Rae Perlin: Whatever I Wanted Was Out There, In the World, Somewhere
Rae Perlin (b. St. John’s, 1910-2006) valued the act of following one’s own compass. Marking the first survey of Perlin’s work since 1998, this exhibition charts her remarkable life and prolific career. Perlin is known for her compulsive and prolific documentation of the world, which she recorded in sketchbooks and on scraps of paper that allowed her to observe freely. Working in abstraction at a time when it was not widespread in the province, she created simple and spontaneous imagery that emphasized the process of making art rather than the result. Above all, she saw the act of drawing as one of pulling from and documenting everyday life.
Perlin was a driven artist at a time when the profession was not well recognized in the province. As a young woman in 1931, she moved to New York City to work as a nurse, but decided to work evening shifts so she could attend daytime art classes under the American painters Samuel Brecher and Hans Hofmann. At the age of 40, she moved to Paris to study at L'Académie Grande Chaumière and Académie Ranson. In the 1950s, she made sketching trips to Europe. From 1956-57, she studied at the Polytechnic of Central London (now the University of Westminster). In 1959, Perlin returned to St. John's and worked as an artist and writer. She became a fundamental part of the arts community in this province, including as an art critic for two local newspapers, The Daily News and The Evening Telegram, and for the weekly magazine The Newfoundland Herald.
This exhibition follows Perlin’s travels as it examines her creative process while placing her work in conversation with the works of contemporaries such as Jean Paul Riopelle and Mary Pratt, as well as current artists who explore similar themes such as Charlotte May Hobden and Hazel Eckert.
Image credit: The curator examining one of Rae Perlin’s sketchbooks, held in The Rooms Collection.