Carrie Perreault, I Can’t Eat Anymore (Detail), 2013, two-channel video
Sarah Beattie, Candace Couse, Alicia Kuntze, Ben Mosher, Carrie Perreault, Bruce Thompson
Curated by Emma German
Tracing the histories of artistic practice, particularly those of emerging artists, can reveal the unexpected. In doing so, patterns emerge in the exploration to find similarities between gaps, and success within the haphazard. Coming to the realization of a conclusive body of work is an evolving process that shifts over the course of an artist’s career, as the world shifts around them. The uncertainties and anxieties of the world today compel artists to question the role of their practices and their roles as mediators. Shifting Practices, the inaugural visual arts exhibition at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts VISA Gallery, is a study of varying stages of artistic and professional practice amongst six alumni from the Department of Visual Arts: Ben Mosher (2015), Sarah Beattie (2012), Carrie Perreault (2012), Bruce Thompson (2011), Alicia Kuntze (2010), and Candace Couse (2008). In retrospect, this exhibition examines their practices chronologically, from the concepts that each explored in the Honours 4F06 course until the present.
Having graduated from the Visual Arts program in the spring of 2015, Ben Mosher is the most recent alumnus in the exhibition. He was actively present during the move of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts from the Brock University campus into downtown St. Catharines. Lines of Reference is a culmination of the artist’s ongoing investigation into the histories of the site throughout the duration of the move. The artist generated a barcode based on the letters “MIWSFPA” and referenced a series of colours from around the building. Drawing on the past and present, the colours become visual codes for the site, and the verticality of the lines respond to the architecture of the building. Mosher’s practice has consistently explored the gaps between the digital and physical worlds, but this work takes a new approach to this practice in a renewed
attempt to blur the translation between digital and analogue. These text-encoded lines were initially introduced to the wall using a projector, and then meticulously taped and painted by hand. Rendering the barcode by hand results in a slightly imperfect outcome, an element that was absent from the digital barcode. The result is a non-scannable code that exists in an alcove of the gallery, a space that is often overlooked.
Similar in its search for the handmade within the vast context of the digital age, Mosher’s Drift Assembled (01/09/15) explores the idea of storage, archiving, and the artist’s own memories of growing up in Nova Scotia. Using sentimental items and found wood lends the weight of the historical context that is embedded in these objects. Since their original display in the 2015 Honours exhibition, A Temporary Stay, at Rodman Hall Art Centre, the artist has manipulated and reworked these assemblages to create new possibilities.
The viewer assumes the role of the test subject when encountering Sarah Beattie’s Soporific: A Social Experiment 2a)-c), a series of paintings that depict a figure in the midst of yawning. Through this study, the artist investigates whether a visual representation of a yawn can trigger a yawn in the viewer. Beattie was the 2012 Ontario provincial winner of BMO’s 1st Art! Invitational Student Art Competition. Her winning submission, Untitled #6, from the ongoing series Say Sneeze, was developed during her involvement in the Honours 4F06 course. Evident in these early works is an ongoing attempt to deconstruct the complex relationship between painting and photography. Using a photograph of the subject as a reference gives the artist the ability to paint the in-between moments of life. This yields a highly technical reproduction of the photograph that explores how meaning translates from one medium to the next.
Being influenced within her social and political space, Carrie Perreault’s practice translates into a social practice that attempts to disrupt power structures. Filmed in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in April 2013, I Can’t Eat Anymore documents performative acts by a Cambodian man (Mr.Vuthy) and woman (Phally). Each subject stands in front of the camera with a small wooden stool beside them with several bunches of bananas, the national fruit of Cambodia. The artist pushes both of the subjects to eat bananas until they cannot eat anymore. Once each individual is full they say in their own time, “I can’t eat anymore” in Khmer, at which point the artist advises them off screen that they must continue to eat; they do so with discomfort.
Accompanying the videos of Mr.Vuthy and Phally, Perreault extends the performance in real time. A white plinth replaces the small wooden stool in the gallery and the viewer is asked to become active in both the practice of looking and consumption. During the exhibition, the artist encourages those from minority backgrounds to eat bananas until they cannot eat anymore and to persist after the fact. This is not an exclusionary act as all viewers are welcome to endure leaving the remaining peels on the gallery floor. As an artist who situates herself directly within the experience of a marginalized population, Perreault accepts the responsibility to produce works that are honest in their attempt to make the invisible visible.
Bruce Thompson’s monumental drawings are embedded with visual information. #3. outside my hotel window and #5. what I found while I was here, from the series Inbetween, address the notion of the everyday as monumental. Embracing an unmethodical approach, the artist traces the world around him through a series of spontaneous processes. Moments from the everyday find their way into these hybrid drawings through an array of contoured lines. The precise beginnings of these works are obscured within the complex layers of visual space. In blurring the lines between drawing and painting, Thompson reminds us that the world around us requires decoding, and that memory cannot be traced to one fixed point.
Recognized as a universal object, the Kleenex box is just one of the many signs that we encounter within the everyday. As a mundane object situated within the gallery, Alicia Kuntze’s Untitled is engaged in a subtle form of institutional critique. Using a typewriter, the artist typed, “Because it really just is one god damn thing after another” onto every tissue in a Kleenex box. The phrase repeats continually until the box is empty; the work itself, like tissues, is ephemeral, as viewers are welcome to help themselves to a tissue. When the tissues are gone, the piece is
done. In referencing Kelly Mark’s It’s Just One God Damn Thing After Another, the artist comments on the cyclical, and often painstaking redundancy within our lives. Hitting the keys of the typewriter was a performative act that mimics the aggressive act of pulling a tissue out of the box. The Bags Under My Eyes Are Packed And Ready To Go came directly from the artist looking in the mirror one day at work and noticing how visibly tired she was. Constructed from an old pillow, the bags have a cyclical relationship to the human act that is contributing to their existence. In their reference to the body, the bags are relational in scale to the viewer, eliciting a visceral response. Both Untitled and The Bags Under My Eyes are Packed and Ready To Go possess a handmade quality that contradicts the manufactured world in which we live, a world that we struggle to keep up with.
As an artist working primarily in fibre, it is appropriate that Candace Couse would create a site-specific installation for this exhibition in a former textile factory. Couse’s Pressure references the histories of the building in its systemization of a material structure. Within the tensions of yarn, copper piping, and sod, this vascular structure is parallel to Couse’s ongoing exploration of the body as the domain for manufactured space. Rushing water from the Welland Canal was once utilized from a raceway located opposite James Street to generate the looms within the Canada Hair Cloth Building. Pressure recreates the forgotten history of the nearby raceway within the gallery: an imaginary stream of water runs from the copper piping throughout the structure in an attempt to sustain it.
The inauguration of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts marks an important milestone for the university and the community. As we imagine a future with many possibilities, recognizing the work of these former students becomes ever so critical. Through the process of curating this exhibition, there came many moments of realization, but there is one realization that has persisted throughout this experience: The practice of examining the artistic careers of alumni is not just a practice of measuring outcomes or success. It is, more importantly, a process of bringing together people from disparate times and places within a creative and collaborative space.