Remarks for the Climenhage Opening, November 26, 2021

by Bruce Whiteman

My remit tonight is to be brief and to the point. I am to introduce John Climenhage. Introducers always like to say that so-and-so needs no introduction, and that is definitely true of John, here, on this occasion, with a room full mostly of friends and well-wishers, at least some of whom already have one of his paintings hanging in their homes. Personally I have two and aspire to more. But let me say just a few words for those who may be new to the Climenhage universe and will welcome a short Wikipedia-like summation of a brilliant career.

John is from some other southern Ontario town and studied mostly in some other Canadian province, but his reputation has been established and has grown primarily from his base in Peterborough, where he and his wife, Claire, and their children, have lived since the end of the last millennium. Of course artists do not live in just one place or one time: they live in Antiquity and in Renaissance Florence and in 19th -century France, in the New York of the 1940s and 1950s, and so on. But they do have to have a house and a studio somewhere, and John’s is in this city that we share. John studied mostly with the Victoria painter Jim Gordoneer, from whom he learned not only technique but also the passion of painting. John also reads. A lot. He reads philosophy, history, poetry, fiction, and much else besides. He is most definitely not among that bunch of artists whom Marcel Duchamp once derided by saying “Dumb as a painter.” His reading gets into his pictures, but not in a way to distract you. Because his pictures are very painterly, and very poetic—two words that I poo-pooed in the essay I wrote to celebrate this retrospective, but that feel irresistible in describing a Climenhage painting.

Pretty well all of the nine muses chatter into John’s ear when he paints: music, history, poetry, even dance, maybe, even astronomy, maybe. But like all good and great artists he listens, but mostly just paints. That’s what he loves to do. Recently that love has been spent on very local subjects—over seventy-five small paintings of Peterborough places, many of which you can see here tonight, executed during the pandemic. He illuminates what he sees and shows us what he knows, at a certain time, and definitely in a certain place, but so as to render Peterborough as important as Florence or Paris or New York. Florence, when Michelangelo moved there in 1499 and where he sculpted David five years later, had a population of 60,000 people. Think about that.

As Justin has already mentioned, there are some 300 paintings in this show. John, as I said, loves to paint. This is a mid-career exhibition. There will be plenty more paintings to come, and we can be grateful to him for that. Please join me in giving him a warm round of applause, wherever he is.

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.

The Conversations

Over the course of several months, John Climenhage, Bruce Whiteman, Justin Million, Ann Jaeger and Laura Thompson met regularly to discuss art, poetry, philosophy, and digital media.

These are excerpts from those conversations edited by Laura Thompson.

Video by Laura Thompson
Video by Laura Thompson

Video by Laura Thompson
Video by Laura Thompson
Video by Laura Thompson

End of Season, Benson Rink

End of Season, Benson Rink John Climenhage, 2020 oil on panel 12"x16"

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End of Season; Benson Rink by John Climenhage, 2020 oil on panel 12"X16"
End of Season; Benson Rink by John Climenhage, 2020 oil on panel 12″X16″

There is a little pick up hockey rink in Dixon Park, in a part of town known as the Teacher’s College District or the North End.

The park is just north of the Peterborough Normal School / Teachers College which is the largest surviving example of turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts architecture in the city. More information about the building’s history can be found here »

Here is a local band named after the park with some nice black and white footage of Jackson Park and other areas around Peterborough. Their bio states that “Dixon Park is the name previously given to the area now known as Jackson Park in Peterborough.”

Dixon Park Music performs Hey Mister

This web page is part of The Climenhage Project Walking Tour.
View a map of more locations here »

© John Climenhage 2020

Maiden Lane, Peterborough

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Maiden Lane, Peterborough by John Climenhage, 2021 oil on panel 12"x16""
Maiden Lane, Peterborough by John Climenhage, 2021 oil on panel 12″x16″”
Maiden Lane

The opening of the right now
under-utilized park there
was overrun with folk pretending
they were voting PAPPAS,
until the hotdogs ran out.
there were questions about Dean’s
voting record:
How can you council
downtown, Deaner,
if ya can’t vote for us
(like we voted for you)
in council
because ya own
the local
billiard concern?
and such.

They were really letting him have it
until a volunteer
returned triumphant to the park
classic 12 + 8 pack combo
dogs and buns
in hand,
so I voted for myself
to take two hotdogs,
which is unfair to those behind me
but is actually fine
because I am not at all
in the hot dog business.


This web page is part of The Climenhage Project Walking Tour.
View a map of more locations here »

© John Climenhage 2020