Form Letters

Heather Passmore

March 18 to April 21 2011

Form Letters is a series of drawings executed on rejection letters that the artist has received in the course of her career; these mixed-media works share qualities of immediacy, humor and bold graphic punch.


Heather Passmore is a contemporary artist based in Vancouver, BC. Her practice typically explores the politics of taste, class, and art. Heather’s work often combines painting, drawing and photography with used materials such as linoleum, mattresses, plywood, and t-shirts. For the past ten years she has exhibited extensively in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and internationally. Heather obtained an MFA from the University of British Columbia in 2004. She conducts frequent artist talks and has published critical essays, and reviews. Heather has engaged in a number of international artist residencies and local community art projects. Her work is held in both private and official public collections. Heather and her painting were recently profiled on the cover and centerfold of “Vancouver Review”. She will be undertaking a residency and exhibition of drawings in Iceland this May.


on Heather Passmore's Form Letters

Within a world that is supposedly disenchanted with absolutes, it can be very disconcerting to receive a rejection letter. A paradox is revealed at the fulcrum of postmodernity. When all worldviews are posited as simultaneously possible -- when everyone can have their say and no one has to listen -- failure can find itself fixed in a lack of public acknowledgement, affirmation and institutionally legitimated associations. Societal relations can seem unambiguously Mafia-like.

Perhaps there's never been a golden age for artists in dealing with conditions of acceptance and exclusion for their work, but the nature of these struggles has certainly changed since the collapse of a universalizing system of ethical valuation within modernism. A bitterly ironic pressure to conform has been building in the absence of shared criteria for judgment. The negation of aesthetics within historical avant garde practices (and in particular, Marcel Duchamp's exposure of social negotiation as cultural arbiter), have been entirely acculturated into preferred models of practice which aid, rather than obstruct, an artist's market viability through repeated articulations of this collapse.

Heather Passmore's Form Letters are a breath of fresh air in these smothering circumstances. She moves past the readymade and performative cultural anthropology to directly address the limitations now placed on art by institutional authorities. Passmore transforms rejection letters (accumulated over the course of her working life as a professional artist) into dynamic palimpsests. Disparate systems of meaning and value are placed side-by-side, over-and-under each other. Viewers are entertained while actively engaged in determinations of meaning.

Passmore completes the letter drawings on her own, but they start with thematic requests by private Patrons (who pay $50 for a completed original work). Passmore retains the right to digitally reproduce each image, subjecting the accumulating series to professional curatorial processes. In bringing together such disparate relationships through the generation and dissemination of the work, Passmore repeats the palimpsestial structure forming each letter piece.

The drawings evoke the heady ideals of Romantic painting -- seeming to privilege inner vision and expressions of subjective experience -- while embracing popular forms of illustration with roots in French Realism (Honore Daumier in particular). Humanoid animals, erotica, fantastic composite landscapes, fanciful colour and light, allegorical suggestion and emotive mark-making dominate. Passmore's images recall everyone from William Blake, Henry Fuseli or the Nabists, to Walt Disney, Jean "Moebius" Giraud and Chester Brown. Passmore seduces and delights with these drawings while literally and figuratively transgressing the ossification of iconoclasm and self-referentiality that have become commonplace within contemporary art as a competitive professional sphere.

- Jeremy Todd, 2011

Jeremy Todd is an interdisciplinary artist, teacher, curator and musician. He was Director/Curator for the Helen Pitt Gallery ARC from 2003-05, and in 2007-08 acted as the interim Director/Curator of the Richmond Art Gallery. He is currently a faculty member of the Vancouver Film School. Jeremy also organizes bi-monthly inter-disciplinary event programs in Vancouver as part of his ongoing Not Sent Letters artist project ( and performs regularly in the new music group Payday Millionaire.