Friday, October 26, 2007

Beth Pederson, Annex, Harcourt House October 4 - November 5, 2007*

Packing up her apartment as she prepares for the move out east, artist Beth Pederson spared a few moments to talk about the completion of her recent residency at Harcourt House.

Her artist-in-residence show, Annex (which opened Oct 4) occupies the main space of Harcourt with its bare installation. Dirty paint-splattered school chairs sit stacked in the middle of the room, which looks unkempt. Re-creating the idea of any annex or mechanical room possibly found in your typical public building, the everyday mechanical subjects of water pipes, drywall sheets and thermostats are here privileged as the objects of sole attention.

The overall installation may have benefited from the application of sound, the white noise found in the nether regions of a building’s infrastructure, and there is always the question of why one draws out dry wall with pencil tracings rather than keeping in uniform the pop-paint aesthetic, but the installation as a whole is the strongest showing of Pederson’s work to date.

Image credit: Beth Pederson, 2007.

Originally from Alberta, Pederson’s interest in the everyday mechanical most likely came from her early influences, growing up in a family of tradesmen who all loved talking about cars and car parts. She may have never picked up the tricks of the trade, but she certainly found interest in the objects of her brothers’ affections: an earlier series explored the different components of a tractor truck, focusing solely on different parts against a stark white background.
Canvas paintings of pipes and bathroom fixtures followed along with a show at Profiles Gallery, but it was during her residency at Harcourt where she stopped second-guessing herself.
Progressing steadily in the pop-realism venue of James Rosenquist and David Salle, Pederson’s works have grown into 3D representations of the everyday by eliminating all background. Painting directly onto specially pre-cut MDF boards, the pipes and mechanics are now given their shape again, and the works are mostly installed in corners and closer to the floor, where one may anticipate the functional over the conceptual of the framed and hanging work of art.
“I wanted to bring significance by putting objects out of context and to make people notice all the daily things around them that they use on an everyday basis—but probably don’t notice,” Pederson explains.

Her first residency provided her with time, free studio space and a supplies stipend to experiment and focus on her art, privileges she has not had since graduating from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 2003.

“The residency helped me to stay disciplined and to go to the studio for eight hours a day,” Pederson explains, although she always maintained part-time employment. “It’s valuable for just working out ideas and definitely needed here [in Edmonton] to keep artists going and making art.”

However, she and partner and artist Shane Krepakavich are saying farewell to Edmonton (at least for now, she says) for the cultural hub of Montréal, where both local artists feel they will be surrounded and supported by a greater network of art and culture.

With no more free studio space and the prospect of having to return to full-time hours to keep up with the increasing cost of living, Edmonton has just lost another pair of promising young artists.

*First published print and online in Vue Weekly, October 24 - 30, 2007

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