Food for thought

Veteran artist Robert Pasternak provides plenty of things to sink your mind into with new exhibit Visual Chew

  • Artist Robert Pasternak used his skills as a printmaker to design packaged wrappers that comment on consumerism for his latest exhibition, Visual Chew. – Cindy Titus

  • Artist Robert Pasternak used his skills as a printmaker to design packaged wrappers that comment on consumerism for his latest exhibition, Visual Chew.

  • Artist Robert Pasternak used his skills as a printmaker to design packaged wrappers that comment on consumerism for his latest exhibition, Visual Chew.

Robert Pasternak’s latest artistic offering Visual Chew: Original novelties, art multiples and packaged thoughts is currently on display at Martha Street Studio. In this unique exhibition, Pasternak utilizes his skills as a printmaker, with individual silk-screened packaged wrappers and offset printed booklets of his work.

At first glance the pieces are quirky and playful, but many also carry their own messages.

For instance, Pasternak’s packages of dried leaves and apple cores hint at the everyday consumption of bottled water or the purchase of soil, drawing attention to how these natural things have all been packaged for profits.

“I do think we consume too much,” said Pasternak when asked about his pieces that speak directly to our roles as consumers, like his candy bar titled Eat-Less.

Pasternak’s Fun Gum, fashioned after Bazooka gum, is not gum at all but a small square of modeling clay that comes packed with a comic that either educates or instructs the viewer to make something with the clay.

The artist’s Chiclets gum boxes contain miniature candy-coated booklets filled with artwork, a collaborative piece with artist and graphic designer Ron White.

Pasternak, who has been making art for about 30 years, suggests that his work has evolved simultaneously and the variety of work in his portfolio has developed in unison. Each switch of method and medium arrives at another style of work, which Pasternak would say all comes from the “Nakfactorium” – a word he has created to help describe where all his work comes from.

“And then it’s like Kaboom!” exclaimed Pasternak, describing the different aspects of his work as they collide and unite to create an exhibition. “They inform each other.”

His studio, much like his practice, is multifaceted, filled with ideas in progress and knick-knacks from floor to ceiling.

Pasternak, who started making art in the early ’80s, is best known for his illustrations, paintings and films. His first short film was selected for the Venice Film Festival in 2003 and was the only Canadian film to the play the festival that year.

Pasternak feels the inspiration for his films have come from many places, including Canadian film great Norman McLaren and artist Bertram Brooker.

“I’m a cosmic surrealist,” Pasternak explained.

“To forever be a blossoming flower,” he added, quoting a Yes song, when asked about his current ideals as an artist.

Considering each new exhibition that he has moves his work in a new direction, this slogan is apt.

Visual Chew is on display at Martha Street Studio (11 Martha St.) until Friday, April 23.

Published in Volume 64, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 25, 2010)

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