This exhibition endeavours to show that realism is about so much more than making something look like something else. Artistic realism can mean capturing the world with human empathy, or supplying a hard-nosed view of the socially marginalized, or peering behind the veil of everyday appearances to uncover deeper truths. Reality remains, as John Lennon famously observed, something that “leaves a lot to the imagination.” 

Spanning more than a century and drawing almost exclusively from Museum London’s permanent collection, Realisms brings together paintings, photographs, sculptures, and installations by over 40 artists. The exhibition examines the multifaceted ways the idea of “realism” has been visually interpreted by Canadian artists with different intentions, at different moments in history. 

Realisms highlights ways in which artists from Charles MacMunn to Edward Burtynsky to Suzy Lake have both assumed and subverted photography’s truth-telling essence. The exhibition explores the work of painters that have, like Alex Colville, complicated the line between dreams and reality, or like Joanne Tod, have called the meaning of “the real” in an age of virtual reality into question. Realisms also explores the work of artists like Yvonne McKague Housser and Bertram Brooker whose seemingly abstract paintings are motivated by a desire to uncover a more fundamental reality, beyond appearances. Finally, the exhibition looks at artists such as Micah Lexier and Kelly Mark, whose work explores realism from a conceptual point of view.  

Image: Meaghan Hyckie, John Connor & Patsy Cline, 2014, coloured pencil crayon on paper, Collection of Museum London, Gift of Christopher Varley, in honour of Paddy O'Brien and Lynne DiStefano's contributions to Museum London, 2019