On Sunday afternoon, I walked over to the Sugar Bowl to take a look at their current exhibition. Displayed on the brick walls was the work of local artists Eric Duffy and Charlotte Falk. The collaboration between the two had produced six 20x20” images that were a combination of Duffy’s photography, gel transferred onto un-primed board; and Falk’s painting, thick and abstract.
The show was themed around the image of a bird, specifically an owl named Cecil. The artist’s statement informed me of this, but of little else, unfortunately. For instance, there was reference to WWF, the World Wildlife Fund, but I was left uncertain as to the motive behind the show and to the significance of using the image of Cecil. Are these artists trying to bring awareness to an endangered animal, or is the image of an owl being used solely as a figurative photographic element in contrast to the painterly/abstract mark? I think that any strength the owl imagery could have held as a metaphorical association was limited by declaring that this was in fact an individual animal, with a name; perhaps being used as a formal element.
There was, however, consistency within the construction of the work; the owl reference and the abstract painting. You could tell a real attempt was made to have these separate elements co-exist and interact, to create some sort of relationship between them. But the end result seemed only to enhance the fact that two different artists participated in the making of these images, and that they did so in two different mediums. Duffy’s gel transferred photos, though lovely, never really exist in the same field as Falk’s thick and expressive paint application. They did begin to become cohesive when the image of the owl was almost completely obliterated, and only the white silhouette of a wing is left to signify what the literal image could not. The most convincing element that tied the images together was actually the title. I sat underneath Owl and Sky 04; a predominantly blue piece.
Remaining most unusual about the work for me was how drastically different it deviated from the style of painting that I associate with Falk. Usually, her images are watery and ephemeral. Soft focus paintings of girls and horses that I would not call pretty, but still emotive in quality. The painting done within this collaboration is much more aggressive and instinctual, without much resemblance to her previous paintings. Accentuating this fact was the presence of one such image, Ghost Blues 01, a large, liquid painting of a horse. Though out of place in the exhibit (being the only work presented that was not part of the pairs collaborative efforts) it’s still the most successful work in the show.
Mandy Espezel is an artist and writer currently based in Edmonton, AB.