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Magpie Beauty

September 17, 2020 - September 29, 2020


Magpie Beauty by Patrick Treacy

I am someone who dislikes clutter. I am also an artist who makes things using innumerable found materials, mostly from books and magazines. As a magpie gatherer, I am always conscious of the need for containment and organization or face chaos in my workspace. Thus there are many images of boxes in this work. On a general level, the concept of containment can include notions of mastery, control, discipline and entitlement[2]. However the studio, as a site of creativity, is also of necessity a place of permission, enlargement, expansion, freedom and release. For me the most mysterious container is my own body. It displays my outward public identity as a white male of European heritage, and also holds an inner life which shifts and changes and which I sometimes find labyrinthine in nature. My art work functions as a kind of conduit between these two realities: between how I look and what I contain; between the legacy of my ancestors’ challenges, errors, successes and failures and the narratives I carry as a contemporary being in a particular time and place. So, in Magpie Beauty, the presence of all these boxes and their contents is my way of addressing some of the complexities of what being embodied might entail, what legacies and present realities might co-exist within a physical self.

From a very early age I can remember my coming under the spell of images, particularly those I found in eagerly anticipated Life magazines. As an adult living in a digital age, I can sometimes feel overwhelmed by what seems to be a daily avalanche of photographic imagery. Having used found photography in my practice for many years, I now have an archive of my recurring interests and obsessions. Collage-based procedures still serve me as an important means of discovery, a way of making a place for the unexpected. Working with photographs in this way has had a major impact on all of my work regardless of the medium. There is something powerful about cutting into an image and creating a space in which I can disrupt the naturalistic picture plane and suspend or shift time. When I work with figurative imagery, the cutting away of the original figure creates a shell or void that can have many connotations including a sense of absence or ghostliness, of the ephemeral, of the ubiquitous and often unacknowledged presence of mortality in daily life. Magpie Beauty contains collages, drawings, paintings, and sculptures: work I have done over several years. It is an archive of sorts, one version of my magpie self.

[1] “Magpie Beauty” is a phrase from Frank Bidart’s poem “Writing Ellen West”.

[2] The idea that containment can also mean entitlement comes from Sadie Smith in her essay in the New York Review of Books, “Fascinated to Presume: In Defense of Fiction”.

Artist Bio

I have shown my work in Winnipeg and elsewhere since the 1970’s. My artistic practice is rooted in living in the West End of Winnipeg, in being part of the city’s challenges and strengths, and in a childhood spent in the boreal forest areas of Manitoba and Ontario. At the University of Manitoba I studied under Ivan Eyre, George Swinton, Richard Williams, Bob Sakowski, and Tom Henderson. My work is in the private collections of Thompson Dorffman Sweatman LLP, Bank of Montreal, Investor’s Group, James A. Richardson and Sons, and in the public collections of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the University of Winnipeg and the Manitoba Department of Culture and Heritage. I have received grants from the Canada Council, the Manitoba Arts Council and the Winnipeg Art Council.


September 17, 2020
September 29, 2020
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2nd Floor, 125 Adelaide St.
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