Patrick Mahon, Messagers’ Forum 2020-21, Thames. A.G. “Messagers’ Series, 2017-18”
Messagers’ Forum
Thames Art Gallery, Chatham, ON
Sept. 2020-Jan. 2021

Catalogue with Interview by Robert Enright

Messagers’ Forum is an art installation that poses poetic questions about culture, nature, communication, and meaning. In this space of emblematic wall sculptures, collaged landscapes, and recorded speech, we experience a setting where spoken exchanges amidst humans are suggested as being desireable and available to us, but also sometimes elusive and fleeting. It is a place where nature is presented as more than a backdrop, as if to describe a theatre for an unwritten drama.

Alongside the collaged works, a focus of the show is a series entitled Messagers. These are wall-mounted constructions made of wood veneer strips painted silver, grey, and fluorescent colours, that are occasionally embellished with stamped words that enhance or contradict the ways the forms suggest language and codes. Also shown is a series of large format wall pieces: laser-cut versions of the handmade constructions, entitled Messagers’ Forum Cutouts. And at the centre of the gallery is a metal forum-like sculpture that suggests a space for gathering, conversation, and public oratory – or perhaps their absence.

While making the works for the exhibition, Patrick Mahon decided to erase many of the texts he had printed on their surfaces, which were often poetic and repetitive (i.e, “This is Changing”; “My Thought/Your Thought,” etc.), and to instead include those words within an experimental soundscape entitled Turn Around Turner. Produced in collaboration with artist, Wyn Geleynse, the recording features the voices of Geleynse and Mahon, as well as Patrick’s spouse, Barbara Mahon, and artists from the London community: Sharmistha Kar, Richard Lawler, Thelma Rosner, and Quinn Smallboy.

Accompanying the exhibition, in the Mezannine Gallery, is a graphic poster installation entitled, The Questions Project. It was produced by students from Ursaline Academy in Chatham, in cooperation with Patrick Mahon, and with their teacher, Ms. Nicole McEachern. Much of the work had to be finalized during the COVID19-related school closures. The student project has a timely resonance that aligns with Mahon’s exhibition in pondering how we build community, now and in the future – whether during normal conditions or otherwise.