Sunday, March 31, 2013

After Finitude

"I decided to curate a show in the same fashion I would paint a picture," writes Eli Boronowsky, a thirty-something artist who has, for some years now, contributed to the conversation that is Vancouver Art.

Though primarily a painter-first artist, Eli, who works at the Or Gallery (and in many ways has become its aesthetic face), has curated a number of projects throughout the city, one of which was the highlight of my Candahar program for the 2010 Cultural Olympiad, part of his Clamour and Toll series, an ongoing project that includes films, but also (a la Candahar) sound.

Eli's latest curatorial effort, the one alluded to in the opening quote, is a group exhibition entitled After Finitude at the Or. The exhibition features works by Neil Campbell, Hanne Darboven, Nicole Ondre, Cheyney Thompson and an essay by Eli.

The first works one sees upon entering the gallery are three small drawings by Cheney, all entitled Ten Metres (2013) -- the first in tinpoint, the second in silverpoint, the third in copper point. Despite their subtle material differences, what holds my attention is how these minute curling squiggles add up to the measurements carried in their titles. A primer, perhaps, for how I might approach the rest of the exhibition?

The remainder of the exhibition appears in the larger gallery. At the smaller west and east walls are two works by Neil Campbell, Hangdown (2013) and Probe (2013), both of which are applied to the walls using vinyl acrylic. At the centre of the longer south and north walls, a painting comprised largely of diagonal marks (on the south wall) and its print (a work on paper hanging on the north wall) by Nicole Ondre, a single work entitled Cadmium Yellow Window (2013). Evenly interspersed among these large-scale works are five acrylic on linen paintings by Cheney, each of which are titled by their corresponding colour codes, as well as the volume of paint used in each painting (65.72 ml). From the speakers above comes a series of "selected musical compositions" (Baroque works when I was there) by Hanne.

Despite the exhibition's ordered layout, and the mathematical and mimetic processes by which the works are constructed, the main gallery exudes a resonance larger and woolier than the sum of its parts. Maybe not the overwhelming sensorium of the 1966 Trips Festival, but one that feels attuned to the moment: a time not of unfettered expression but one that accepts and works within the limits of constraint. I enjoyed imagining the "third" work implied by Neil's two pieces, what is effectively a longer, fatter "probe", just as I enjoyed chastising myself for seeing Probe less as an autonomous work than as a subtraction from Hangdown. Or maybe that's the point? An inversion of Luce Irigaray's work on the phallus and the vagina?

Same with Nicole's Cadmium Yellow Window, the implied inseparability of the (mono)print from its source, and the endurance of that print after the gallery walls are painted over. Here, it is the mother who dies shortly after the birth of her child; and in thinking this way, particularly in light of the purity of the medium, Nicole's "window" is less a view from the afterlife than a smudged pane that carries the fingerprints of the child who, perhaps through prayer, searches for the essence of its mother. Could it be the auspiciousness of the day that has me thinking this way, today being Easter Sunday?

When an event appears larger than the sum of its parts we can speak of it as achieving overtone, a feeling whose presence, in this instance, is both matched and supplemented by the smell of Nicole's oil paint and the soothing musical selections of Hanne.

On March 18th DIM Cinema hosted an evening of not unrelated film and video works selected by Eli, under Clamour and Toll. I say not unrelated because the works Eli chose -- Michael Snow's lyrical New York Eye and Ear Control (1964) and James Benning's more structural Twenty Cigarettes (2011) -- relate to ideas about composition suggested in After Finitude. Rather than attempt to connect the dots between these ideas, let me conclude by saying that what Eli seemed to prepare us for in viewing these film and video works was not to see them as related to painting but as a painter might see them, how those sensations might encourage different ways of thinking about painting.

1 comment: