During the Second World War, 1 Spadina Crescent in Toronto housed the Connaught Medical Research Laboratories, a lab and penicillin factory that was staffed mainly by women who worked around the clock. The images in Matt Macintosh’s Abstraction Series (Subject), 2012-13, derive from a set of promotional photographs taken at the lab in 1944. (Interestingly, the artist’s grandmother also worked at the facility during this time.) Enlarging the images was the first of Macintosh’s interventions; more significantly, he removed all of the tools of penicillin production – the petri dishes, the beakers, the trays – from the women’s hands, creating a visual puzzle that is left to the viewer to figure out. These women are engaged in some form of activity, but what is it? By removing this information, Macintosh emphasizes the performative aspects of the women’s gestures while reminding us that science deals with learning about the seen, and discovering what is still unseen.
Matt Macintosh is an interdisciplinary artist and curator interested in the ways approaches to self-emancipation fold into discourse. Rooted in painting and conceptual art traditions, his work explores abstraction as a method to reorganize encounters between disciplinary knowledge and identity development. He is a graduate of the Master of Visual Studies program at the University of Toronto and has exhibited in Canada and the U.S. He is currently Curator at the Orillia Museum of Art & History.