Nelson Henricks’ Flower Paintings series (2015) was produced in conjunction with the video installation A Lecture on Art, which was presented at Dazibao in Montreal last year. Henricks’ starting point is a text presented by the English writer Oscar Wilde during his North American tour of 1882. Helen Potter, an American actress, attended one of Wilde’s talks, annotating his speech and capturing his voice on paper. On his tour of Canada and America, Wilde promoted the British Aesthetic Movement. Aestheticism blended art, craft and interior design, and achieved a high degree of visibility thanks to flamboyant figures such as Wilde and James McNeill Whistler. The Aesthetic Movement is widely regarded as the entry point for Théophile Gautier’s “art for art’s sake” dictum into British and North American art: art need not exist for any other reason than to be beautiful. In this photo series, traditional notions of beauty are hybridized with conceptual, process-based actions. To create these images, Henricks drizzled paint on flowers associated with the British Aesthetic Movement – the lily and the sunflower – and photographed the results. The final images are coded with references to art history while simultaneously eliciting contradictory emotional responses in the viewer. Ultimately this work seeks to pose questions about aesthetics and the production of beauty.
Henricks lives and works in Montréal, where he has taught art history and video production at Concordia University, McGill University, UQAM and Université de Montréal. A musician, writer, curator and artist, Henricks is best known for his videotapes and video installations, which have been exhibited worldwide. A focus on his video work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, as part of the Video Viewpoints series in 2000. He is also a recipient of the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 2002 and received the Board of Govenors’ Alumni Award of Excellence from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2005. A mid-career retrospective of his work was presented at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery in Montréal in 2010. Henricks’ work is in the collections of the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Modern Art (New York), the Montréal Museum of Fine Arts, the Musée national des beaux-arts du Québec, the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery and Banque Nationale du Canada.
Images courtesy the artist and Paul Petro Contemporary Art, Toronto.