen understanding
  • A reader’s previous knowledge and experience affects their personal response”

Memory of course plays a role, intimately tied to experience, and our reading of a painting’s text ends up being diagnostic – speaking about who we are, what some of our experiences have been, what our “world views” may be.

Dan Nuttall, “Siwash”, acrylic on wood panel, 36 x 48″

My first solo show at Lee Contemporary Art, in Orillia, this summer, is a retrospective of sorts, a chance to look back in time and allow viewers to read multiple texts at the same time. Or, in other words, to glance at a group of paintings or texts and ask : Is there an overarching or meta-narrative? What are the common themes?

Dan Nuttall art painting Cry Me Some Rivers diptych web
Dan Nuttall, “Cry Me Some Rivers” (diptych), acrylic on wood panel, 24 x 30″ each
rivers/symmetry/face/song/ecological art/ecology

Of course, telling someone abut a book or a painting is often both a dull and corrupting process. And yet people who visit galleries often want to know “What does this picture mean?”, “What was the artist thinking or trying to achieve?”. So, to accompany this exhibition I thought perhaps a balanced approach might work – I would say something minimal about these works – perhaps just words even, and allow the reader and/or viewer to assemble the text. These words are beneath each of the paintings above, and are intended to provide points of reflection, threads form which larger stories may be woven. These paintings, and others, will be included in “Landscapes : Reading and Memory”.

These paintings serve as a gathering of texts. From such gatherings a library of sorts arises, an edifice that is created by both the artist and those that gaze upon art. A place where both can dwell.

Please feel free to comment or to get in touch with me regarding this post. My exhibition information is as follows:


Dan Nuttall


 August 10 – September 2, 2017


Lee Contemporary Art

Upper Level, 5 Peter St. S.,

Orillia, ON, L3V 5A8

(705 ) 331-3145


Hours: Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 10 – 4







One Piece of Advice For Artists Seeking Representation

In the fall of 2015 I won the Juror’s Prize at the 14TH annual Orillia Museum of Art & History’s “Carmichael Exhibition”. This national juried show asks painters to re-invent the work of the Group of Seven. No small task, as a Canadian who loves this county’s wild spaces and the work of the Group of Seven, such a task seemed entirely daunting. Winning the Juror’s Prize was a special moment for me.

Dan Nuttall, “Siwash”, acrylic on wood panel, 35 x 47″

Since then I have come to find a special place in my heart for Orillia, the birthplace of Franklin Carmichael, one of the painters in the Group of Seven. Visiting the Orillia Museum pf Art & History is always a real joy – diverse programming, great reach, first rate curation, you can see what’s happening at OMAH right HERE.

Following the OMAH exhibition I sat back and wondered: “What next?” And what of representation?  One of the best pieces of advice I was ever given regarding finding representation was “Move towards a gallery that is moving toward you”. I interpreted this to mean that someone on the gallery side has to make some kind of foray towards the artist. It also means that the artist has to be completely open, certain that the gallery is making a move toward them, and willing to capitalize on the moment.

Do you have a website, a resume, a prepared biography and appropriately sized images at hand? I don’t consider a piece of art completed until it sits in a folder in my computer. This “piece” of art is the one that is going to march out and meet the world – primarily in the digital realm. I keep the image in an original raw form, another sized and of sufficient resolution for full display on-screen, and then a smaller version for easy dissemination via social media.

I was elated when Lee Contemporary Art(LCA) in Orillia, run by Tanya Cunnington, began with some small conversation, followed by a few emails, and then offered to represent me and my work. I was able to respond to Tanya’s requests for more information as soon as made the request.

Lee Contemporary Art exhibits emerging and mid-career artists and exhibits artwork which is “inclined towards playful, cutting edge, progressive and modern”. Artists represented by LCA include:

Annie Kmyta Cunnington / Kevan Murray / Sarah Irwin / Aiden Alderson / Nancy Jones / Tanya Cunnington / Bewabon Shilling / Travis Shilling / Birdbath Collaboration

LCA and I have spent the last year moving towards each other, as if on a very long comfortable bench, slowly migrating towards each other until we were seated side by side. It’s been a slow and enjoyable process – I have taken the time to get to know the gallery and they have taken the time to get to know me. I admire the work of the other artists and will be humbled to be in their company.

I am pleased to invite you to view my recent work and the work of some stellar Canadian artists at at Lee Contemporary Art HERE.

For those of you who are searching for representation, take heart. Stay motivated, be open, be prepared, look for someone to join you on your bench, listen for the sounds of them moving toward you and strike up a conversation. Good luck!