Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Working Under Pressure, SNAP, until Oct 16, 2010*

Haunted by the late great Betty Goodwin, Working Under Pressure is the result of a laboratory-like residency at Montréal's Atelier Graff. Six artists working through printmaking, painting, and photography were asked by participant and curator Thomas Corriveau to reconsider the act of printmaking through the physical process of transferring an image through pressure.

Taking its cue from Montréal legend Goodwin's seminal "Vests" series where the act of pressure became an act of remembering, mourning and creation, the artists here on view at SNAP reflect on the possible directions of where print media can go.

Making its first showing outside of Montréal, the exhibition features a different style of printmaking that artist Paul Bourgault couldn't put his finger on.

As the only artist onsite for the installation and opening, he says through a thick Quebecois accent, "It's a different feeling, I don't know enough to say exactly what, but I know in Montréal, this work, especially my work, is not looked at as mainstream."

Referring to the minimalist style of high production and higher conceptual works that have come out of Montréal, the print works in this show are more visceral, yet do not slack in terms of a professional presentation.

"Tom [Corriveau] asked us to think of printing in terms of, 'What if?' We were giving this theme of pressure as an undercurrent, that was it," Bourgault continues.

Creating a work that is part painting, part mixed-media collage, Bourgault appears to be building human tension through the tactile compression of fragmented limbs and layers directly onto the canvas. Each work is distinctly different from the next, with Lucie Robert's "Pression" series most obviously paying homage to Goodwin and yet finds its own message in its delicate treatment of stitches across the frailness of thin Japanese paper.

Photographer Yann Pocreau strays the farthest from any stylist connection to Goodwin, and yet conjures the most emotion in summoning the absent presence that has been character of the late printmaker's work. Painter Angèle Verret also delves into the emotional with a pair of paintings that at first appear to be lush textural monochromes, but upon closer viewing reveal themselves to be impressions, embedded with a backwards and indecipherable hand-written text that gives them an absent presence.

For the most part, the show is just interesting as it allows visitors to see what print artists are doing on the other side of the country, as often here in Edmonton our print artists are seemingly more engaged with international practices or already renowned Canadian printmakers. As the legacy of highly technical printmaking runs deep through the impact of the U of A and byway through SNAP, it was a breath of fresh air to see a different flavour of contemporary printmaking that focused less on technique and more on concept.

*First published in Vue Weekly

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