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JAY DART: Meanwhile Back over Yawnder

  • WALL SPACE Gallery 358 Richmond Road Ottawa, ON, K2A 0E1 Canada (map)

WALL SPACE GALLERY is excited to welcome Ontario artist, Jay Dart.


MAY 6 – 28, 2017. 

Brenda Dunn writes about the exhibit in apt613.

WALL SPACE GALLERY is very excited to welcome MEANWHILE BACK OVER YAWNDER, a continuation of Jay Dart's artistic odyssey Field Guide to Yawnder first shown at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa, ON December 2016). Through mark making and world making, self-described drawist Jay Dart captures his innovative ideas and stories. MEANWHILE BACK OVER YAWNDER is the first commercial exhibit of Dart’s characters from the world of Yawnder and Beyawnder.  Join us on May 6th from 2-4 pm as we celebrate the artist and toast the show opening.


For the past decade, I have been working on a series of drawings about wanderers of fictional mindscapes known as Yawnder and Elsewheres as a way to represent my own creative process. Each drawing that I produce in this series adds to an evolving narrative about the mystical nature of inspiration, the search for innovative creation, and the dissemination of ideas. I am interested in drawing allegories for these themes as well as for the challenges and opportunities that new technology, such as cloud computing, social networking, and the global community of the internet, presents to contemporary creators.

In this exhibition, you will find many of the originals drawings from my first picture book, Wanderer of Yawnder, published in 2013, which recounts the first chapter of this evolving narrative focusing on the elusive essence of inspiration. Here, we find Jiggs, my alter ego and the main character of this epic tale, discovering the geist lights in the sky over Yawnder and creating the Magical Mystery Beard. When other wanderers happen upon this source of inspiration, he finds out his beards aren’t so inventive after all. Thus, you will see drawings from the next chapter of the story where Jiggs plants his beards in the ground in order to cultivate something truly unique which turns out to be the mighty Geistwood trees. The term geist, defined as the spirit of an individual, is used to describe the colourful swashes in the Yawnder Lights because they are the spirit of an individual’s ideas.

While I see the experience of inspiration as a private process when the internal digestion of external influences takes place and new ideas are cast, the practice of communicating these ideas involves making those ideas tangible and sharing them with others in an environment where, in contemporary society, people are constantly inundated with information. This is the main theme of the next chapter of this tale where other wanderers play a part in disseminating Jiggs’ creations. These nomadic characters help him fell his massive Geistwoods, manoeuvre the timbers down the main stream and even haul them up the mountainsides to reach the Foremoms. These giants are the gatekeepers to The Unknowns; they reckon what is worthy of taking to this enigmatic world where the wildest of dreams are realized.

Recently, Jiggs and his followers have entered a new landscape; a place I call Beyawnder where a doodle can be taken for a ride and concepts become monuments. It is here that these wanderers are faced with contemplating the seemingly unambiguous or, at first sight, simple things that offer wisdom to those who pay close attention. They ponder and play among a strange assortment of abstractions, unconstrained by the page or by gravity. My experience as a father has inspired this new direction towards experimentation and purity of expression unbound by the trials of life; not to achieve a childlike naiveté but rather to gain a clarity of thought and regain a state of wonder.

Archival portraits of those making their way on the frontiers of Canada give rise to many of the scenes in the Yawnder series. However, the subjects in my compositions wander a sparse, horizonless expanse and encounter a whimsical wilderness. As Krieghoff and the Group of Seven ventured into the wilderness of Canada to present landscapes like they’ve never been seen before, I purport to offer the findings from the frontiers of the unchartered backwoods of the mind. The journey is both daunting and exhilarating as I confront the most complex to the most basic notions that I have. I want to connect with other creators who might recognize parts of my interior landscape and I aim to shed light on the elusive nature of creation in a way that can be grasped by my kids.

While I draw allegories for themes that straddle mental and physical worlds, I have also been creating mixed media installation pieces born from my two dimensional works that further obfuscate the line between what’s imagined or not. By introducing audiences to Yawnder through extensive imagery of portraits, landscapes and maps alongside tangible ephemera and participatory activities, I have been establishing experiential exhibitions that invite people into my world rather than just observe it.


Jay Dart is a drawist who has recently begun creating mixed media installation pieces that bring his two-dimensional narrative works to life. He received a BA from the University of Guelph’s Fine Art programme. Most recently, his first public gallery solo exhibition, Greetings From Yawnder!, featuring 80+ drawings and installation pieces, opened at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in October 2016 before travelling to the Art Gallery of Sudbury in February 2017. He has exhibited at Galerie Youn (Montreal), Art Toronto, Papier 15 (Montreal), Art on Paper (Miami and New York), Love Art Fair (Toronto), Slate Gallery (Regina) and Line Gallery (North Bay). He is a recipient of grants from the Ontario Arts Council (2012, 2014 and 2016) and, in 2016, won a National Magazine Award for editorial illustration. He is represented by Galerie Youn in Montreal. Jay lives and draws in Ashburn, Ontario (aka Elsewheres).