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Tower of Babbling
painting, architecture, constructing, building, surreal, tension, change,response, structure, surrealism, tension, , painting, building
description
start quote...the Tower of Babbling, represents my re-creation of my reaction to the building of a C.B.C. television station near my studio. I think the special interest is the fact that I took as long to do the painting as the contractor did to finish the building. This was not accidental...end quote -- Harold Town (MacKenzie Gallery 1957)

Harold Town's Tower of Babbling was the first purchase the MacKenzie Art Gallery Society gave to the MacKenzie Art Gallery in 1957. Town wrote about this work saying the Tower of Babbling, represents my re-creation of my reaction to the building of a CBC television station near my studio. I think the special interest is the fact that I took as long to do the painting as the contractor did to finish the building. This was not accidental for when I started the painting I determined to paint it in definitive stages as the work progressed. I worked on the picture only when I felt a real change in the building. Aside from the visual influence, I became much taken with the thought of how much structure was being used to cover a world of  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  sight and sound, and how great would be the influence of what would finally issue from the building. Because of these thoughts, the  paintingWorks of art made with paint on a surface. Often the surface, also called a support, is either a tightly stretched piece of canvas or a panel. How the ground (on which paint is applied) is prepared on the support depends greatly on the type of paint to be used. Paintings are usually intended to be placed in frames, and exhibited on walls, but there have been plenty of exceptions. Also, the act of painting, which may involve a wide range of techniques and materials, along with the artist's other concerns which effect the content of a work. (Artlex.com)  began to have  surrealAn art movement in the early 20th century based on dreams, and the subconscious, and the distortion of representations.  associations for me and this changed the structure further as the tension of the building's purpose entered into its structure as I conceived it.  (Unpublished document, MacKenzie Art Gallery)

additional resources Harold Town
Duration: 1:24 min
Size: 6104kb
Things to Think About
  • How does Harold Town reference time and process in this work?
  • Can you think of personalities who speak their minds or lampoon certain topics or events? Would you want someone like that for a friend? Why or why not? Are you a risk-taker like Town or do you sit back and accept the status quo?
Studio Activity

Process artwork

Make a "process" artwork like Harold Town’s Tower of Babbling.

  • Select an object or a place you can observe for a number of days and which will gradually change and evolve.
  • Begin by observing and making drawings of this object over a period of several days.
  • Gradually let the images overlap and change as the object you are observing changes.

Abstract painting

Snap paintings

Town was a great innovator and tried many painting techniques. He is known for his experimental "snap" paintings. They were produced by snapping a string drenched in paint on a canvas.

  • Try this technique.
  • Why do you think artists want to explore new ways of doing things?
  • Why would some works created in new ways not be initially appreciated or accepted?
References

Broad, Graham.  ‘Abstract art, meet Toronto the Good.’  The Beaver, February-March, 2004.

Burnett, David.  Harold Town  RetrospectiveAn exhibition of work by a senior artist representing all the stages of the artist’s career.  at AGO.  Exhibition catalogue.  Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, May 10-18, 1986.

Carpenter, Ken.  ‘Town, Harold Barling.’  The Canadian Encyclopedia.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/index.cfm?PgNm=TCE&Params=A1ARTA0008072

Eyland, Cliff.  ‘Harold Town.’  in Musecology.  Exhibition catalogue.  Gallery One One One, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1997 Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.umanitoba.ca/schools/art/galleryoneoneone/townc.html

Fetherling, Douglas, ed.  Documents in Canadian Art.  Peterborough, Ontario:  broadview press, 1987. (Interview re Autographic Prints, 1956, pp. 169-71)

Fulford, Robert.  ‘Harold Town: mad for drawing.’  Toronto Globe and Mail, December 31, 1990.

Fulford, Robert.  Magnificent Decade: The Art of Harold Town, 1955-1965.  Exhibition catalogue.  The Moore Gallery, Toronto, Ontario, 1997.  Retrieved from the Internet on May 7, 2008 from:  http://www.robertfulford.com/town.html

Fulford, Robert,.  ‘The multiplicity of Harold Town.’  Artscanada, April-May, 1971.

Mays, John Bentley.  ‘Sifting through the remains of a life.’  Toronto Globe and Mail, November 15, 1997.

Mays, John Bentley.  ‘Toronto gallery papered with Town’s bewildering array.’  Toronto Globe and Mail, December 19, 1989.

Murray, Joan.  The Best  ContemporaryCurrent, belonging to the same period of time. Usually referring to our present time, but can refer to being current with any specified time. (Artlex.com)  Canadian Art.  Edmonton, Alberta:  Hurtig Publishers, 1987.

Newlands, Anne.  Canadian Art from its Beginnings to 2000.  Willowdale, Ontario, Firefly Books, 2000.

Town, Harold.  Silent Stars, Sound Stars, Film Stars.  Toronto, Ontario:  McClelland and Stewart, 1971.

Withrow, William. Contemporary Canadian Painting.  Toronto, Ontario:  McClelland and Stewart, 1972.

Young, Pamela.  ‘Gifted and Prolific: Harold Town was at home in many art forms.’  Maclean’s, undated.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning