Friday, April 25, 2008

Double Take, Group show, Fringe Gallery, April 2008

There were many double takes as I walked down into the Fringe Gallery through their instore entrance. More a bunker than ever before, I naturally assumed the wood paneled wall cabinet facing viewers upon entry was a Beth Pederson work. More lifelike than her previous works, what disappoint to discover it was a real cabinet and the first wall object confronting viewers.
First along the walls were older works by Jana Hargarten, pieces that continually reminisce over the every day, but that every day has had their day in many exhibitions already. “Alberta Birds” remains fascinating since the last time I saw it a year ago, and although not her formal best, it persists as one of her most sentimental works whether wittingly so or not.
The next cluster were Neil McClelland paintings, shining nostalgia down onto treasure-like objects. Like the beginning of a bad joke, a monkey in a jail suit holds a paperclip in its mouth in one piece while a plastic pirate hovers next to a Pink Panther pez clamped in a stapler. But beyond that feckless description, the paintings are quite impressive in their intimate compositions and conveyed sense of intrigue. Against dark backgrounds and reflective foregrounds, the objects are heightened and reinforced as precious commodities, and there is a touch of softness as surrounding paint streaks faintly against the mylar.
Almost missing the real Beth Pedersons, a series of 2 and 3D realistic pop objects that blend into the background of any room, that could possibly construct the setting of any room, this idea needs to start filling entire rooms while using all six sides--and showing as a solo artist.
While I was a little surprised to read that the underlying theme of the show focused on the everyday, as all three artists are doing quite different things thematically with the everyday, it was an interesting survey of their respective nuances, and it would have been interesting to hear all three of them talk about their work together.

Artists: Jana Hargarten, Beth Pederson, Neil McClelland

Thursday, April 24, 2008

*Special guest post & community discussion, Contact, curated by Zachary Ayotte

I learned about photography the old fashioned way. I don’t mean the real old-fashioned way; I mean the way that is becoming old-fashioned now. I would buy rolls of film, put them in my camera and shoot away. Then a few days later I would take the film to the nearest drug store to be developed. It was a process that I took part in for years, even returning from extended vacations with bags of used film. I often admired the digital process, fascinated by the technology, but like many, I could not afford it.

Last year, with the technology now within my financial reach, I finally purchased a digital camera, thinking that it was necessary for my future in photography. I spent a few months with the camera, attracted to the instantaneity of the process. Eventually, though, I became bored. I began searching the Internet for photographs that inspired me, hoping that they would encourage me to pick up my camera again. What I eventually came a across was a series oh photographs taken with a Holga, a plastic, medium format camera from Japan famous for it light leaks and lens vignettes. I bought one on eBay for about forty dollars and prepared for its arrival by seeking out some medium format film. I headed to Carousel and bought a few rolls but was advised by the woman at the counter that they would only be developing the film until January 1st 2008. I had always heard the threats about the death of film but had never really believed them. More importantly, I had never really considered the implications of what that statement meant. Not until I couldn’t get my film processed anymore. Now the diminishing demand for film and the lack of interest in its process is often on my mind.

Discovering the Holga, for me, was a moment of inspiration. The images it produced created a feeling I had forgotten. It seems ironic that a camera renowned for producing what many would consider ‘flawed photographs’ was what made me appreciate the medium all over again. Those flaws, though, reminded me of some of the things that make photography great, not the least of which is its vulnerability.
Anyone who has had trouble loading film, changing a roll, or processing negatives knows that film is a precious thing. One wrong step and the images could be ruined. Light leaks and negative scratches can change an image in ways that may never be completely undone. These elements, though, remind me of the vulnerability of the medium, of images and often of the subject matter.

Because of its relation to time, photography is often a medium that documents, even when it does not intend to. Photographic images preserve a moment infinitely. They remember things as they were. They destine people to repeat the same action or and over again. The vulnerability of film, though, reminds us that the subjects of photos are no more safe from the persistence of time than we are. A scratch on a negative can make an image look older than it is. It can make the subject of the photo look unreachable, temporally foreign. And it can make the photo itself a victim of time, not just a manipulator of it. Even though photography would seem to be a medium that arrests time, the film used to capture it can remind us that both photographs and the things that we photograph are finite and will eventually cease to exist. Photos can preserve moments but by revealing their flaws, they can also remind us of how unpreservable we are.

My relationship to photography has always been tied to my relationship to art both in what I create and what I am drawn to. As an artist, I have always thought that my work is fed partially by myself and partially by the environment I am in. Great art, to me, is like magic. It is a combination of ingredients coming together in the right proportions at the right time to produce something that is almost inexplicable. I don’t think I can take credit for all of those ingredients. Film reminds me of this. Looking at various Holga images reminded me that there are elements of a photograph that are out of my control and that sometimes those elements are the very thing that draw me to an image.

The digital camera has increased the amount of control a person has. As such, images with negative scratches or improper exposures are not only uncommon, they are also easily deleted. The digital camera has given rise to the seven-second photograph. By this, I mean a photograph that exists long enough to be reviewed, deemed uninteresting or unuseful and then deleted. This practice is not uncommon and it dilutes part of what makes photography so appealing. A photograph allows a person to see something in a moment that may not have been obvious at first glance. When shot with film, photographs exist whether we want them to or not. They are right there on our negatives along with the rest of our images. This isn’t true with digital cameras. Images are often deleted before one has the chance to look more closely. By erasing this opportunity, the digital camera allows us to capture a moment as we want it to be captured. We can take pictures until we have the photograph that says what we want it to say. Of course, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Obviously, many consumers find it attractive. After all, photography now gives us the opportunity to remember the world as we want to. If a photograph doesn’t make people look the way they wish to look, it can be deleted and re-shot.

When I pull out a film camera now, people often recoil in fear knowing that the image will not be so easily erased and that they cannot review it in that moment to confirm what it represents. When a digital photograph is taken, on the other hand, people smile and pose, and then quickly gather around the photographer to see how the camera has remembered them.

But this debate isn’t about digital versus film. In the end it can’t be. I saw the equation that way at first because to me it seemed like one was threatening the existence of the other. Digital cameras are everywhere. Film cameras have become increasingly hard to come by. In an out and out battle, film would lose. But that equation is too simple. It ignores the role that we can play.

About a month and a half ago, I contacted a few Edmonton photographers and asked them to be part of this project. At the time, the goal of the work was to acknowledge the fact that photography has an important history, that film was part of that history and that it is important enough that it should be part of that future. Each photographer was to choose a image from a list of photographs that I thought were historically relevant to the medium in some way. From there they would create a new work with the same title. I saw it as a way of looking back and moving forward. Of course, the irony about that is that, as a result, I missed what I was looking for; the future of film.

I had no trouble getting six photographers to participate in this project. All of them were excited about their work and all were attracted to different historical images. Each imagined the work in their own way and each approached the issues of using film differently. Getting images printed from film is not difficult but it is not as simple as it used to be. Each of them found a way. It made me realize that the future of film was not as I had imagined it. I thought that film was endangered, doomed for eventual extinction. The future of film, though, lies not in death, but in adaptability.

It was claimed that the rise of photography would be the death of painting. It was not. Painting didn't die; it adapted. For a long time painting tried to imitate the world as realistically as possible. When photography came along, people found something that do the job better. Rather than giving up, painters explored new ways to use paint. That same potential exists with film.
I believe film photography and digital photography, though similar at first glance, are actually separate mediums. By recognizing this split, we can free film and digital photography to develop in their own directions, expanding what photography can be rather than reducing it to a battle of one or the other.

*Artist talk on Thursday, April 24, 7 p.m. at Mandolin Books, Edmonton. Moderated by Amy Fung. Contact runs until the end of April.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Points of Origin, U of A BFA show, FAB Gallery, April 22 - May 3, 2008

Every few years, a cycle of stellar artists cycles through every department, and passing through the U of A’s undergraduate BFA show, Points of Origin, this may be one of those years. As one of the most diverse and bold shows in recent memory, the exhibition has really reaffirmed a faltering faith in institutional-bred art that had creeped up as of late. Some highlights included Claire Uhlick’s acrylic webs, 3D works that literally appear to be peeling and tearing itself off its adjacent wall, casting marks and shadows that challenges and destroys (wall) paintings. Then there’s Allison Tunis’ performative body modification video work that is simply clever. Performance also plays into Nancy Schultz’s “Identified Spaces” series where presumably the artist is staring back at you from a over-floralized room that flattens space and depth that transports and blurs past aunts and neighbors of a recent decorative era. Mentionable is also David Maier's concept of space and all of Erinne Fenwick’s pieces, one as an untitled photo series that is as much installation as it is performance with tea candles and the other an aesthetically pleasing construction of “get dressed” two by four’s. The group show as a whole indicates a new era of potentially strong thinkers and only time will tell where these artists go from this point of origin.

Artists: Stephanie Dickie, Erinne Fenwick, Karolina Kowalski, David Maier, Amanda Priebe, Nancy Schulz, Leah Scott, Jill Stanton, Allison Tunis, Claire Uhlick, Samantha Williams, and Mary Wong

Monday, April 21, 2008

Surface, Grant MacEwan student show, April 19 - 24, 2008

The two year visual arts program at Grant MacEwan has consistently produced interesting batches of students. Browsing around the main gallery plus the three floors of Grant MacEwan’s Jasper Place campus, I was really quite surprised to see the array of work on display. More concept than formal, mixed media, installation, audio and video, plus the more traditional drawing and painting, were obviously encouraged and explored.

Some highlights included the boldness of Erica Wilk’s various projects, Craig Knox’s “Accumulated Change” and Vanessa Janzen’s pixelated exercise “Hold On,” which within its group assignment, was the only one to fully realize itself as a complete idea between subject matter and execution. There were also projects that initially existed in site specific contexts that I wish were exhibited as such, including Janice Beddard’s “Desperate Measures,” a series of tailored figurines constructed from yards of measuring tape that was situated in the hallway towards the dance studios. Also Karen Cassidy Shaw, who’s ‘Slim Gorge On’s” was a throwback to confectionary indulgences that originally exhibited outside of the school cafeteria.

The use and access of the entire building and its occupants at best breeds a less rigid mentality of what art is and how one makes it. Although there were some devastations like placing live goldfish beneath poles of records, a setup that was far more interesting than the concept and details, and several 2D “canvases” that over and misused objects like balloons and paint brushes, at least experimental was encouraged. Unfortunately, there was no real signs of strong draftsmanship indicated from the still life and painting exercises on display, with an exception to maybe Kari Haddad and Knox.

There is no point in contrasting between Grant MacEwan and the U of A as they are entirely different environments from top to bottom, but as a viewer, the experience of perusing Grant MacEwan’s campus was a far more enjoyable, diverse, and engaging experience than the last BFA show attended at FAB Gallery. The foundational skills may have not compared, but dare I say, the student's conceptual imagination, was far more evident, daring, and original.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Prairie Artsters Tours the AFA*

In the front lobby of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts there exists two doors. Behind door number one, grant officers uphold and facilitate the funding mandate of the AFA. In many artistic circles, the AFA only equates to door number one. Simply, the AFA is a source of funds, a name cursed when projects are denied and a logo present when the cheque arrives.

Behind door number two, however, there lies the department of Collections and Acquisitions, a reservoir of research, history, and art works, and which in my humble opinion, is the defining raison d’etre for the AFA.

True, the focus of the collection has been mainly visual arts (which serves the purpose of this column), but there is certainly room to grow for new media and performance-based documentation. But for now, behind the security access door number two there exists Alberta’s top contemporary art gallery and collection that is at once for the public (through art placement programs) but closed to the public (for general viewings). Part exhibition space and part overflow space for various reasons, the gallery space is a real treasure, hidden and unexpected. Getting a prearranged tour and meeting with consultant Gail Lint along with director Al Chapman, I was generously made privy to the gallery and collection and the AFA’s various programs and resources-- and I was astounded with how amazing the collection really is.

All images courtesy of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

With some of the best in the business working behind the scenes, newly acquired works from Eric Cameron, Chris Cran, Tim Okamura, Bill Laing, Marc Siegner and Nicolas Wade join about 1700 other Alberta-based visual artists that currently form the AFA Collection. Through the Art Placement program that is currently maxed out at over 200 clients, 50 per cent of the collection is on public display at any given time. Lint, who has been with the foundation for 25 years through various reincarnations, kindly encourages artists to apply because of the “exposure and credibility” that come along with being within the collection. Acquired through open calls and peer-review juries, the ongoing establishment is at once fixed, but malleable—much like the state of the AFA itself.

Starting in 1972 in the early Lougheed years and surviving the early ’90s slide, the new Community Spirit ministry looks to be riding the arts in Alberta back into an upswing. Chapman, who began as a musician and a teacher, has a cheerful disposition about the stabilized lottery funding and the overall proactive nature of the AFA. As a sought-out resource centre for educators, curators and other arts professionals, Chapman cordially offers the AFA as a granting and collection body that also serves regional and international curiosities in a multitude of capacities. From new conservation methods to digital archiving, that area of the AFA is certainly engaging in an international dialogue.

Winding through the onsite permanent collection (the collection is big enough that it also requires offsite warehouse storage) in the new state-of-the-art storage facility, Lint shares that the move (from Standard Life and Beaver House in 2005-06) was really beneficial for the collection in the long run. Looking at the new rolling racks that are capable of comfortably storing HTS (Handing in Transit Storage) boxes and the intense organization of every canvas, print, textile, woodwork and sculpture, the incredible amount of work that exists in darkness was shocking to behold.

Packed away efficiently and barcoded into the system, this is where art retires, awaiting knowledge and consent to once again exist in the public sphere and do what it was created to do: inspire.

For more information, please visit

*First published in Vue Weekly, April 17 - 23, 2008

Getting Real with Material Functions*

Sitting down in the power corner of an established coffee chain, I caught up with emerging visual artists/curator/writer and fractions of Institute Parachute Josee Aubin Ouellette and Mandy Espezel. Their duo-show, Material Functions, opened earlier this month at ArtsHab Gallery, and a greater discussion beyond opening night queries was required.

The exhibition of new and in-progress works stemmed from Ouellette and Espezel’s shared emphasis on the material. There is a variety between the works on display in their use of paint and an obvious difference in how each respective artist handles their medium. Both are painters, BFA graduates from the University of Alberta in 2007 and invested in exploring the representation of material in space, but that’s where the similarities end.

Photo credit: Josee Aubin Ouellette, 2008.

On one side, Espezel’s technique of painting is informed by a formal approach that investigates material life within the painted space. There is a delicate use of light and transparency that reflects the space around her representational objects, emphasizing not just the object she represents but the space it exists within. The size of works was due to its exhibition limitations, but as a means to show, the work is there. Soft spoken and innately intelligent, Espezel understands her work and her community of artists as an evolution of the Edmonton legacy, and not simply a reaction or opposition. While her education was through both painting professors at the U of A, Ouellette’s was decidedly more skewered, making this exhibition an interesting contrast in the way one can paint under a shared concept and through vastly different approaches.

Ouellette, who is more outspoken and equally tenacious in opinions, offers that the alternative title for the show could easily have been Paint. Her interest in the material resides in seeing how it fits within the space around the work as object, and in listening to them speak at the same time about the same thing in their very separate aesthetics, the post-structural observation comes to mind that to the wall on which it hangs on, the frame is viewed as part of the art, but to the art, the frame is viewed as part of the wall. The material is identified by its difference, but only due to its apparent sameness, and it is that distinction that is growing.

While Ouellette thinks her work and process has been recently informed (for the worse) by a professional internship that resulted in a “serial” nature of work produced, her “Oil Sands” series was the most engaging part of her work—simply because it was the most “complete” idea unto itself and the most honest with itself as work being produced for an exhibition. The result may not have been a fully realized concept of her ideal, but this is where a sustained practice of showing and engaging with your own work as well as that of your community’s becomes so important.

As the discussion took many tangents, a grand comparison was made between the legitimacy of Institute Parachute and Edmonton’s larger artistic community. Both beckon the questions: “Is it a joke? Is it serious? Is it real?” which are being asked from within and from a far. For now, the answer to their aesthetics as much as to their aspirations is simply: “It’s REAL if we say so.”

*First published in Vue Weekly, April 17 - 23, 2008

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Bill Viola and Bruce Nauman, Art Gallery of Alberta, April 4 - June 8, 2008*

The incessant drill of Bruce Nauman’s “Raw Material OK OK OK” (1990), part of the AGA’s Bruce Nauman and Bill Viola show, is beyond irresistible. Try as you may, but its feverish entanglement of the disyllabic “OK OK OK” is delivered with a looping mechanic formality that does not lose its human comedy. There are variations in tones and deliveries, and the contextual meaning of “OK” gets left behind the longer you engage, but Nauman does not lose the human presence within a myriad of technology.

A projection-based work with a definitive sculptural element, “Raw Material OK OK OK” is as much a performance as it is sound art. As the next contemporary American artist to represent the United States at the Venice Biennial, Nauman has created a vast body of “Raw Material” audio works that include equally incessant and brilliant pieces “Work Work” and “Thank you.” The bareness of the components in “OK OK OK”—the bodiless artist spinning, the recital of “OK” set to a loop—conjures a visceral barrage that externalizes an experience that preexists rather than alluding to the creation of a new experience. The physical spiraling of the artist echoes the perpetual loop of the work, and it is “the loop” that attempts to finish what Nauman doesn’t ever intend to complete, and that is setting a finite experience of time and meaning. (One could only have wished for a lengthier exhibition space to encapsulate the cavernous echo and to not trip over fellow patrons pressed against the entrance.)

As a work of video projection, Nauman exploits the essence of video, and by extended lineage, cinematic formalities. A time- and light-based art that literally throws our shadows and demons against the wall, cinema and in turn, video art, share an ingrained ability to phenomenologically tantalize a captive audience. Rapture through the synchronization of a constructed image and sound has been formally discussed as that cinematic experience often prescribed as cinephilia, and there is an undeniable kinship between the early American experimental filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage and Paul Sharit in the 1950s that lends itself to the evolution of video art as relevant contemporary art in the ’70s.

In pale comparison, Bill Viola’s “The Reflecting Pool” is certainly more meditative. A sad replacement for the originally scheduled “He Weeps For You,” “The Reflecting Pool” is a very early example of Viola’s engagement with multiple perceptions. The cycle of life is suggested, and Viola’s lifelong interest in water begins, but the curiosity in the technology overshadows the human sentiments. Known widely for rendering the tender moment of emotion, Viola, very much like Nauman, does not lose the human essence through their use of technology. Although “The Reflecting Pool” does not quite have the same affect as Viola’s more celebrated body of work, it reveals a rare glimpse into the evolution of his emotive video art.

Complimenting the Canadian-centric “Projections” exhibit with two American artists that arguably attract far greater international recognition, it can only be garnered that new media art still needs to be spoon fed on the local front to gain greater prominence. FAVA is questionable in its identity as a new media centre, though all signs would point to its foundation as potentially so. The importance in establishing and recognizing the importance of new media art is more than to just keep up with the times, but to diversify our insular definition of art. Video work is intrinsically adaptable to cross borders and in turn, engage in a larger network that can at once be local in context and international in scope. Traditional forms of visual art will never die, but the influence of the moving-image has been informing artistic practices since its inception into the mainstream nearly a century ago, and it’s time we as audiences, artists and institutions stop resisting.

*First appeared in Vue Weekly, April 10 - 16, 2008

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Projections, Art Gallery of Alberta, April 5 - June 8, 2008

A remount of a previous reincarnation with a few minor edits and the addition of Alberta based David Hoffos, Projections traces the rich evolution of Canadian projection-based art.

Though without clarifying how the exhibit is at once showcasing only Canadian artists without necessarily pushing a nationalist agenda, curator Barbara Fischer excels at tracing a lineage of Canada-based projected works that most interestingly addresses the screen as much as the light projected onto it. In this way, the work and exhibit as a whole reconciles with its traditional visual art counterpart that seemingly distinguishes video/projection art as more cinematic than visual art. Emphasizing the screen and its transcanvasdental quality of audience engagement, Projections securely captures the sublime experience of time based art work.

From its carefully constructed install to the progression of process, the exhibit perpetually dazzles and startles with one example after another. Highlights include walking into the emptiness of Genevieve Cadieux's projection, that is an elegiac work separating and respecting erotica with a moment of tenderness, while commenting on the basic principle of voyeurism. Another is the eerie reconstruction of moment by Hoffos, who is and creates the living uncanny.

"Two Sides to Every Story" Michael Snow, 1974. Images provided through the Art Gallery of Alberta and Courtesy of the Artist.

From the seminal and formally preoccupied works of Michael Snow and Stan Douglas, whose latter piece was debated during the panel discussion as to whether it needed the repetitious chug of the live projector (it is being shown without), time based art needs to distinguish itself further from the cinema, which in its own circles perpetually contests its own death. The experimental works of the New American Cinema from Maya Deren to Harry Smith have definite connections to Snow and Douglas, but that connection grows less obvious as projected art grows into its own medium. The formal preoccupation with the form of projection and its variables is hinged on the power of light, which in bare physics, boils down to being the strongest force existing in the universe. In cinema, the audience is still considered passive as a subjected viewer, but with time based art, there is a greater acknowledgment of bodily mobility and presence and its overall effect on the work as experience.

Curated by Barbara Fischer and organized and circulated by the Justina M. Barnickle Gallery

Material Functions, Josee Ouellette and Mandy Espezel, ArtsHab Studio Gallery, April 3 - May 8, 2008

Continuing her exploration of art as system, art as material, Josee Ouellette and fellow Institute Parachuter Mandy Espezel present new works in progress as “Material Functions.” Though one might have to approach all the exhibitions at Artshab as works in progress due to its limitations of presentation and proximity to active studios, this show is definitely still developing in form more apparently than its conceptual progress.

More familiar with Ouellette through her various memorable reincarnations of material painter, expectations on her latest work with acrylic panels and wood are high(er). It is more than evident and consciously so that the works and frames are drawn and created by the artist’s hand, but there is no distinction between a self-made attitude and a ready-made craft.

But onwards to the self contained nature of the art object as Ouellette’s artistic mandate, and on her path to creating that self-sustaining system, “Material Functions” is an interesting point of reflection.

The Oil Sands Series, which show the most promise in distinguishing her own self, the materials within each piece do interact with one another across theme and form, and it is cheeky and admirable to create a self sustaining work of art called the “Oil Sands Series.” Only the work lacks a finesse that completes the art object as an art experience. A whitewash treatment was added as a very last minute to the background, but as a whole, it is still an idea, a crude oil sands concept, that I look forward to seeing when it is indeed an Oil Sands Series.

The Institute Parachute has potential to be one of the more interesting collectives emerging in this flux in Edmonton's contemporary art scene, but be forewarned of that trap between producing the spirit of DIY work and actually pushing forward the integrity of DIY art.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Grand(e) Prairie Artsters*

Finding myself in Grande Prairie over an extended Easter long weekend, this Prairie Artster was undulated with an artistic inspiration that was completely overwhelming.

More so than any city or town I have yet to cross on my prairie travels, Grande Prairie’s artistic community effuses an acknowledgment and connection to their surrounding environment that is as close as I have seen of a true “prairie aesthetic.”

Collapsed Prairie Art Gallery, March 23, 2008, Photo credit: Amy Fung, 2008

Perhaps through sheer concentration of active artists originally from elsewhere, there is an intense awareness of what is happening regionally and nationally without ever conflating the two identities.

From collectors Murray and Chris Quinn to the copyrighted land of Peter Von Tiesenhausen, to the small handful of contemporary mixed and new media artists living scattered across the 50 000 population of mostly displaced Newfoundlanders, the greater Grande Prairie region offers a fascinating study of non inclusive isolation.

Artists visited include Tiesenhausen, one of our country’s greatest land-conscious artists; Ed Bader, tenure at the regional college and recent curator of the highly heralded ARTery exhibition (with a forthcoming catalogue by Border Crossing’s Robert Enright); Tina Martel, mixed media artist and coordinator of Prairie North, an intimate workshop with past facilitators that include Harold Klunder, Aganetha Dyck and Walter May; Ken HouseGO, a ’70s NSCAD graduate turned eclectic folk artist; Bernadine Schroyer, former U of A painting student currently experimenting past her informed training; Donna White, ex-Calgarian who will be returning to her roots just in time for a responsive billboard installation held during the Stampede; Robert Steven, new Executive Director of the Prairie Art Gallery who came on board to lead the city’s only gallery shortly before the unfortunate collapse of the building’s roof; Quinn, whose contemporary art knowledge and collection rivals in scope and in corporeal curation; and Jennifer Bowes, 2007 Biennial artist and former U of A graduate and instructor who so graciously invited me up in the first place and hosted my jam-packed three night stay.

The experience as a whole was overwhelming to say the least, and bits will have to be siphoned into separate forthcoming studio visit write-ups over the coming months, but immediate highlights include:

Murray and Chris Quinn’s contemporary art collection. Wholly unpretentious, hard-working individuals supporting their regional economy, the Quinns’s impressive collection begins the second you step foot onto their front yard. With one of Tiesenhausen’s steel rope canoe boats** air craned in, the collection from there includes seminal pieces by Evan Penny along with photographic works by Jack Burman, Roy Arden and new media works by Nick and Sheila Pye, to name just a fraction of a carefully cultivated collection.

The unwavering resistance to whine and snivel even in lieu of any proper exhibition spaces. Using public storefronts for a large-scale new media exhibition, to the salon-style existence of the gallery’s salvaged collection, to the openness in sharing work with neighbors as well as strangers, the ingrained importance of showing and discussing work for the sake of growing and learning is so incredibly strong and earnest.

Image credit: "PR291" Peter von Tiesenhausen

The wonder of Tiesenhausen’s land accompanied by a Baltic post-Easter lunch. A balance of grounded intuition and an elevated craftsmanship, his site-specific land art dots the 800-some acre property, including functional works such as a beautifully crafted log cabin and a new straw bale studio. Supported by an equal partnership from his wife Teresa, Tiesenhausen’s life is undeniably his art, which in turn is very much about the land he grew up on and continues to raise his sons on.

**Correction from Vue Weekly's copy, which read "boots"

*First appeared in Vue Weekly, April 3 - 9, 2008

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Prairie Artsters Studio Visits: Sarah Fuller, Banff.

Estrangement permeates photographer Sarah Fuller’s “You Will Want To Come Back” series. Encapsulating a bygone era of North American cities and towns that remain locked in postwar aesthetics, Fuller’s findings articulate a detached wonder over the deserted drive-ins along the highway and the outdated emblems still encased within functioning motels and diners.

Shooting with a 4 X 5 for both interior and exterior locations, Fuller draws out the moody void of the landscape. Frozen and isolated, old jukeboxes, glowing antlers, a diner booth, appears dreaming in a state of suspended nostalgia. It is however the borderless blank screens that glow a bright nothingness that captures the fantasy and the void. Aged and forgotten drive in screens radiate a longing from the middle of clearings worn brown and green. Like the diner vinyl seats populated with fake plastic bouquets, the screens show hints of past habitation that is at once fixed and always transient.

There are no individuals readily visible in the photographs, but the spaces are comfortable and saturated with active memories. It is in fact the solitary presence, most often conveyed through light, that grounds this series. Blown up to 40” X 50” and exhibited behind plexi, Fuller shares that these places turn into “a void of space that you have to almost literally step into.”

Currently completing an artist residency in Reykjavik for the month of April, 2008, Fuller has been working on a new series called “Dream Work.” Researching the dream state based on Jeff Warren’s “Head Trip,” Fuller has been recording the physical expression of anonymous sleepers through infrared & standard pinhole photography and matching them to their morning written text. The pinhole is left open to expose for the entire duration of sleep and there is a sense that something more than just time and light has been captured once the sleeper wakes and closes the shutter.

The next step of the project will involve collaborative research with the Dream and Nightmare Lab in Montreal's Sacré-Coeur Hospital. Tracing and matching each dream’s neurological pattern to the varying exposure time of pinhole, Fuller is at once researcher, artist and performer as she taps into capturing her own subconscious. Starting with the basic principle of what you look like when you dream, and Dali’s exercise of trying to catch a glimpse of himself as he began dreaming, Fuller is lending an artistic exploration into dream disturbances and how we physically as well as psychological emanate peace and anxiety. The early findings are rich in hue and tones, especially one self portrait taken on the Trans Canada Hwy, which at once sums up Fuller’s approach to life and to art in one majestic unfolding of time lapsed work.

Image credit: "The Golden Booth," Sarah Fuller, 2006.
Studio visited February 16, 2008