Saturday, August 11, 2012
Debora Alanna - Everything Else Is Winter – by Philip Willey
One thinks of Arte Povera, the art movement that grew up mainly in Italy in the Sixties as a reaction to the elitism of the art world and to more general social injustice. But whereas Arte Povera makes a political statement Deborah Alanna seems more concerned with the emotive power of materials. Her work bursts of the walls. There is something primeval about it…..a primitive force that can’t quite be contained. As she says in a statement: "My sensibilities are founded in the unconcealed world that has dimensions to be discovered. Disparate thoughts can suggest possibilities I love to explore." What, one wonders, is she doing in Victoria with its well-manicured calm?
She left Vancouver because her life there was becoming too intense she says. She needed calm and detachment and like so many she found Victoria a good place to make art. It has been a productive move for her as scores of preliminary drawings attest.
Alanna has held solo exhibitions of sculpture in Kazakhstan, Italy, France, India, and Canada and participated in group exhibitions in USA, Brazil, Spain, France, Italy and Canada. She describes herself as a sculptor primarily but finding herself restricted by lack of space. So for some time she was limited to drawing on paper.
The drawings appear to be studies, ideas and imaginings which may lead to future three dimensional work. Forms in the drawings are fundamentally organic and somehow reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s refined seedpod-like creations. The larger paintings are sculptural in the way of Schnabel and Kiefer where various materials are compounded to produce a rich texture that is at once spontaneous and the result of studied choices. Contrasts are stark and every piece in the show has visual impact. The titles, one suspects, come after or during the fact.
The overall impression is one of strength. Underlying all the work one senses a kind of magma.the primeval brew at the center of the universe. The emotional energy in this work is quite overpowering really and it requires a conscious effort to resist being engulfed. The paintings become progressively more sculptural as Alanna starts to concentrate on an upcoming show in Iceland to be called, appropriately, ‘Lava and Light’.
Xchanges Gallery - August 2012
Mary and Moses….religious connotations? Well maybe. Certainly nothing too dogmatic. Perhaps spiritual is a better, broader, more inclusive word….maybe you would even call it Pantheistic if you were lucky enough to find yourself in Mary’s forest garden this weekend. Mary was Mary Martin, the owner of the property, recently deceased. Moses from the name of the street. Christine Clark, currently resident, turned the place into a sculpture garden.
Eight artists had accepted her invitation to create al fresco. Inspired by the beauty of the location they rose to the challenge and produced some remarkable responses. Debora Alanna’s white assemblages looked perfect in the pond…like an opalescent Monet…the sunlight helped.
Some Amish Kapoor blue objects in the grass by Tyler Hodgins suggested a tent city seen from a plane window. Todd Lambeth’s row of stakes, coloured from black to white provided a sharp counterpoint to the lush abandon of the natural surroundings.
Christine Clark’s giant cabbage surprised everyone.
So did the readymade oil tank. Not sure who should get the credit for that…
We stopped for wine. And a chat. And more wine. Then it was back into the garden. Some of us were stumbling a bit at this point but we pressed on. And there to our amazement was a Luna/Welch installation….
A classroom in the woods. You don’t see that every day. Elyse Portal had attached some clay pipe-like things in the trees. Bizarre at first sight but we took it in our stride.
And there on some steps leading down to the beach Troi Donnelly had juxtaposed some bright plastic objects. Twisted words on closer inspection. Nobody questioned it. We sensed instinctively it was all part of the great cosmic scheme.I’m told Michael Jess buried a time capsule as part of a performance. We were shown the spot. The earth had clearly been disturbed. And suddenly there we were back at the house. Everybody agreed it had been a most enjoyable tour.
One wonders what timid forest creatures would make of it all. (I know Christine has a rodent problem so I must be careful here) Do they come out at night and stand in awe of human accomplishment? Or do they see these creations as convenient places to nest? Bela may well know the answer but he isn’t telling.
It was all quite magical and I hope I haven’t left anybody out. The Spirit of place was everywhere….that indefinable something that is so much a part of the Pacific Northwest. Definitely a spiritual experience. It wouldn’t have been a big surprise to see a troupe of playful fauns emerging from the bush.
The Mary and Moses Sculpture Garden Show
July 22,23 & 24, 2011
Moses Pt. Rd., North Saanich
Victoria, BC Canada
Monday, May 23, 2011
Post election time. Results are in. Oh Canada! It’s as if your heart says Roy Green but your head says Robert Bateman. Definitely an anxious time for artists. What next? What cloud is looming over the post-election horizon? Will art writers be sent to re-education camps? Will artists be rounded up and forced to work in the tar sands? Does this mean the end of finger-painting in Canadian kindergartens? Seeking answers to these and other vexing questions I sought the company of like-minded individuals. And what better place to do this than the Ministry of Casual Living.
Happily the Ministry seems immune to government cutbacks. The Minister himself was available for consultation so I asked him what the future held for casual living under the Conservative majority. Well, he said, we will probably take a wait and see approach. Our mandate will continue to be to serve the local community to the best of our ability. A very diplomatic answer I thought and very reassuring. Next I asked him what he thought of Debora Alanna’s art work in the foyer. He liked it he said, there is something theatrical about it. I agreed. The piece consists of a large flowing length of fabric dipped in cement to which polythene has been added along with a few touches of colour. It strains at the confines of the space. Yes, said Debora Alanna, there’s no denying the space is congested. It wants to get out. That’s why she called the show ‘Outside In’.
Exclusivity bothers her. In an artist’s statement she describes the Ministry of Casual Living as being “…cloaked in intrigue. As is Victoria in general, as it pertains to its art and artists. There are pockets of activity and secretive cliques that share what they do with the public in a limited way. Perhaps all art communities have a kind of mystique. Not a native of Victoria, I found this to be particularly true here. I wanted to demonstrate how I felt in relation to the community here. The MOCL is ideal as it allows a site-specific work to show a sculptural depiction of an art myth.
The interior spheres are what is inaccessible, visible from the outside(ers) point of view through the plate-glass window. The swathing of the exterior of MOCL allows a sensibility of inclusion without providing true access.”
Perhaps that can be said of any city. Art communities can be cliquey. Or perhaps she is articulating that feeling artists get of being exposed, vulnerable to public scrutiny. In a broader sense it’s about the way artists react with society. Are we outsiders looking in? Can we ever be fully integrated? To me there is something elemental about Alanna’s installation. Like Rodin or Kapoor. When powerful forces are constrained within objects three dimensions hardly seem enough. It takes enormous courage to do something like that. It’s dangerous work. Like looking into a volcano. You never know when lava is going to burst through the surface. Certainly there is nothing bland about Debora Alanna or her work. They have presence. They fill space, defying the void.
“ Outside In “
Ministry Of Casual Living
May 21 to 27, 2011
1442 Haultain St.