Robin Collyer

Artist (1949)

Robin Collyer began his career as an artist in the late 1960s. His work as a sculptor then veered towards Minimalism and Conceptual art: metal, cardboard and other industrial and commonplace materials formed spare, refined structures, placed directly on the floor or ground. His sculptures would subsequently combine salvaged materials, advertising copy and photographs. Often akin to maquettes, they make reference to the architecture of shop windows, newsstands and bank counters. The forms he uses are imbued with social connotations, “because they are everywhere all around us”, he says, and their narrative presentation is part and parcel of a critical discourse about architecture and urban planning. It is also Collyer’s intent to show to what extent economic and commercial codes affect our daily round. So issues of language, representation, and architecture as an arena of discourse and as a social space organized as systems of signs, all fuel his thought process. His photographic work, which he embarked upon in the early 1970s, also attests to a keen interest in vernacular constructions, natural landscapes and cityscapes, with a soft spot for Toronto, the city where he lives and works. He examines the way we arrange our cities, at places which have retained traces of human activity, and systems of representation and mass communication. Since the early 1990s, he has been turning to the computer to remove any sign of things written from the urban landscapes photographed, revealing that words prevail in our spaces every bit as much as constructed forms; the absence of any typographic sign transforms these spaces, with which we are nevertheless familiar, into strange and almost fictitious environments.

Born in London, Robin Collyer lives and works in Toronto. He went to Canada in 1957 and studied at the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1967-68. He had his first show in 1971 at the Carmen Lamanna Gallery in Toronto. Since then he has had many solo exhibitions all over the world (Canada, US, France, Germany, Italy, etc.). In 1993 he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale. In 1997 he was commissioned to produce a photographic series by the FRAC Centre.
Nadine Labedade

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