John Kissick

Known primarily as a painter and writer, John Kissick’s exhibition record includes over 30 solo exhibitions in Canada, the USA, and Germany. His work has been included in a number of important survey exhibitions on contemporary painting, and held in numerous public collections. A mid-career survey, entitled John Kissick: A Nervous Decade, toured Canada from 2010 to 2012, and was accompanied by a major publication. An upcoming survey exhibition, curated by Carl Lavoy, will tour from 2015 to 2017.

Kissick is also the author of Art: Context and Criticism (1992-1996), was editor of the Penn State Journal of Contemporary Criticism (1990-1995), and was a regular contributor to the New Art Examiner (1990-2000). As a critic and essayist, he has written numerous catalogue essays and articles for periodicals. As a curator, he was the recipient of the 2014 Ontario Association of Art Galleries (OAAG) Award for Curatorial Writing for his essay on the artist Ron Shuebrook. Two recent essays: “Elephants in the Room” for Canadian Art Magazine and “Disco and the Death Switch: Tales from Contemporary Abstraction” for Border Crossings Magazine recently were nominated for National Magazine Awards.

John Kissick has held numerous academic posts, including: Head of Critical Studies at Penn State University’s School of Visual Arts, Dean of the Faculty of Art at the Ontario College of Art & Design (2000-2003), and Director of the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph (2003-2014). John Kissick was elected into the Royal Canadian Academy for the Arts in 2005.


Burning of the Houses of Cool Man, Yeah

Sugar and Splice

Sugar Won't Work

Sugar Won't Work is the most recent and perhaps radical iteration of John Kissick's painterly approach – the most obvious indication of this being the introduction of craft glitter in large sections of his new paintings. Having reached a seminal junction in his career as an abstract painter, Kissick faced the dilemma of either stylizing his own aesthetic, or departing from it altogether. Instead, he chose to force and contort his artistic scope, driving his aesthetic beyond easy convention to become more himself in his work than ever before. His material departure – inclusion of riotous swaths of dense, seductive glitter – is an expansion of Kissick's ongoing interest in creating a disorienting, even manic, visual dynamic within his work. The glitter bombs reflect light in unpredictable ways, and provide a visual barrier to reading the paintings in a traditional spatial manner. The paintings encourage the viewer to actively engage in interpretation, and support a more fluid and open-ended discourse. Glitter also has the added advantage of functioning as a cultural signifier of low tech ornamentation, nostalgia, and kitsch – in keeping with Kissick's use of faded supergraphics and over-crafted decorative gestures, and in direct tension with a variety of expressionist tropes that attempt to purposefully complicate any easy reading of the work. 

Dissonant Groove