Thursday, June 12, 2008

Exploring This Modern Love for consumerism*

Taking a stroll during last week’s installation process of Lisa Turner’s This Modern Love, the immediate impression was, surprisingly, “Is this really printmaking?” Bright colours, single iconic objects sitting on top of raw canvases, half appearing to be illustrations, with brush strokes visible in minor areas, this was unlike any printmaking exhibition of recent memory.

The iconic objects in question—potentially consumable, unmistakably identifiable—sat as rich screen prints on top of canvases instead of the traditional medium of paper. Objects rich in density and colour, some resembling a blender, a water bottle, kitschy popsicle makers and other post-war manufactured home wares, sat in rows as objects of desire and possibly as objects of confusion as things you seemingly wanted to purchase, but had no idea what their functions could be.

Image Credit: Lisa Turner, "Plastic Passions" 2008

There is undoubtedly an air of nostalgia to each piece, yet the works as a whole appear to be ambivalent about fashionable consumption and superfluous design. Though the contrast doesn’t appear to be fully fleshed out, individual pieces certainly stand out.

Printing directly on canvas instead of the standard use of paper, Turner first developed this method after seeing a series of Andy Warhol skulls done in a similar fashion.

“You can just roll on the screen ink as many times as you need to and sand into it,” explains Turner, who came to attend the U of A’s Printmaking program and has proved herself something of a black sheep. “I find with screen printing onto canvas, you get a much richer colour, and your scale can get bigger with greater density in colours. Just the way the ink lays on canvas, it seems more plastic. Typically in printmaking, you use so much paper to do so much proofing, that it’s become nice to just have one piece you could keep working on.”

Infusing a multitude of colours into her works, the outcome is quite unlike the usually tonal and extremely technical variations normally on trial and display as an MFA printmaking exhibit. Turner’s use of colours is impressively striking, comparable to a painting exhibition, as the colours morph the objects themselves, conjuring a past era of consumer culture while looking forward to a future generation of functional aestheticism.

Also as an exhibition of her obsession with random objects whose functions elude her, but whose formal constructs are fascinating, from a series of slightly variating bottle shapes that greet the viewer as they reach the top of the stairs, to unique figures found from the internet, This Modern Love combines her research interests in the iconic with the hyperrealistic repetition of pop surrealism.

“There’s a photographic and realistic quality I like, and the details are blown out, like illustrations of photos of things you would normally buy,” Turner says as I continually attempt to guess (wrongly) at each object’s objects origins and functions. As a transient pack rat, she acknowledges that she does collect random objects, but purges them as she moves from city to city. “You buy these objects thinking it’ll make your life easier, but maybe I shouldn’t collect all of these things where I have to continually wonder, ‘What is this object?’”

Regardless of the ongoing question and the impending re-locations, This Modern Love is an ode to pack rat sensibilities as much as it is a nod to broaden disciplines for pop appeal.

*First Published in Vue Weeky, June 12 - 18, 2008

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