Friday, October 1, 2010

Prairie Artsters: Profile on Jonathan Kaiser

At the very back of the darkened RBC New Works Gallery, a modern suburban bedroom appears on a small stage. Lit through the adjoining closet that glows through a pair of thermal wear, there is an indecipherable light that suggests neither day nor night, but the removed and constructed lighting found in any quiet suburban neighborhood.

Image courtesy of the artist

Crawling onto the staged bedroom floor where two crinkled blankets double as beds, books are scattered throughout the room, suggesting a space inhabited primarily for the solitary behaviour of reading and dreaming. The latter is true as you turn your head and see a two-headed creature, adorned with flowers and small ornaments, peering back at you from the darkness.

It is a creature undeniably fantastical, and yet purely domesticated, at home in this bedroom that is neither a child's nor a man's.

It is in this liminal space that artist Jonathan Kaiser creates, and while the room is modeled after his childhood home in Winnipeg, it is not necessarily an adolescent sentiment.

"When I was young, I wanted to be 50. I wanted to skip to being an adult," shares Kaiser, who currently lives in Ottawa where his partner is attending school. "But now that's changing. I remember my home, and I remember these memories because they're usually tender and fond. This was a space I could sit and think when I was a kid."

Kaiser, who's been slowly recreating elements of absence, especially in suburbia, began as a design and printmaking student at the U of A. Graduating just five years ago and technically apt, his content opened up after being invited to participate in a drawing show at the AGA by curator Marna Bunnel.

"I was excited about the objects," says Kaiser. "I didn't plan on doing an installation, but I ended up making an installation of wall drawings. It was a really positive experience. From that, I started meeting people."

Quiet and humble are understatements in describing Kaiser. From that first out of school experience, his work caught the attention of the curators for the 2007 Alberta Biennial, and from that, his name was put forward and accepted into the Glenfiddich artist residency that opened up yet a further world of opportunities.

"I've only done one residency, but I know I should do more," he continues, echoing many artists transitioning from emerging to mid level. "When I have a project, I totally focus on it full time, then when I have downtime, I do nothing. I have little odd jobs, but I'm afraid of taking on a real job or career as my art practice may cease to be."

As his first solo exhibition, Kaiser recognizes that this will be a higher profile show for himself, and that he's had to manage his time differently. "I like to have as much freedom as possible, and change things a week before if I wanted to. This couldn't be the case this time, which is good for me."

Building through Edmonton-based connections in projects such as The Apartment Show and recently in The National Portrait Gallery, Kaiser doesn't hold down a regular studio practice, but his works reveal a maturity that is consistently surprising, guided by a strong intuition that is calm and thoughtful.

He asserts knowingly in a soft spoken way, "I don't have much of a plan for my career. I plan to keep making art no matter what. I've been producing smaller works, which is a good scale for where I am right now."

*First published in Vue Weekly

Celestial Bodies runs in the RBC New Works Gallery, AGA until October 10

1 comment:


I wish I had seen this one before we left.