Because John Climenhage hates artist statements

by Michael Fazackerley

Spacetime. A somewhat inscrutable term that for most probably evokes something to do with Einstein (or perhaps Stephen Hawking) and relativity. The science of it tends to be baffling to anyone without a physics degree. An experience of a place in spacetime is, however, much more relatable. It follows that we cannot be somewhere and observe anything or change position, without the passage of time occurring. You can feel that reality. No cumbersome mathematics necessary, unless you like that sort of thing.

This is perhaps why science and art often serve as mirrors for each other, translating ways of knowing into their respective mediums. They share the same lack of mutual exclusivity, though we do not speak of ‘artscience’ despite how it too permeates our understanding of things.

John Climenhage’s lifelong study of art, science, culture, and philosophy tends to find its way into his brushstrokes. What looks like a painting on the surface of things gives way to something deeper via some form of alchemy, or maybe even magic. When Climenhage set out with his plein air painting kit early in 2020, what began as a personal exploration of the times at the emergence of the pandemic became something more. As he traveled out from his downtown home he encountered places in Peterborough that he had often seen, and even painted, before. Many had changed over the years. Some things he had painted in the past were no longer there, and some that he painted during this time quickly vanished as well. Memories of these places connected to their histories, other people, other times there. Many of them with friends, artists, and compatriots.

Soon a gathering of fellow artists joined this moment of reflection that we, like John, have all been forced to stop and take heed of in our own particular ways. What began as the Pandemic Year painting series stretched back through time to touch the heritage and cultural history of Peterborough. It gathered poetry from Ann Jaeger, Bruce Whiteman, and Justin Million. Each adding their own times and experiences of these places. Video and projection artist Laura Thompson joined them in conversations whose essence was captured in a video art series that curates their conceptual explorations.

The works created from these intersections in response to Climenhage’s paintings, the video series, an interactive walking tour, and select archival information, became The Climenhage Project.

An opening night gala was held where Bruce Whiteman read a tribute to John, Justin Million gave a poetry reading, and Laura Thompson presented the video series to inaugurate the exhibition of Climenhage paintings at Sadleir House.

The exhibition will remain on display and is available for private or group viewings by contacting Sadleir House.

You can take your own Peterborough spacetime journey with Ann Jaeger’s interactive walking tour of the painting locations. The artists encourage you to join the project by sharing your memories, thoughts about the paintings, or other historic facts about the locations on the pages linked to the tour.