2013 - Reviews by Debora Alanna

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bill Porteous - Northern Light - Review by Debora Alanna - first published 22 December 2013 on exhibit-v

Sunday, December 22, 2013

“Northern Light” exhibit by Bill Porteous reviewed by Debora Alanna

There is no more steely barb than that of the Infinite.'
~ Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), French poet. Complete Works, vol. 1, "Shorter Prose Poems," ed. Gérard le Dantec; rev. Claude Pichois (1953). The Artist "Confiteor," La Presse (Paris, Aug. 26, 1862).

‘The cultivated man of today is gradually turning away from natural things, and his life is becoming more and more abstract. Natural (external) things become more and more automatic, and we observe that our vital attention fastens more and more on internal things. The life of the truly modern man is neither purely materialist nor purely emotional. It manifests itself rather as a more autonomous life of the human mind becoming conscious of itself. Modern man – although a unity of body, mind, and soul – exhibits a changed consciousness: every expression of his life has today a different aspect, that is, an aspect more positively abstract. It is the same with art. Art will become the product of another duality in man: the product of a cultivated externality and of an inwardness deepened and more conscious. As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The truly modern artist is aware of abstraction in an emotion of beauty; he is conscious of the fact that the emotion of beauty is cosmic, universal. This conscious recognition has for its corollary an abstract plasticism, for man adheres only to what is universal.’
Natural Reality and Abstract Reality, Piet Mondrian, 1919
‘I remember Schapiro telling us that before Cézanne, there had always been a place in landscape painting where the viewer could walk into the picture. There was an entrance; you could go there, like walking into a park. But this was not true of Cézanne’s landscapes, which were cut off absolutely, abstracted from their context. You could not walk into them — you could enter them only through art, by leaping.’
Kafka Was the Rage: a Greenwich Village Memoir, Anatole Broyard, Crown Publishers, New York, 1993, pg. 59

Denoting northern light, Bill Porteous’ Northern Light series shown in his studio gallery earlier this month, all work titles referential to this series title designates emotional illumination through his unconditional love of colour and abstract form, an enduring respect for historical context, paintings with the qualia of northern light as his focus. Alighting from Los Angeles to Canada in the 70s, Porteous paints with a surveyor’s eye, exacting boundaries, establishing structural arrays and emotive conditions of light, of existence. Porteous’ processes are direct and authoritative mental and physical strokes, substantial and meticulous attributes of light, ostensibly British Columbia light, but more, these works expound Porteous’ exuberance.
Manifold light perspectives are either rectangular or square works. Straight or curvaceous, broad or measured painterly and critically brushed weighing musters and entices, shapes structure that provides compositions laden with integrity, confidence. Porteous’ series is tenacious, tense, yet he paints with alacrity, his crisp yellows and ceruleans sharpen, instruct with a lively willingness to substantiate light introspectively. With his robustly renegade, blatant pungency of colour and exhorted form Porteous shows he can punctuate universality utilizing bands and isolated colour bars with a sagacity as aplomb as Soulages , or Motherwell.
In a few works, a membranous shrouding of mottled surface underplays are mantles of memories. The responsibility to remember extends over the surface, dimming sheaths provide tender illumination, challenging as a Robert Irwin scrim within an affecting treatment that resolves as one of Porteous’ sorrowful perceptions of light, aptly filtered.
Dark borders enlighten the passage between a life lived and now, the destination, a precarious presence. Dark centres are disclosure or a prevalent void, even necessary fulsomeness. The darkness Porteous paints is luminous and triumphantly difficult surrender.
Porteous constructs are calmly faithful to painting. His work solidifies values that sustain earlier traditions. Whether there is orientation to a Morandi palate or a nod to Olitski oranges, Diebenkorn conscientious geography, or a play of Rothko mesmerizing, consideration of Hoffman delineation, Porteous rightfully acknowledges abstract traditions’ impetuses, delivers the formality of abstraction, and articulates his deliberations with precision, even when he employs graffito scratch marks. His candour embraces and expounds delicious, immeasurable green horizons or infinite tertiary greys, importune juxtapositions that enlivens the abstract experience - generous edification. Porteous’ enlightening possesses the constitution of intangibility, the experience of light; his light and translates this significant cogent consistency as vivid, illuminating vigour.
1 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 3 x 4 feet 2013
2 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 3x 4 feet 2013
3 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 12 x 12 inches 2013
4 Bill Porteous - North Light Series Acrylic on canvas 12 x 12 inches 2013

13-15 December 2013
Bill Porteous Studio Gallery
2960 A Jutland Road
Victoria BC V8T 5K2

Debora Alanna

Drips - collaboration by Jacquelyn Bortolussi & Danielle Proteau - review by Debora Alanna - first published 26 November 2013 on exhibit-v

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Drips - Collaboration by Jacquelyn Bortolussi and Danielle Proteau Review by Debora Alanna

‘Art that is meant for the sensation of the eye primarily would be called perceptual rather than conceptual. This would include most optical, kinetic, light and colour art.’ ~ fromParagraphs on Conceptual Art (1967) by Sol LeWittDrips examines the perception that insular experience can be focus for engagement, that physicality can be dripping nodes of comprehension. Drips eases us into self examination.
A collaborative three part installation by Jacquelyn Bortolussi and Danielle Proteau, Dripsinvolves three investigations of dripping water. In a dark alcove, under a metal pail, a speaker amplifies the dynamics of water on the lid, triggers the water above the speaker, the constancy of a projected drip, which is anticipation and resolve seen on the wall reverberating the pictorial synthesis of the simplicity of letting out something, all, with visual depiction of the soundly dropped.
A hang man drawing shaped tubular apparatus with a high overhead dropping devise is poised over a target as a small single yellow drum amplifies single drips with its engineering.
Third, a large wood slat platform stands below a lathe of water dripping hoses systematically sprinkling water. With a constructed umbrella stand holding a yellow umbrella that invites use, participants can employ the bright umbrella for protection against the fall, succor, allowing the audience to engage with the work.
The yellow of the spot drum and umbrella concur. With each enactment, there is assent, and acceptance of natural falling phenomena of wet and whetting natures, by design.Drips speaks of inconstancy or impermanence, uneasiness, the consubstantial within each staging and together.
Drips is a query about existence. The projection of the reverberation of a water dropping in the darkened recess is the visceral hint of how encapsulated realization succeeds in discomforting. The yellow drum drip exacts responsibility, delineates response, and shows how acclaiming the dropped drip as an intention succumbs to inevitability. The persistence of continuous dripping from the reticulated replete on the isolated stage acquires assistance within the umbrella of relief to shelter from the storming, shading. The fear of deluge, as in the inundation of information is thwarted, by choosing sunny fortification from overhead charges. The ideal arrangement is a welcome happenstance to rectify life’s spitting, holds promise.
Drips is blithe, describing the insubstantial essence of humanity with sociability echoed in the three configurations made to authenticate the intervals between what we feel and know that cannot be measured. Drips mitigates space as a reverberating pulse or single beat or an approachable springing allowing irregularity between each configuration –the tentative enlivens. Drips delivers ambiguity as emotive power with the delicate touches of drips, which the concord of dripping perceptibly articulates. The free falling of the equivocal as poetic drips are meditations on the satiability of being.
Debora Alanna

Fifty Fifty Art Collective Gallery
2516 Douglas Street
Victoria BC
15 - 24 November 2013 

Emma McLay - Reclaimant - Review by Debora Alanna first published 6 November 2013 on Exhibit-v

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Emma McLay – Reclaimant- at Xchanges Gallery, review by Debora Alanna

Emma McLay is a reclaimant exhibiting a phantasmagorical world of female body effectuation during and through to the other side of pregnancy, its landscape of intervention and isolating trials and tribulations, reclaiming autonomy. Visceral,Reclaimant is the evidence of revelation, the conversion of severe reality into sculpture, extracting firsthand knowledge, expounding on the enormity of experiences as a multiplex portrait through exceptional contexts.
It’s wonderful what a different life one leads inside, to outside – at least how unknown the inside one is. (Ida John to her aunt, Margaret Hinton.) ~ Augustus John: The New Biography, Michael Holroyd, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 1996, pg. 168
Walking into Reclaimant, detonated amenable furore erupts from the gallery as confrontation, as requisite introspection to enable unrestricted scope of consideration through the facets of an excised being. Shells of memory, recursive truth presses to and bursts off walls, carcasses of attachment, insight distended to elucidate the magnitude of female power through abstracted corporeal dissemination, throughout maternity. McLay segregates critical bearing and grieving focal points, her insight converges as refractions of her original experiences, using materials appropriate to this process.
Primordium, histologically, the first differentiated stage in biological development occurs in Reclaimant as material gesticulation, emphasising core valuation. Varied, loss investigations through pregnancy and resulting events, McLay’s work is elaborate opulence, bold, disparate parts charged with material exploration, ontological. She wrestles with and subjugates personal tragedy, expounding tenderness through tough realization. Her work is not sentimental. Complexity is not ornamental, but she embellishes pride and discriminate perceptions. McLay redresses Baroque curvilinear sweeps as forms of anguish with exquisite elegance, floral filagre, consuming time. Dwelling on lithe strength, her work employs opaque substantiation. Quintessence transforms as painted lace impregnated with sand and supple swags of fabric. Drawing connections with pigment laden acrylic tethers, wood or metal cut-outs design mental conduits. McLay’s illustrates with consequential flourishes. Grief arches and bows; lives as compelling exposition.
Louise Bourgeois, about her work, Avenza :
They are anthropomorphic and they are landscapes also. Our own body could be considered, from a topographical point-of-view, a land with mounds and valleys and caves and holes. So it seems rather evident to me that our own body is a figuration that appears in mother earth. This is where these landscapes come from. Technically they are two kinds: there is the poured [latex] landscape that you actually cannot control, since it is poured; and there is a certain kind of sculptured and cut landscape... (Bourgeois, p.126.) Louise Bourgeois, exhibition catalogue, joint production of The Tate Modern and the Musée national d’art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, French Edition, 2008
McLay’s constructs employ a lot of poured acrylic paint, difficult to control, decanted metallic colour as copper viscera, pigment amalgams oozing in long and meandering interconnected strips, widened meshing cascades of inner landscapes. Carved wood laminate sheets, shadowy, delicately pattern. Swaths, as restitution, constitution wilting arc and hold inexact sensations. Irascible sensations are obfuscated by the discriminating combinations of slick paint traces and flourishing exploits.
Costae Fluitantes – Emma McLay. 2011
Photo courtesy Emma McLay.
(Floating Ribs)
Acrylic, powder pigment, rosewood, copper nails, wire
54 x 133 x 7”
Costae Fluitantes – Emma McLay. 2011 DETAIL
Photo courtesy Emma McLay.
Floating ribs outstretch to encompass an entire long wall. A deficient embrace suspends belief in a bodily scourge, tangled anatomy. Thick copper nails crucify the strain. Captivating, the reddish brown strips intimates as dried bled blood, infuses the pigment. Sustained aching, time hanging, carved rosewood leaves pleach poured acrylic, harnessed courses form caged entreats. Softly draped, confluence is intricate and prickly.
First published in Artforum, critic Cindy Nemser interviewed Eva Hesse in 1970.
I am interested in solving an unknown factor of life.
It’s not the artisan quality of the work, but the integrity of the piece... I’m not conscious of materials as a beautiful essence... I am interested in finding out through working on the piece some of the potential and not the preconceived.
Hysterosalpingogram – Emma McLay. 2011
(Record of a Uterine/ Fallopian tube x-ray)
Acrylic, powder pigment, walnut and cherry wood, copper, lead pewter, wire, glass, fabric
70 x 122 x 13”
Named Hysterosalpingogram, McLay depicts the physical sensibility involved while experiencing the X ray (s) of the uterus and fallopian tubes; usually done in diagnosing fertility, to investigate blockages, and especially, the outcome of the exam results. This gigantic sculpture occupies an entire wall. The feelings are huge, multifarious. Central, a cut body from wood laminate formed to the curvature of a woman’s body holds two fallopian tube extensions contorting with different manifestations. One, loaded with glass nuggets, sheltered with thin wood, as a cutaway from the bounds of physicality has a single delicate tendril of wrought metal connecting it to the core, the other begins at the central body form, with lead and treated copper adornment tangled in difficult churning reaching the ovary realized with vascular branches, stormy bearing. Although tresses of fabric adorn, wire punctuates. The whole work is heavy with heartache.
The attribution of significance doesn’t depend on pure intellect which, in examining things analytically, attributes meaning and objective values which morals have incessantly imposed upon us. The attribution of significance depends on the body which, coming into the world and growing up under given circumstances, is provided with a certain meaning and a certain value and so feels things differently. The body does not receive the action of things; the action is only the significance that the body attributes to things.
~ Umberto Galimberti, Il Corpo (The Body), Milan, 1987, p 114.
Lex Caesarea – Emma McLay. 2010 – 2011
(Blind Covenant/Imperial Law)
2010 – 2011
Acrylic, mica, walnut wood, lead pewter, imitation silver leaf, sand, fabric, wire
66 x 55 x 17”
Caesarean delivery of a fetus by surgical incision through the mother’s abdominal wall and uterus erroneously refers to the story that Julius Caesar was born that way. For centuries this procedure was performed after the mother had died, to save the child. Lex Caesareatranslates from Latin as ‘blind covenant’ or ‘imperial law’, is the blind trust, without question in the medical profession, contemporary imperialists, and grand imposition that a Caesarean entails, the aftermath of the invasive surgery on a woman’s body, even when both mother and baby live. The work is a visage of emptiness and grace, fabric flounce with an upper bonnet of walnut wood cut as lacey, sand encrusted acrylic painted ephemera, the delicate but gritty pattern of reminiscence. Motherhood and babyhood surround the vacancy of hanging flesh.
From: Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich, 1976. p. 98, ‘Bearing in mind, then, that we are talking not about “inner space” as some determinant of woman’s proper social function, but about primordial clusters of association, we can see the extension of the woman/vessel association (It must be also borne in mind that in primordial terms the vessel is anything but a “passive” receptacle: it is transformative – active, powerful.)
Venerande Ciborium – Emma McLay. 2012 – 2013
(Revered vessel)
Acrylic, walnut wood, feathers, glass, imitation gold and silver leaf, wool, wire
51 x 44 x 7”
Venerande Ciborium – Emma McLay. 2012 – 2013 DETAIL
Photo courtesy Emma McLay.
From Looking at Giacometti By David Sylvester. Photographs by Patricia Matisse. 160 pp. New York: A John Macrae Book/ Henry Holt & Company:
It might be supposed that realism consists in copying a glass as it is on the table,' Giacometti said. 'In fact, one never copies anything but the vision that remains of it at each moment, the image that becomes conscious. You never copy the glass on the table; you copy the residue of a vision... Each time I look at the glass, it seems to be remaking itself, that is to say its reality becomes uncertain, because its projection in my head is uncertain, or partial. You see it as if it were disappearing, coming into view again, disappearing, coming into view again - that's to say, it really always is between being and not being. And that is what one wants to copy. ‘

Venerande Ciborium translates from the Latin as revered drinking cup, or revered food and came to be known as an architectural feature in a church, a vaulted canopy permanently placed over an altar, as well as the covered receptacle for holding the consecrated wafers of the Eucharist. Medically, the ciborium refers to a vesicle, a fluid filled cavity, and a cyst.

There are many kinds of cysts, and reproductively, dermoid cysts that contain humanoid material and teratomas cause the most reproductive complications. Within the body, the sizes of these formations are usually relatively small, but no matter the type or size, these formations can cause significant havoc influencing reproductive efficacy. They can be a massive impediment.
McLay venerates a formidable adversary. She constructed a receptacle that confiscates, altering the membranous swollen entity for intellectual consumption. Wall hung, an enlargement of sophisticated phenomena is heart shaped to emulate her grief and invested desire. An appliqué of carved walnut sheathing, filamentous, intertwined with fibrous wool, wire and acrylic webbing form a shroud. Centrally, the sculpture is laid bare, with a refined treatment, sheer and nakedly exposing the skin. Marking the opening, feathers, although appearing to dangle are secured randomly. Flanges, the dark plumes are highly contrasting to the form and lacy layering. Feather knives distinguish the skin toned work. Incising and edgy, McLay referencing aviary languish seems a tease, regarding ovary anguish, the ambiguity of the draught of what must be left behind. 
Myometrial Vascularity – Emma McLay. 2010 – 2011
(Devastation, ravaging/veins of uterine muscles)
Acrylic, powder pigment, micro beads, cherry wood, imitation gold leaf, fabric, wire
65 x 30 x 14”
There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. ― Maya Angelou
Tissue blood system within and over the muscular wall of the uterus weeps from this ovoid sculpture. Enveloped in stream and cascade, coursing wispy vein filaments, McLay’sMyometrial Vascularity is an empty baby shaped cocoon, vacuousness. The work is vulviform, the shape of a ravaged womb covering. Imitation gold leaf accentuates the costly, intangible commodity of a missed opportunity. Shadows’ depths cut: devastation. Apparitions of withheld realization sheathes, fracturing dismay prettily.
From: Kiki Smith A Diary of Fluids and Fears (Interview by Francsco Bonami (1993) Flash Art International, Milan, Italy, January/February 1993.
FB: So you think the more we know about our body parts the more we are in power of ourselves?
KS: Well, you have more control of whoever is dumping their beliefs on your head. At least you know who owns you at a given moment. But to me it’s more interesting to know the different meanings of what skin means to you, your liver...
KS: It’s more a way of describing our relationship of being physical and our relationship with other people’s physicality.
FB: You are dealing then with the process of being, and the body is the result of this process.
KS: It’s a form of being here, it’s a vehicle. You write a diary with your body.
KS: You can look at anything and see how life relates to it.
FB: A kind of palm reading.
KS: What is inside of you is about your history. Your body is like a mandala, you focus on a point and you see all the connections surrounding it.
FB: In the end your works are like body fluids: you create an equivalence.
KS: They express what I am in the same way. They are not trying to prove anything except that I am here, and what I care about. They create a panorama where everything is connected to yourself.
Recro Cunabula – Emma McLay. 2013
(Reviving the Cradle)
Acrylic, powder pigment, walnut wood, glass, sand, wool, yarn, wire and wire mesh
57 x 47 x 12”
Recro Cunabula – Emma McLay. 2013 DETAIL
Photo courtesy Emma McLay.

Mother Reader: Essential Literature on Motherhood. p. 81, “To understand is always an ascending movement; that is why comprehension ought always to be concrete. (one is never got out of the cave, one comes out of it.) ~ Simone Weil, First and Last Notebooks’
“Omnia mutantur, nihil interit (everything changes, nothing perishes).”
― Ovid, Metamorphoses

With effusive facility, Recro Cunabula is a cradle and a shield. Knitting consternation to acrylic paint, dredging mystification, McLay contorts materials towards an assertive, reworking of interwoven feats. This staunch sculpture shows no frailty. Here, ribs are cut wide and strong, brighter, a little askew for wear, but gleam. Inside she has merged roving (wool), knitted yarn, swatches torn and reassembled, wire mesh cut, embedded with shiny crystalline glass, an anomalous entity tucked into the hold, piecemeal - all stuck together within, a collage of domestic familiarity and structural matter, a memory collage. But the breastplate armour is thick and reflective, a new fortitude.
The idea is that the object has a language unto itself. (Anish Kapoor)
Unrestrained, well earned spectacular assertions, McLay’s bold curvilinear works of stained forms declare elaborate suffering. Jewelled metal nets speak of alien formations. Eerie wood recapitulates body’s tumult between avoidance and fighting. Eddies of swirling lead, carving malleable patina caught in dredged acrylic strips, fabric festoons are all tides of feelings, as well as a release of her physical corrosion and memories of medical proceedings, surgery.
Guarded anatomical intercisions, survival made explicit are operatic in their culmination of earnest, vociferous projections, radiantly expounding sincerity. Alluring and gracefully intuitive vindications, Mclay’s poised sculpture articulates sagacity within the absurdities we encounter because of what we live through, what she has lived through. McLay’s disparate confluence of interior spaces opposing exterior perambulations entreat, assert a vulnerable potency.

1 -24 November 2013
Friday, September 27, 2013

Tanya Doody – Open Space Residency & “ Impression Formation “- review by Debora Alanna


My life is a succession of quarters of an hour which are spent in a succession of square meters.

The Return of the Repressed, Volume II: Psychoanalytic Writings, Louise Bourgeois, Violette Limited, London, England, 2012, pg. 62

Impression Formation is Tanya Doody’s exhibition, the outcome of her residency at Open Space, a culmination of three weeks work. 13 August to 2 September 2013. Impressiveness, the poignancy of significance is pervasive in Tanya Doody’s work. She forms implication and consequence in a place between one and the other, language and action, then and now.

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Atmospherically, Doody has wall hung 2 sets of 3 - 6 commemorative plates to observe and honour formative responses to Open Space in celebration of the gallery’s 40th anniversary. Square, decoratively fashioned edges pressed from a plate mould look architecturally detailed. Doody responded to the Open Space salute by showcasing founder and Director, Gene Miller, and pays attention to the gallery’s sensibilities. On the first set of plates Miller quotes are scrawled unsystematically on the three with whitish colouring and haphazard high gloss glazes splashed across texts. Other treatments/notations are a different set emphasised with a deeper glaze colour with different chartreuse treatments. Large pale green spots on one, à la Damien Hirst, but more whimsical than he, ostensibly referring to fun experienced in the place. Feels like fun. Architectural mapping with the Open Space name and a swatch of remaining monogram colour from the original colour branding, with a print of notes scribbled favours the Open Space entity. A drawing of Miller on another with a diagonal green glaze slashed on the upper half traverses time, a patina of the growth of the place through Miller. All plates are the same size and shape serving palatable, seminal moments of the gallery’s beginnings. These fired and glazed works are a separate series, as are the ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’ stack of now fired handshake intimations in the Open Space Resource Centre, singular and independent of her Impression Formation installation.


Early in her residency, Doody’s interacted with the Integrate Arts Festival(23, 24 August 2013) public at Open Space during her performance, ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, where solid damp grey clay discs were assembled, waiting for Doody to hold each newly flattened oval of earthy material piece in her hand in anticipation of a handshake with individuals lined up for the purpose. The result was a moment of negotiated contact between strangers, and a courteous memento of their interaction, an expression of indulgence and generosity of the moment pressed between Doody and each person willing to join her in the making of unique handshake creations. Open Space interviewed Tania Doody about her process here: http://www.openspace.ca/node/1769 Doody’s performance, MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, experienced publically before in Halifax at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on November 14, 2011, and in a different variation, Greeting/Touch, earlier in 2011, where Doody wore a clay hand and forearm extended for her audience to grasp. Doody’s past project documentation can be found here: http://cargocollective.com/tanyadoody

Holly Hanessian EEG and fMRI recording during participant handshakes and hand holding during her Emotion Neuroscience and Development (TREND)/Touch in Real Time 2013 Artist in Residence at the University of Florida – Edgecomb & Westport, ME- Tempe AZ – New Orleans LA – Houston TX- New York City NY - Charleston SC – Pittsburgh PA[1], wrote:

I thought clay was the conduit for touch. I was right and wrong.

The clay imprint became an artifact of the moment. But interestingly enough, when my own brain was measured while holding clay, few neurons lit up. Why? My brain said, nothing new going on here. I know this material. It’s like eating- my brain has walked this walk thousands of times.

In April, I went to Pittsburgh to work with Dr. Greg Siegle and his lab of neuroscientists. Four people were measured using EEG in the lab, 10 people were measured at the Carnegie Museum of Art with EEG and then 4 people were measured using the same experiment in an fMRI[2]. The experiment asked participants to randomly of hold hands with clay, with an inanimate object and then with clay and held hands, the touching of the hands became the most distinct correspondence of arousal in our brain.

Doody’s clay handshakes, ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, too are a distinct correspondence that have plied emotion through provocation, an encouraged awakening now piled as a unit, white with the heat of the kiln, resemble disjointed spinal column bones, remains of the day. Disassociated moments accumulated as one mound of reminders, keepsakes. Together, they are a collective memory. Public, informal connections with the weight and mediated touch of another separated by thick clay is memorialized, a mound of curious exchanges. A cultural norm, uniquely imprinted because of each handshake, captured and assembled becomes a disconnected experience, but imbued with inscrutability. The context for the forms disappears. The edges are rough and sharp, thick, undulating, the depths of the imprint evoke a humanoid converge, humanity’s void. We cannot hold onto the soupçon of touch within an interaction, really. Doody provides the evidence.

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In her current exhibition, Impression Formation at Open Space, the retention of marks acquired through clay is a kind of a handshake, too. Dooley relates to the Open Space space, informs the extruded clay, moulds configurations disconnected from the original acts that made the impressions, forming disparate connections with the enigmatic. Through her work Doody traces lives lived.

In creativity, outer and inner reality will always be organized together by the same indivisible process. The artist, too, has to face chaos in his work before unconscious scanning brings about the integration of his work as well as of his own personality. My point will be that unconscious scanning makes use of undifferentiated modes of vision that to normal awareness would seem chaotic. Hence comes the impression that the primary process merely produces chaotic phantasy material that has to be ordered and shaped by the ego’s secondary processes. On the contrary, the primary process is a precision instrument for creative scanning that is far superior to discursive reason and logic.

~The Hidden Order of Art, Anton Ehrenzweig, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971, pg. 5

Perfection is a momentary equilibrium above chaos, a most difficult and dangerous balance. Throw a little weight to one side or the other, and it falls.

Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis, Faber and Faber, London, 1973, pg. 172

...low relief is the most poignant form of visual art there is.

~ David Sylvester. About Modern Art: Critical Essays, 1948-1996. Henry Holt and Co. (August 15, 1997):


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Impression Formation is a collection of distinct impressions, segregated broken skins, some with assembled elements, constructions as the substantiation of use, taut, bracing the facts of a place, not relations between people, a solo interchange between Doody and the Open Space building structure imprinted by the people that it populates leaving indications of their occupations. Doody’s installation entails individual works resulting from her pressing and bruising thin rolled paper clay slabs against the gallery interior in various configurations. Full body relations between the building and Doody rely on her influential cogency with compelling demands to extract historical detail into the cellulose bound material that air dries hard. Grey is a provisional, speculative colour, the work’s hue imbibing the confusion, dynamical chaos that has a sensitive dependence on the myriad of original marks. Doody, in her precision is indivisibly attentive to compound realities, balancing her perfected crafting of pronounced distress with imperturbable craftiness.


 The Open Space press release for Impression Formation describes her exhibition, explaining the title: ...’Impression Formation’, a term borrowed from social psychology, to reflect the social dimension of ceramics and to examine the complexities, unintentional inscriptions, and other accumulative events that form a patina of place touched by thousands of artists, performers, and audiences. ... with some observations by Tanya Doody/Doug Jarvis: Early in her residency, Doody noted, “This architectural space is a living and breathing entity. As Doug Jarvis (curator) mentioned, the residency is like a collaboration with the space itself.” Impression Formation is a theory pioneered by Solomon E. Asch in 1946, and later challenged, theorized by a slew of other psychologists, including Gestalt theorists each with different expressions of how people understand each other, form assessments (impressions) through initial contact and human learning processes, interpret each other during the act of meeting with environmental implications, understanding of traits, cognition, through consideration etc etc. That Tanya Doody titled her work based on the social psychology reference implies her interest in examining the possibilities within this wide experimental investigation from her intermedia, craftist perspective. In this installation, Doody careful forms deliberations of the Open Space habitation, architectural manoeuvring, pressing clay flats to record faint textures’ indication, wear assessment as it relates to cumulative events, marks’ integrity, the evidence of the environment’s existence, patinas respectfully appropriated and interpreted through her choices, acknowledging and transforming the development process she observed that she showcases in her work. Impelling coactions, Doody indeed collaborates with Open Space, that living and breathing entity.

Doody establishes patina captured through pressing clay onto surfaces – window intersections, walls, pillars, floors, stairs into documentary, bas relief/sunk relief as constructed prints. In his curatorial essay, Pedestrian Colour, John Luna describes the history of patina:

Patina was at one time the way to recognize value in objects. Before the fashion for imported goods (Calico, chintz and china), Patina was a signifier of tradition and belonging among families rooted in rustic ancestral seats. The conspicuous use of courtly display that coincided with the fashion for exotica was part of an effort to centralize power by controlling monarchs like Elizabeth I and Louis XIV. Patina became a lost signifier; a centuries-old relationship of reciprocity between object and onus rendered redundant.

Within the Pedestrian Colour group show, Luna describes new and innovative patina advances within the exhibition: Alex Grewal – ‘patina lends the signs familiarity, but it’s a troubling directness that can’t be exploited or deployed confidently. It demands insecurity’; Marlene Bouchard (Jess) – ‘’ patina is a charm, as in charisma but also like a talisman or note carried around in a pocket and mistaken for cash.’


Within Impression Formation, Doody investigates patina as a semblance of value, chronicles of use are selective mediations in discreet quietude Her patina investigates time scarring, how sustained activity impacts and gives credence to the patina of unidentified use in an extraordinary place. The result, Doody’s patina is an affecting touch, a distressed skin, an agonized but reverential tenderness, an ache.

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A historical base of architectural detail shared by the original uses of the building, and the culture operations of Open Space since the 70s becomes testament in Impression Formation. Doody creates reliefs of the particulars within Open Space as selective narratives. Doody’s reliefs (relievos) are a multipart result of patina impression formation. Revealing the realized, she releases distinct prominences figuring on emphatic grounds as essential structures of place and time, reverential faiyums. Several of Doody’s reliefs are brusquely rectangular, lean against the wall. And some are placed low on the floor, tentative floor imprints, unevenly angular patches of different sizes gracefully float with a hidden support and are arranged in a walk flow pattern, isolated, prone, some smaller, some, cozying up to each other because a proximity is required to show a comparison, a continuation of a mark, a reinforcement against remoteness.


The significance of play … is by no means defined or exhausted by calling it ‘not earnest,’ or ‘not serious.’ Play is a thing by itself. The play-concept as such is of a higher order than is seriousness. For seriousness seeks to exclude play, whereas play can very well include seriousness.

- Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga, Beacon Press, 1971

Sets of stair runner aspects lie delightfully awkward on their sides, inspecting flights as discomfited, but engaging associations, where people have gone before, as the stairs sets are as rendered suspicious, ghostly sideways apparitions. An animated set within the installation, this humorous grouping shows patina as vivacious running spirit sculptures.

...so farewell sad sigh;

And come instead demurest meditation,

To occupy me wholly, and to fashion

My pilgrimage for the world’s dusty brink.

~ Keats, Edymion

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Window intersections, muntin impression formations along with window face segments are impaled on a wall, with long thin builder nails that could have been used on the original Open Space construction, on a wall opposite to their origins. Windowless window grills are an echo of a past view, implying unseen relation between a historical place and the present introspection, scene gaps, a covert outlook, a passage – transience, humanity undistinguishable, but witnessed, and what cannot be grasped, beyond.

What would a calling of first principles mean, even if this must be left unspoken, a trace to be intuited?
I suggest this: … to chart ourselves back into the enwombing outlines of the source that encompasses–and compasses–our minds and souls.

~ Mystic Trudeau: The Fire and the Rose, B.W. Powe, Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto, Ontario, 2007. pg. 226

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Constructed hollow towers from faces of the space columns appear as ruins, with mismatched elevations, ragged, tethered tops, relatively person height. Faces of vertical containment excavated – the recreation of isolated pillars, artifacts stand as the mainstay of the edifice, sepulchral. Animate, the risk and ventures of people that made Open Space are the investments of these upholding towers. Fragile memories of those departed, others alive, upheld within the resilient clay constitution, appointed impressively. Uncanny, these voids, vessels embody the deeply familiar.

For Lacan, the Real was one of the three Orders which, unlike the Symbolic and the Imaginary, is literally impossible since it stands outside language and signification. The Lacanian Real is not exactly the same thing as “reality,” but rather a state of nature from which language cuts us off at an early age. Despite its impossibility, its presence is felt in all our subsequent lives, usually in a traumatic way since our failure to reach it brings us face to face with the realities of our own existences.

~Pataphysics: A Useless Guide, Andrew Hugill, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2012, pg. 96 – 97

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Impression Formation articulates the discerning real. Perhaps it is her sensitivity to detail, the subdued nuances of place and time her reliefs personify, a patina of the grey ache of absence that her intuition explicates. Doody’s choices and care press, measuring, imparting records of humanity that surface as visages throughout the exhibition space. An overwhelming, formative tension is gathered and imparted. We need to look down at the wall supported work, down at the floor. We need to look within the hollows of the vestiges of the building support. We need to look beyond the pinched framework of the window pressings. Doody has peeled off transient loss, forward minutiae as vulnerable candor. Impression Formation bears impressions extant when the ensuing real is the cutting chasm pressing though past reveals.

Open Space
Victoria BC
13 – 28 September 2013

[1] http://art.fsu.edu/People/Faculty/Holly-Hanessian
[2] Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
[3] Asch, S.E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology.
[4] Hamilton, David L.; Sherman, Steven J. (1 January 1996). "Perceiving pThursday, April 4, 2013

Joanne Hewko interviewed by Debora Alanna

Debora How do you feel about the title of the show (Precarious Circumstances)?

Joanne Well, it is actually something Sarah (Cowan) and I came up with together. The word precarious is a word I have been personally meditating on for a couple of years. Sarah and I are friends from quite a ways back, we reconnected at VISA (Vancouver Island School of Art), seven years ago. She and I took courses together, and have maintained a very close friendship that talks about our art, our art process, and our kids, and our families. This word, precarious, is a notion that came to me to think about in art practice. A few years ago, when I was thinking about being at this place in my life, where I am middle aged, and I am watching people’s relationships change, and different things were happening. Babies were being born, people were passing away. People were getting sick, people were losing their jobs, losing their partners. It made me think that in a way we live, really, on a knife’s edge. We go about our day thinking that we have plans of what we are going to achieve during the day. We get up in the morning, we figure out what we are going to do. We follow through that, yet at any moment in time it could change. And it could change in a way that is unexpected. And what was startling for me was in thinking that our lives could change completely in a moment. That one could go through their day, and at the end of the day, have an appointment and find out that they have a terminal disease. Everything they understood is over.
So, this particular body of work was created at a time when a very, very close friend of mine was very sick, with a terminal disease. Creating this work part of my process of figuring out and understanding what my emotions. What I tried to do in my artwork was condense a physical, visceral and emotional response and distil it into a single image. What came forward for me were feelings of lightness and heaviness. Joy and grief. There was a lot of contrast.
These two drawings were made around the same time. It was a pair. This one, being, sort of heaviness, and the swinging feeling of pendulum. And this one, was more expansive. and light.

Artist: Joanne Hewko
Title: “Gravitas”
Media: graphite powder, floor wax, charcoal, white chalk
Size: 38”x 50”
Date: Autumn 2011

Title: “Tenuous, At Best”
Media: graphite powder, floor wax, charcoal, white chalk
Size: 38”x 50”
Date: Autumn 2011

Artist: Joanne Hewko
Name: “Barometer”
Media: graphite powder, floor wax, charcoal, white chalk
Size: 38”x 50”
Date: Autumn 2011

These two drawings are about the impossibility of lightness in the face of heaviness. This drawing, which looks like a big dark cloud with tiny little bubbles underneath was me trying to understand this feeling of depression, that I was feeling. And yet in that depression, because I have close family and friends, people that care about me, were these tiny moments of joy and happiness, and effervescence.
This particular drawing is about how hope can actually... something so small, can hold up something that is so large, and pressing down. That was my intention with that drawing.
And this one was intended as a detail of the other.

Artist: Joanne Hewko
Title: “Small Mercies”
Media: graphite powder, floor wax, charcoal, white chalk
Size: 38”x 50”
Date: Autumn 2011

In this exploration of my understanding that often we live in hope and faith, and our perceptions are often quite tenuous. That is where this particular group of drawings came from. The idea of precariousness is something that has resonated with for some time.

Debora And this drawing here...?

Artist: Joanne Hewko
Title: “Grace”
Media: graphite powder, floor wax, charcoal
Size: 22”x 30”
Date: Spring 2011

Joanne This drawing is from the previous series before I did this larger body of work and again, I was looking at heaviness and something being held tenuously at either end, and trying to feel weighted-ness and weightlessness at the same time. So, the contrasting – between the two.

Debora This (previous) series was shown where?

Joanne None of this work had been shown. It is all part of my private body of work. I am an emerging artist.

Debora So, this is your first, first?

Joanne I have done a couple of shows at VISA. Painting. These particular drawings were done while I was a student. I have not had an opportunity to have them hung together. This is the first time they have hung together as a group.

Debora What material are you using?

Joanne The surface is printmaking paper with graphite powder, graphite, charcoal, erasure, and alittle bit of white chalk. Then I use– I engage floor wax as a way of getting the graphite powder to go deep into the fibre of the painting. That burnished effect is using waxes with the graphite.

Debora These are large. What size are they?

Joanne They are, the sheet sizes are 38 x 50”.

Debora What, if any are your influences?

Joanne There are both painters, and artists draw that have influenced me.
Modernist Robert Morris: for the powerful way that he is able to distil emotions and expressions into form, and also for the rawness and emotion of his drawings. Contemporary artist William Kentridge: for the beauty of his drawing and the deep black charcoal that he uses in his work. Sculptor Antony Gormley: for his persistence in exploring deeply one idea over his artistic career. Painter Sean Scully: for the way that he expresses humanity, strength, and vulnerability through abstract painting.
Debora Is there something you would like your audience to take away with them?
Joanne It is a very personal story that I am working through, but I hope that behind it there is an emotional charge. I hope that when people look at these drawings that they can feel a connection to me, a depth.

Debora Have you had any public responses?

Joanne We have had some terrific feedback to the show. People seem to be moved by it. I shared as much as I felt comfortable sharing in my artist statement, about why I made the work. It seems to be connecting with people. I hope they have a power, the drawings.
Debora They do.

Joanne. Thank you.

Debora They are stunning.

I was wondering, did you ever have a class with Jeroen Witvliet, the instructor at VISA?
Joanne I did. I had some painting courses with him and I did a theory course with him. He is a very complicated, deep thinking man. I had some excellent instruction at VISA. Danielle Hogan was also one of my favourite teachers who was very supportive. Also Rachel Hellner. Wendy (Welch), of course. I was very fortunate to be able to take courses over a seven year period and had a full gamut of different instructors, very caring – Xane (St Phillip), and John Luna. And I also met some really terrific artists as well, students who have been incredibly supportive.

I have a huge debt to Sarah (Cowan). She and I have a lot of deep conversations about our thinking, our work. There are elements of each other’s thinking and ideas between and through both parts of the (respective) work.

Debora It seems like a companionable double show.

Joanne And it came together very serendipitously... The other thing I wanted to talk about in the work is the actual process of drawing... I really like it because it is very forgiving, it is very physical. The work comes up very quickly, and I can respond to it. As in painting, there is a much larger commitment of time. And for me, doing work that is specifically trying to connect with visceral, emotional experience, drawing works really well. In that way. I do like to paint, but my paintings have a lot of drawing in them, my drawings have painting technique in them. I am finding myself drawn to drawing, more, in the art practice that I have.

Debora The wax use. How did you come to think about that?

Joanne I took an amazing two day workshop at VISA with Leslie Clark, an artist from up in Nanaimo. She is a print maker, and she taught this amazing process using resists and wax and Graphite

Debora How did she find out about that?

Joanne I think she created it out of her printmaking – she’s a painter and printmaker. With printmaking you deal with oily substances, pigments. She combined drawing elements with oils and wax. Great stuff.

Debora This is really exciting.

Debora One thing I am finding about VISA students, and I have been speaking with many different ones, is that you are articulate about your work and your process. Which is great. A great testament to the school.

Joanne I think so too. Because they ask you to think about why you are doing what you are doing. Not just because it feels good, or you like it. To go beyond that and say why do you like it, why does it resonate with you, why does this work for you as opposed to this. I feel very fortunate to have access to VISA, as a school because they give such high quality courses that are available to anyone. As compared to taking something at a community recreation centre, which is perfectly good, but to want to go deeper, without having to make a commitment to a university program... it is an excellent school.

Debora Do you think you are going on to the (VISA) opportunity in Cheltenham?

Joanne In Gloucestershire? (University of Gloucestershire). I don’t know. Sarah (Cowan) keeps talking about it. I have a family, and a son who is still in high school. So I don’t know. I would love to. I would love to keep studying, working with different people. And continuing to expand my practice and my thinking. At this point in time, the work that I do is very much an adjunct to my thinking and my being.

Debora Do you have an idea for future projects?

Joanne I am just exploring that. I am not entirely sure. I think that I want to dive into trying to combine drawing work like this with painting. And maybe working on hard supports and doing drawings and then interacting with painting and continuing. Just finding this hybrid between the two. Because there is all kinds of opportunity in that.

Debora Thank you for your time.

Joanne I really enjoyed this conversation.

Debora Me too.

Precarious Circumstances

Gallery 1580
1580 Cook Street
Victoria BC
27 March 2013

"Persons and groups.". Psychological Review 103 (2): 336–355.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Precarious Circumstance reviewed by Jillian Player


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Shutting the loud, bustling street outside, I close the door to the gallery and feel like I've entered a womb-like environment shaded in the quiet, muted tones of grey. Or, maybe because there is no colour, it's more brain-like. I walk through thoughts of life, death, and children, all flowing through the synapses of paper winding through this capsule. Inside the gallery it is like a shrine to paper. Large scale charcoal and conte drawings on paper and loosely cut paper mobiles fill the space.

Joanne Hewko's large charcoal drawings in the entrance hold you there as your body starts to sway like a pendulum with the weight of the drawings subjects. They say, “I'm in mourning.” Here lies anger and sadness, yet there are glimmers of hope, and an effervescent bubbling-up of emergence and optimism. Each drawing, an average of 30x48 inches, have a portrait-like subject in the centre, some are split horizontally like landscapes, but all have the duality of heaviness and it's opposition: lightness. The objects in the drawings seem to be in motion, either swaying or floating. They hover, waiting for someone to make a decision where they should go. One can see the artist's hand in this work. Hewko has infused her emotions by rubbing, stroking, and grinding the pigment into the paper like some pagan spell-maker casting out her subconscious desire.

Entering the main cavity of the gallery is Cowen's work. (I say that literally) It gently breezes past you like you're swimming through a white paper kelp forest. These hand-cut paper mobiles drift through the space like hanging tendrils of thoughts. Just like Hewko, one can see the artist’s hand here. Cowen has spent many hours meticulously hand-cutting these tendrils of loops upon loops. They remind me of childhood paper cuttings of snowflake patterns, or paper people that are all joined together, one after the other. I try to look at each one individually to acknowledge their uniqueness. I also observe them as a group, to focus upon Cowen's design attempts, and to respond to the idea of “multitude” and its effects on me. I ask Sarah why she has strictly kept to the theme of loops. She answers that she wants the discipline of sticking to one thing. This repetitive, work-by-hand discipline is what keeps her present, it reminds her that she is alive. Both artists' work would fit naturally in the genre of the “Art of Labour.” That is really what this work is about: two women toiling to relieve the pressures of life. That is probably why the work seems embryonic and cerebral at the same time. Joanne said she tends to live in the future and Sarah said she lives in the past. In this body of work they have met in the middle, the present.

Sarah is still building her installation, strand by strand, but hopes to be finished by the closing reception of April 6th.

Precarious Circumstance - Artists Sarah Cowan and Joanne Hewko can be seen at Gallery 1580. - 1580 Cook St. Victoria, BC. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5pm.http://gallery1580.com/ 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sarah Cowan interview with Debora Alanna

Debora                 So, tell me. Tell me how you started doing this (work)?

Sarah                    How I started this?

Debora                 Yes.

Sarah                    Well, I guess a long, long time ago, about four years ago, I took a course with Wendy Welch and I discovered paper cutting. And I loved it. But then, I kinda put it away,
I did one, kind of like these shapes, but separate. I had painted them with water colours. I did kind of like a rainbow, a spectrum over one wall of the school (Vancouver Island School of Art  - aka VISA).  It was really beautiful.

And I put it away. I discovered drawing again. I was still painting. But I kept cutting paper, and things like this. When I had my studio at Xchanges, I was walking to it, I was standing on the corner of the sidewalk, and there was this wire thing, and I thought, this is really interesting. I wonder,  I bet I can do something with that. I took it to my studio and leaned it up against the wall. I had some of these cut outs, and I started  hanging them on them, and the idea just grew.

Debora                 What is your impetus behind this? What is the force that causes you to do... cut in multiples, and hanging?

Sarah                   There are so many levels to it for me. There is the... I have a bit of a sordid past.

Debora                Don’t we all?!

Sarah                   Don’t we all. I was... I have a mental illness. And sometimes some behaviours surface. Like a long time ago I used to cut myself. And so the cutting is cathartic in a way. It is also transferring something that I used to do in a very self harmful way into something I can make something beautiful with. The shape is something that... the shape comes from... well, for me, they are cells. And the importance of... the cells within our body – the importance of them all being connected... taking a sheet of paper and making one strip, from one sheet of paper is that our cells need to  communicate. They need the proper nutrients, they need water,  salt, all that stuff in order to communicate, so we work well. That is something I am really interested in. The conductivity that I don’t even know about... I don’t know how my body works. But it does. And I know that is one of the things. So taking myself outside of myself, I am putting it into a tactile form.

Debora                Your work makes me think of Wendy’s cellular pictures – that is what came to mind immediately. That was your inspiration?

Sarah                   Yeah. A couple of years ago I took out a book from the school on – photographs of the insides of us. It is just fascinating. I did a whole series of drawings on organs and right down to the micro micro . Little filaments that... it is mind boggling.  Really, it is mind boggling.

Debora                I see this work enlarged from your drawings. Because your drawings have such detail, diary, just lines. These are large, compared to your previous work.

Sarah                    It was really interesting working on a larger scale and keeping it really simple. Really simple. When I use the knife I do feel as though I am drawing. I am drawing with a knife. It is just another level.

But the other thing too is they are so ethereal. I really wanted to call this show, my part in it anyways... there is that famous book by Milan Kundera,The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Debora                 Oh, yes.

Sarah                    And, I really wanted to call this, ‘The Unbearable Heaviness of Being’, because I feel so heavy. And... I never actually really wanted to be here.

Debora                 In the studio? Or...

Sarah                    In this world.

Debora                 In this world.

Sarah.                   Yeah. My whole life, it has been a struggle for me to be here. I have used some means, I have developed some ways of coping with being here in a physical sense. And then my art just evolved. With that always at the back of my mind, that when I make art, I am here, I am present. I am safe. I am being creative, I am meditative. When I am finished a piece, I can put it up and look at and say, okay, I did that. I did that so that means I am here. Whatever that means. It is almost like... It is a real, tangible document – that I am here.
Debora                 Great. I am glad you are here.

                              You are still working on this (installation), you are still cutting and hanging?

Sarah                    Yep. Yeah, I had an idea that it would grow.

Debora                 So, it is a work in progress.

Sarah                    Yes. It is a work in progress. I just hung 6 more (strands) this morning. I noticed some of them are breaking... I don’t know what is happening to the ones that are breaking, but some of them are really short now. I am not here all the time.  I don’t mind. The way I hung it... I want people to be able to move through it, I want them to feel touched. Physically touched by it. And I want them to touch it.

Debora                 Being an installation, it is quite a departure from your paper drawings that you were doing.

Sarah                    Ya.

Debora                 Or paintings. Paintings and drawing.

Sarah                    Painting and drawing. Ya. But I always have...I don’t know if you remember my Grad exhibition at VISA.

Debora                 You were in the corner?

Sarah                    I was in the closet.

Debora                 Right! The closet.            

Sarah                    So everything comes from something that you have already done. With that installation, which incorporated drawing as well as installation... this is now pure installation.

Debora                 At Xchanges you had a show, and you were in a container as well.

Sarah                    Yes. I am really interested in the three dimensional aspect of making art, of being creative.

Debora                 Would you call this sculpture?

Sarah                    Yes. Yes. Absolutely. Ya, but you know, it is a mix. It is sculpture, it is drawing.

Debora                 That is why I am asking. I did not want to assume. Because some people would say this is a three dimensional drawing.

Sarah                    Yeah.

Debora                 I think of it as sculpture, but that is my bias.

Sarah                    I don’t really mind how people see it. What I really want... is for people... I make it because I make it, I make it because I need to, have to, or I need to complete this idea. This concept. I don’t make for anybody else. But I hang it for other people. All I really want, and this is for anything that I do, I want a response. And whether people like it or not... I would rather that they liked it, obviously, but if they don’t really like it, so long as they have some kind of an emotional response to it... and I found with this piece that that is what is happening. They come in and say, oh, it reminds me of... oh, it makes me think of...

Debora                 Can you tell me more of what they said? What it reminds them of, makes them think of, think about?

Sarah                    They feel underwater.

Debora                 Oh yes?

Sarah                    Ah... Snowflakes. Ice. Snow. Not a cold climate but a snowy place. Forest. I had a little 5 year-old just call them weeds. Often it makes them, it reminds them of a childhood thing.

Debora                 Oh yes?

Sarah                    Yes. Lots of childhood memories. There was one fellow who said it reminded him of when he lived in Quebec and he would go hunting with his grandfather, and it was so quiet. Because when he was standing in the middle of it, and there was no sound, there was no music on, nothing. He was just standing. And he felt... he said he felt as if he was standing in the snowy, snow clad trees in northern Quebec.  I like that.

Debora                 Do you have any conceptual thoughts on these besides the act of drawing or the process you are involved with? Is there anything else that you bring to it that is the context within the art making practice in the world?

Sarah                    I haven’t really thought about it that way. To me, it is more about just making the art. Having an idea, and being curious about what that would look like.

                              Before I hung the work, even, it is always at the back of my mind, this kind of thing. I don’t know what I am going to do. I have an idea. Then I try. So the week before I hung this, I was trying to figure out how I would, and what I wanted . Did I want it as a circle? Did I want it on the periphery of the room?  Did I want it all in the centre? What I find is that the work works me. I start to hang. I look at it. That doesn’t really work. So, I get back up the ladder and do it again. I think I am really an organic artist. I work to, through intuition. This piece was hard for me because even though it is very... the shapes are very organic, I knew that I had to stay within certain bounds. I couldn’t start being really extravagant with circles or ... I knew I had to stay within certain parameters. Like, four to a loop.

Debora                 It is very labour intensive. There is a lot of work here. How long did it take you, so far?

Sarah                    I don’t know. Maybe two... I think I started it mid December. Ya, mid December.

Debora                 Several months.

Sarah                    Ya. But that is okay, because a lot of my work is about labour. It is about doing something. Not because I have to or because there is going to be an outcome that I am going to get rewarded for. It is very different from being in the world and having a job. This work is made just because. Just like, you are in this world, just because you are in this world. There doesn’t need to be a reason.

Debora                 It is gorgeous.

Sarah                    For me, it is a real spiritual practice. Ya, I think it is about the spirit. In my artist statement, I say that I am an incorrigible liar. Because I am. I lie to myself. I lie to... not intentionally. I think when I am really working on something that means something to me, then my work doesn’t lie. And it is just what it is. Does that make sense?

Debora                 Oh, ya. How comfortable are you with me transcribing this?

Sarah                    Yeah. Sure.

Debora                 Okay.


Sarah                    When I was playing, exploring with the wire, the circles I had already cut what intrigued me was the shadows. Yeah, just the shadows it created. So the next step I think is making photographs of them. And having them printed properly. Because I think they are really quite stunning. It really was the shadows they created, and hanging them together, and also playing with the light. Different lights differently. Warm light and cool light. And the kind of colours that would come out of white paper. And the shadows.

                              One of the first things I was taught in art school was that shadow is never grey. Or black. It ‘s mauve, it’s burgundy. It’s yellow. It’s all different colours. It was my son who pointed it out to me. Seriously. We were driving home on a day like today, really cloudy and he was only three or something. Three and a half. We were driving home, and he was sitting in the back seat. He say, ‘Mummy, look. Look at all the colours in the clouds.’ And I looked. And I think that is the first time in my life I ever saw colours in clouds. So then I asked him, ‘what colours do you see?’ And he started, ‘I see pink, I see green, I see yellow, I see purple, I see...’ It was the darndest thing. I never have forgotten (obviously) I have never forgotten it. So, my three year old taught me to look. Differently.

Debora                 Lovely. I love that story.

Sarah                    So, I think that is why I love grey, and I love anything with white, and shadow. Not using manufactured colour. The shadows, they stir something in me.

Debora                 It will be interesting to see how you use that in your next body of work. Do you have something in mind?

Sarah                    What I am going to do is submit this piece to various galleries around, and outside of Victoria, too. And I am also going to start exploring with different materials. I would like to start playing around with plastics, things like that that are more durable, although, I love the fact that paper is natural, is biodegradable, and it is transient. That is the other thing I love about this... is that it is not going to stay like this forever. The other thing too, is that, and I learned this as an artist, once i am kind of done with the work, I don’t really care what happens to it. Someone can come and buy it, or take it or I can give it away, or whatever, but when I am done, I don’t have any... there is only one painting I have an emotional attachment to that I will never sell, but anything else... It is kind of strange. Like if someone came in and said they wanted to buy this right now, I would say, oh great. Although, maybe not quite yet, I don’t’ think I am not really quite finished. But you know...

Debora                 Yes. This could be a template for a manufacturer too. It not is easily repeated, but it is not impossible to repeat.

Sarah                    I know I have had a few people say I need to get a design person in, and a marketing person. No. I just want to do the work. That is the most important thing to me.

Debora                 Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. 

Precarious Circumstances
Gallery 1580
1580 Cook St
Victoria BC

Debora Alanna is a multimedia artist living in Victoria, BC  visit her blog here: http://embellish4art.blogspot.ca/

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Journey exhibit by Philip Willey reviewed by Debora Alanna

Philip Willey
“The Journey” – New Paintings
Spiral Cafe – March 2013
Review by Debora Alanna 

As Berkeley [1] said, if I attempt to imagine some place in the world which has never been seen, the very fact that I imagine it makes me present at that time. I thus cannot conceive a perceptible place in which I am not myself present.
– ‘The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences’ (1964) by Maurice Merleau-Ponty.[2]

The days aren't discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn't unweave: there is no net.
They don't fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn't divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.

 Pablo Neruda, Aun (Still Another Day

Philip WilleyThey are all small on paper.....8 x 10 inches....watercolour, ink....mixed media. Except the one big one (Journey to the East) which is acrylic on board 24 x 30.
Philip Willey
I've been wondering how I would describe my work if I was reviewing it. It's definitely not abstract. But not illustrational either. Time and space are important. I guess I'm just dealing with a headful of memories and ideas......maybe some philosophical quandaries. I get the ideas and I try to realize them as nearly as I can.....approximations.

Debora Alanna
Which philosophical quandaries?
Philip Willey
The bridge between art and reality. Reconciling the physical with the material. I guess that guru in MacDonald’s sums it up.....in an obvious kind of way. 

I have more pictures like that but I didn't put them in the show.

McGuru by Philip Willey

In the unassuming Spiral Cafe on sunrise or sunset walls, you will find Philip Willey’s latest work installed on one long continuum this month, March 2013. Willey populates paintings with memories within memories of worlds where he lived, with worlds he creates and shares. A traveller, not a tourist, his observations and practice are analysis within veneration of places and people that colourised his voyaging.
A discriminating, inexplicable sapphire aura soaks Angkor4, saturating this Cambodian trek dialogue with silky blue as a dream fulfilled, intuitive understanding that we all long for, ultimately. Layering subdued jade shrubbery, the temple triangulated pinnacles contrasts the round vegetation, a halo behind the pondering, demure monk. What he thinks of us, looking at his shrine, at him, the agent, evocation, the division of here and there seems to sharpen our appreciation of his world, but Willey leaves the monk’s thoughts for our deliberation.
Angkor4 by Philip Willey
Sultanahmet (Blue Mosque) by Philip Willey
Willey brings us a snapshot of Istanbul, Turkey with Sultanahmet. A facile fluency, Willey sketched the neighbourhood with deft strokes, highlighting trees and roofs. The houses huddle, looking like vacant faces, a remark about the inhabitants or how one’s house takes on the characteristics of those living inside. The Blue Mosque too looks animated. Stretching like an arm, the single minaret points upward to the skyless expanse calling no one to prayer. The other minarets are running amok in the landscape, recalcitrant. Willey superimposes isolation within this community, and confusion about the centrality of worship where architecture for the call to devotion is incomplete.
Poonaexpress by Philip Willey
ChungKing by Philip Willey
A skilled draughtsman, Philip can render an Indian train station in Poona (Poonaexpress) with people pouring out of, climbing onto train compartments and multiple balconies of activity as effortlessly as he can capture the brash Hong Kong multitudes’ commerce or an Afghan dessert bus (Khyber) full of passengers with desert holding the vehicle and travellers captive. Willey captivates. His colours are sincere, his amalgamated scenes convince us there is fantastic mystery everywhere.
Khyber by Philip Willey
Willey fearlessly pays homage to people he reveres. Gurus, Paul Gaugin, John Lennon. Overlapping one lush memory of Rajasthan (Ranthambore) with another memory of a Guru in a different time and place, Willey superimposes reminiscence with the consequence of experience, marking influence with lines of intention filling landscape and form with colours imbuing the traces of past that retain an enlivening presence. Drawing is coloured stains, allowing the articulation of architecture and flora to trace humanity’s tone.
Ranthambore by Philip Willey
While Willey absorbs Paul Gauguin, he also redefines him with his own individuality. Producing many works, one shown in this exhibition spirited with Gauguin, he evokes (Tahiti) abandon, subjecting himself to study and emulates the presiding master with his own blue interlude. A prone reclining woman is the shape of furniture, the place where Willey can repose with a central path leading to a standing nude wistful in the threshold, not quite in, not in the world. The figures could easily be the past and present of the same woman. Feminine gestural portrayals all over the thatched interior frame the contemplative longing of the distant view. Past presentiment, past relations. Recollection or reflection, Willey’s Tahiti is beholden and a suffusion of washed indigo memory of sensuality.
Tahiti by Philip Willey
In Woodcut , Willey anchors a different perspective of the same Polynesian local, the palms distant and framed in the background. A gradated attentiveness to locals peer into a studio, emerging from whitewash of an exterior wall to a mother and child in tentative full colour in the outdoor light.
A shadowed printmaker in a shadowy studio, the portrait is the darkness of concentration but also the segregation from the scene, people. The woodcutting (printmaker’s) workspace is pallid and dominant. The others are outside the artist’s realm. What appears as an enlarged love letter is a wall mural to the artist’s left, our right enlarging the importance of what was written, and connects with the deep shadows of the woodcutting pursuit with its greying. What was past is invasive and the artist concentrates, immerses himself within the overpowering darkening, departed or away enlarged in his surround. Woodcut is about severing time, being cut off from people, places, from what you have known, how isolation severs the covert artist perusing his work. Willey shows his history is cutting.
Woodcut by Philip Willey
Strawberry Fields by Philip Willey
Simon is a groovy young rock writer in Swinging London who always manages to be in the right place at the right time. We follow him to the TV studios where Ready Steady Go is produced, then on to the flat of art dealer Robert Fraser where only the hippest of the hip hang out. He drives out to Weybridge to visit John Lennon, Abbey Road Studios where Sergeant Pepper is being made, and the Bag of Nails club for the London debut of Jimi Hendrix. Many years later, in Bermuda, he reflects on his life and has an encounter with John Lennon’s ghost. All that in 54 pages,  illustrated by local (Victoria) artists. Fact or fiction? Or a mixture of both? Read  it and decide for yourself.
Strawberry Fields Forever
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC
Last year, Philip Willey published a book called Days in the Life, a near autobiography throughout a spatial metaphor, a time warping fancy. Strawberry Fields, the cover titled to relate to the John Lennon et al song. The Willy was the ‘rock writer’, knew John Lennon. In Willey’s latest travels to Bermuda where he passed by strawberry fields daily, Willey envisioned and wrote about John Lennon’s ghost - Lennon also once travelled to Bermuda.
Strawberry Fields is the idyllic forever, low-growing rosaceous plants in rows find the later configuration of John Lennon in his whites, more of a ghostly float than a saunter along the tidy growing lines of aggregates. The destination, if there is ever a destination, in the distance a large house adorned with a few palms under a clear blue sky. Willey figures the house with white harmoniously, drawing us away from the caricature sketch of the Lennon apparition. What is substantial is the dwelling, the commemoration of distant domesticity, the physical structure, unmarked, nearly immaculate in memory, a little muted. Lennon is white too, although there is diffidence to the character, back toward the viewer.
The Beatles song venerated the drug culture of the 60s that induced psychotropic visions, altered perception, mood, and reactions. Willey portrays the sentiment of those times nostalgically, his orderly fields slight curvature, his pristine although jaunty Lennon leisurely strolls on unplanted ground to signify what is vacancy can be transplanted. The potency of Lennon’s agreeable cultivating is still hanging about and for Willey, perennial - at the same time, an imposition. The strawberry fields grow away from the dwelling; the influence brought forward where the indicated rosy reflective memories are down with the strawberries and remain in the domain of Lennon’s apparition. Willey’s humour pervasively courts the unreality of memory, and the unreal is really nothing to get hungabout.
Finca2 by Philip Willey
Philip WilleyA finca is a Spanish farmhouse......call it Formentera if you like.....that's the Spanish island where we lived.
An ancient stead, fincas date back centuries. Willey’s home in Spain, where he and his wife began their lives together is warm, evocative of lightness, glowing with fond memories. Insubstantial peach shade chromatically released over the austere homescape, pastel blithe. The faint hung washing, line, the ladder to the second story – evocations of simplicity, relocated lifestyle memories. The turquoise atmosphere radiates holding the white farmhouse presence, the finca farming longing. Foreground cacti prickles gently, with pink blossoms shooting upward. There is always something that blooms here, in Willey’s memoirs.
(Road to) Goulimine by Philip Willey
Debora Alanna: And Goulimine referrers the place in Morocco and to Jean-Michel Basquiat, right?
Philip Willey: Yes that's right. The full title is 'Road to Goulimine'. The Basquiat figure was added last.....it seemed to fit. I think that picture is about death.....you can say that if you want.

The Berber tribe is called the Tamazight... They left some stone carvings in the Atlas mountains. I think they call themselves Amazigh...

Willey adventures, decisively. Goulimine or Goulimin, Morocco, often nicknamed Gateway to the Desert (la porte du désert) is Willey’s portal to the space between life and what is beyond, also known as death, the great divide. The deserted life. A curved line of global swirls on the right emulating the sun-like marks repeating the spheres the Tamazight carved into the sandstone centuries ago, reminiscences of his discoveries in Morocco, an awakening for Willey. He paints those memorable Amazigh impressions from his youth, scorching and distressing. Churlish swirls of circling anger in the upper air roar soundless as the mostly faceless group to our left includes a person covering their ears. The reluctant audience, a daunted public cringes to the whorl of wailing, the sound of death sinisterly silent.
Beads used for trading in Africa, later commonly called the Italian name for them, millefiori, (mille – thousand / fiori – flowers) were originally fired clay or precious stone inlays, later predominantly Murano glass, and found in ancient burial sites world wide. Traded for slaves, goods, Willey’s trading tokens are enlarged, suspended around the devilish Basquiat figure. Basquiat fought devilish substances, painted devils, perhaps even painted the devil on his dope dealer’s door prior to his death. [3] Willey is trading life for death? Staving off death? Causality has a relationship to the efficacy of art, which may be life or death. Willey surrounds his Basquiat devil with trading beads, honouring the painter’s slaving, relinquishing himself to his art. Death to those that are anonymous? What a devilish conundrum. Death trades with no one. Not even artists, Philip Willey!
In the distance of my years I cover myself with time
Like a blanket which enfolds me with the layers of my life.
What can I tell you except that I have gone
nowhere and everywhere?
What can I tell you except that I have not begun
my journey now that it is through?
All that I ever was and am yet to be
lies within me now this way.

― Nancy WoodMany Winters: Prose and Poetry of the Pueblos
Journey to the East is the poster image for “The Journey” exhibition, and the painting was included in Willey’s show. This work is layers of Willey’s life, a collection of snapshots, sequencing, a record and assembly of his continuity of process. This is Willey’s journey, his windows of opportunity that he lived through, transits. An amalgam of scenes, imbibed with affection. Willey has lived as a traveller within Asia and surrounding directions, North Africa, the mystic places that have informed his oeuvre, Willey found his focal point in the East, and continues to pivot his imagination Easterly, burnishing this painting with living memory. Wiley intensifies and materializes like emergent sunshine. 

[1] George Berkeley, Philosopher (1685 – 1753)
[2] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences,” from The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays, pp. 121-27. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Translation © 1964 by Northwestern University Press.
[3] http://nymag.com/arts/art/features/jean-michel-basquiat-2011-9/ 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Connie Michele “ba_ble: inarticulations on human-animal relations” reviewed by Debora Alanna

(Part 1 – Interview with Connie Morey)

The Posthuman Condition is a way of describing human nature at this time in our history. It refers to a period after Humanism in which humans can no longer be regarded as unique, distinct from or superior to the world around them. Consequently we must adapt our understanding of the nature of mind, reality, and what it is to be human.~ROBERT PEPPERELL [1]

Kiki Smith

 A Diary of Fluids and Fears (Interview by Francesco Bonami) (1993) [2]
KS: What is inside you is about your history. Your body is like a mandala, you focus on a point and you see all the connections surrounding it.
FB: In the end your works are like body fluids: you create an equivalence.
KS: They express what I am in the same way. They are not trying to prove anything except that I am here, and what I care about. They create a panorama where everything is connected to yourself. 
Connie Morey’s exhibition, ba_ble: inarticulations on human-animal relations is an articulate development of her syntax, relational devices to explain the overlap and integration of poetic observations through the language of painted and sculptural investigations of being. She asserts that everything is connected to everything else – human to animal, especially. What we cannot see in our psychic and spiritual existence is presented. Her/our relationship with animals is an example with how we may coexist within the presence non-verbal dialogue, how we can discover and concede the animal nature within human existence. Morey combines visceral experience with questions about the unfathomable relating ba_ble with animals’ use of communication. Crafting emollient visual descriptions of experience, ba_ble incorporates the assault and inundation through reference to animal sensibility and substance to address the need to be attentive to animal eloquence, their seminal significance for our relations. Her work is pervasively intimates sanguinity (courage, hope, passion) and humour, but the blood allusions are dry. Ba_ble strives for hope with beatific colour, seductive animal metaphors, fur and feather challenging persistent, enveloping melancholia. Morey preens and feathers our sensibilities through promising symbiotic interconnectivity.

You cannot answer Berkeley, even if you have annihilated Kant, and yet, perforce, you assume that Berkeley is wrong when you affirm that science proves the non-existence of God, or, as much to the point, the existence of matter. - You know I granted the reality of matter only in order to make myself intelligible to your understanding. Be positive scientists, if you please; but ontology has no place in positive science, so leave it alone. ~ From Martin Eden by Jack London, Martin Eden >  clip_image001  Chapter XXXVI. The Free Library.

A very rudimentary definition, ontology, the metaphysics of being (not domain hierarchy and other parameters included in computer science), opposes phenomenology, the philosophy base that investigates reality consisting of objects and events that form human consciousness rather than anything that is not experienced or independent of consciousness, (metaphysics considered assumptions by phenomenologists) has been an age old query recorded through philosophers delving into this deliberation of the essence of being from Aristotle to Connie Morey’s work, ba_ble. [3] Morey confidently embraces ontological premises, exploring the elusive and ethereal experientially. For her, matter matters, has intelligence, sensory capability and responds to complex existence. Consciously we experience unconscious embodiment in Morey’s work. 

"Dysphonia (Mouth Stuffed Full)"; 2011-2012; clay slip, glaze, graphite & fur; dimensions variable
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
Dysphonia (Mouth Stuffed Full) [Installation]
Photo Courtesy Debora Alanna
...the kind of invention that is necessary to make a general scheme is limited in everybody’s experience... that is, if you like, repetition, that is if you like the repeating that is the same thing, but once started expressing this thing, expressing anything there can be no repetition because the essence of that expression is insistence, and if you must insist you must each time use emphasis and if you use emphasis it is not possible while anybody is alive that they should use exactly the same emphasis. ~ Gertrude Stein, “Portraits and Repetition” in Lectures in America, 1935.

Dysphonia. Difficulty in speaking usually from a disorder, damage, or malformation. Morey’s group of heads are hushed, insisting complacency in unison, an emphasised distress. Creamy stained darkly unvarying countenances, unseeing, smoothly nude, except for scribbling; with a tuft of fur in their mouths, and some tufting bloodied red incapacitate speech. Silenced by unspeakable violation or is the self abasement the breach? Eyes closed, the distorted writing, staining is the only indication of thought or emotion. Multiple heads as a collective blind passivity? Morey’s rejoinder to passive fury? Furry thoughts? Silence of the furred? Each of the multiplied sameness is on varied levels, poised in various directions, so we can see different views of dysphasia embodied, dysphasia because there is failure to respond involved here. What is about fur in a human mouth that is discomfiting? A mouth would feel full of animal covering, protection choking, blocking the orifice of pleasure, of breath, of sustenance and vehicle for speech, disturbing, disrupting articulation. Morey’s heads seem impervious, except for the scribbles. She shows animal smother imposed. Possibly self imposed. Fur that draws us to animals has enabled a withdrawal of spirit when a gag is imposed. Mouths jammed to capacity with mammalian coating do make speaking difficult. No furry wag, here.Dysphonia is harried thought processes made inarticulate. 

Embodiment: (Stomach Growls)
Clay slip, glaze, & fur 2011 – 2013
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
... the synthesis which constitutes the unity of the perceived objects and which gives meaning to the perceptual data is not an intellectual synthesis. ... it is a “synthesis of transition”. ~ Maurice Merleau-Ponty, ‘The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences’ [4]
The attribution of significance doesn’t depend on pure intellect which, in examining things analytically, attributes meaning and objective values which morals have incessantly imposed upon us. The attribution of significance depends on the body which, coming into the world and growing up under given circumstances, is provided with a certain meaning and certain value and so feels things differently. The body does not receive the action of things; the action is only the significance that the body attributes to things. ~ Uberto Galimberti, Il Corpo (The body), Milan, 1987, p. 114.

A diminutive ceramic male torso sequestered to a corner is half blind, with musculature and organs revealed on his head and throat, inner thigh. His abdomen is fur. Embodiment: (Stomach Growls) is a contentious discussion about perception and relationship inference. The relating begins with the animal impetus within human existence challenging human conditioning to ignore our animal selves, while we embody the intimidating constitution of animal sensations or changes in bodily functions. Fur becomes intention and objective synthesis transitioning towards the stigma of animal appetite.

The logic of imposed physicality is countered with the opposition of nonverbal growling as interaction. Illogicality of a fur front on a human is a metaphor for an animalistic presence, the furring symptom of the bestial self - a synthesis or manufactured perception of an entirety. A furred centre, an engrossing vigour, the concentration on instinctive drives is exemplified. The male’s indifference or oblivion to his innate nature is as obvious as the bare muscles or brain exposure, yet somewhat perceiving the dispensation, the release from his obligation to people, to himself with one eye open. If he was obliged to suppress the animal side of his nature, he is no longer able, or willing. Synthesis of self, the fusion of logic and desire Morey describes with this smooth blue creviced (bruising of cognisance) whitened man is a paradoxical existence, where perception of human nature is an explicit, but transitional discourse towards a preoccupation with the struggle between spiritual and instinctive existence. Morey truncates the torso at the genital area, a dipping of the belly to cover or to hide the absence of sexual functionality. The downward glance from the unemotional figure is a gesture, an amorphous nod to dismiss any import. He doesn’t seem to care about the extent or quality of his humanity, or inhumanity. Through Morey’s segregation of the figure from the rest of the exhibition, and the fur furore, reflexive of imposed morality correspond to a judgement that relegates animalistic appetites as intrusion. Embodiment: (Stomach Growls) superimposes the synthesis of animal and human appetites, which is entirely human, whether the figure cares or not. 

"Osmophonia (The Porosity of Song)"; 2012-2013; clay slip, glaze, & feathers; dimensions variable
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
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Osmophonia (The Porosity of Song) [installation and detail]
Photos courtesy Debora Alanna
Form ceases to be an ordering in time like ABA and reduces to a single, brief image, an instantaneous whole both fixed and moving... ~ Roger Shattuck, The Banquet Years, 1955.

The smell of sound or the impulse or osmosis of sound, Osmophonia (The Porosity of Song) is a group of heads as single multiplex, like an agogic music composition, choralistic. Each choral contributor stressed a little differently. Complex thought with pretty flightless feathers impaled into the idealized sky blue ceramic move us to fixation. All over. Not just as headdresses, but all over the heads and faces - noses, mouths, eyes, and necks of several heads with different numbers of feathers situated. Numerous, the works goad, and not impulsively. Compulsively. These heads are tricky, because of the distraction of the captivating mottled blue colour heads, and the delicacy, the modulations of the salubrious feathers. The birdsong may have once been a gradual, unconscious thought slowly changing the brain of the singer(s), overcome by bird song, absorbing. A culmination of desire and mystery. The penetrations of spiky plume cores marking the pores, the sores, the holes for the porosity of vocalized musicality, sensations once an observable impetus now, with the bird feathers piercing and stabbing, sounds of provocation drive irrationally. This work does not present heads porously imbibing a bird’s sensibilities, adopting a bird’s beauteous qualities, as their song, or their plumage decoratively. This work is a song of oppression, the suffocation of personality where the idea, the fragrance of singing a delicate bird warble is all that remains of the female osmoceptor. Absorption of otherness is a fait accompli. Morey shows subjugation is vociferous, hard headed. 

"Language as Longing: earthenware, glaze and dissection pins, dimensions variable, 2010
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
― Neil GaimanGood Omens:
‘On Eternity:
I mean, d'you know what eternity is? There's this big mountain, see, a mile high, at the end of the universe, and once every thousand years there's this little bird-"
"What little bird?" said Aziraphale suspiciously.
"This little bird I'm talking about. And every thousand years-"
"The same bird every thousand years?"
Crowley hesitated. "Yeah," he said.
"Bloody ancient bird, then."
"Okay. And every thousand years this bird flies-"
"flies all the way to this mountain and sharpens its beak-"
"Hold on. You can't do that. Between here and the end of the universe there's loads of-" The angel waved a hand expansively, if a little unsteadily. "Loads of buggerall, dear boy."
"But it gets there anyway," Crowley persevered.
"It doesn't matter!"
"It could use a space ship," said the angel.
Crowley subsided a bit. "Yeah," he said. "If you like. Anyway, this bird-"
"Only it is the end of the universe we're talking about," said Aziraphale. "So it'd have to be one of those space ships where your descendants are the ones who get out at the other end. You have to tell your descendants, you say, When you get to the Mountain, you've got to-" He hesitated. "What have
they got to do?"
"Sharpen its beak on the mountain," said Crowley. "And then it flies back-"
"-in the space ship-"
"And after a thousand years it goes and does it all again," said Crowley quickly.’

Ovoid, rounded elliptically, each work in this collection of deferential presages give presence to the ache of birthing, of the not quite born, the longing for life. The life of thought. A peek at birds still in their eggshells, without the egg. The lines around the birds conform to the bird shapes, caressing and differentiating the yet unuttered. What cannot be voiced, when in suspended formation. Wind lines flying over and around. Red of emergence tints and maybe contaminates with demise, if this is a life cycle in the other direction. These could be birds dead in their containment. These birds are pinned for inspection, with dissection pins. Investigation of the raison d’être (reason for existence), of birds. Birds with wings poised to fly, mired, or nascent with possibility. Time flies.[5] Maybe a collection of memories of birds’ flight, journeys. Birds marking memory. Many memories collected in mountainous formation, an elevated horizon. As if they are formed to remember where they have been. Wanting to fly again, eternally. 

"Small Bird Trap (Learning to Sing)"; wood, crocheted string, stain; 2011-2012; dimensions variable; collaborative work with Christina & Irvin Morey
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
Small Bird Trap (Learning to Sing) [Installation]
Photo courtesy Debora Alanna
Heart’s blood and bitter pain belong to love,
And tales of problems no one can remove;
Cupbearer, fill the bowl with blood, not wine -
And if you lack the heart’s rich blood take mine.
Love thrives on inextinguishable pain,
Which tears the soul, then knits the threads again.
A mote of love exceeds all bounds; it gives
The vital essence to whatever lives.
But where love thrives, there pain is always found;
Angels alone escape this weary round -
They love without that savage agony
Which is reserved for vexed humanity. 

فرید الدین عطار, (Farid ud-din Attar). The Conference of the Birds.[6]
Cunning, elegantly complex and varied, somewhat heart shaped crocheted bird traps mounted on smooth dark poles with faulty perches to waylay birds, shiny slim dead-weight stones tied to the trappings ensure the encapsulation, full round interwoven mouths would enable birds’ confinement, arranged capture. For future consequence. For the thrall, birds that will be caught. Voicing their hearts’ desire, to escape. This work is a metaphor for love’s stratagem. How the heart’s strings capture what is wild, hope designing, concealing devices for arresting, securing birds’ song expanse. The untamed but coveted possibilities emulating bird song allure are exemplified in this work. Yearning for sources in air is priming for the fall. Stones weighing the waiting, the trapping mouths the song. Why can birds do what human hearts cannot? Setting traps for the impossibility of bird capture, encapsulating bird characteristics, is the song of vexation. We learn to sing by capturing nothing, trapping nothing. Morey’s traps are empty. The pain of longing, waiting, which here is for birds to be trapped is on a level pegging to the deception of hearts trapping. Learning to sing is the freedom of heart’s desire to never to be trapped, even if the traps are confected delicate and intriguing. 

"Taxonaphonia" (DETAIL), Library cabinet, pyrographied letters, faux fur, thread and paper, 2012-2013
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
Taxonaphonia – Detail
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
Taxonaphonia – Detail
Photo courtesy Debora Alanna
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Taxonaphonia – Details
Photos courtesy Debora Alanna
I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind mans metal walking stick. ~ Robert Rauschenberg. From “I am for an art...” from Store Days, 1967.
Connie Morey, on her website about Taxonaphonia:
taxon -
from taxonomy
from the Greek táxis - 'arrangement', 'management' & nomíā ,
related to nómos  - 'law'
(taxonomy, n.d.)
from  the Greek aphōnos - ‘voiceless’, 'without voice'
(aphonia, n.d.) 

Wisdom, a unique human attribute rich in history dating back to the dawn of civilization, is a newcomer to the world of empirical research. For centuries, wisdom was the sole province of religion and philosophy.[7] A standard philosophical (in Greek, philos-sophia = lover of wisdom) definition of wisdom pertains to judicious application of knowledge, [8]and most religions have considered it a virtue. 

Wisdom is thought to be a complex construct, with several subcomponents. While the relative emphasis on specific subcomponents has varied across cultures and periods, there have been more similarities than differences among different postulated concepts of wisdom. While classic Greek writings on wisdom focused on rationality, early Indian and Chinese thinkers stressed emotional balance. [9] - [10] Yet, these conceptualizations of wisdom
shared several common features, such as thoughtful decision making, compassion, altruism, and insight. Excellent accounts of the history of the concept of wisdom are available. [11]-[12]-[13] 

Neurobiology of Wisdom. A Literature Overview. Thomas W. Meeks, MD; Dilip V. Jeste, MD. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2009;66(4):355-365. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2009.8.

Taxonaphonia is the silence that challenges a cultural assertion. Morey’s work gives credence to unknown animalistic acumen, the wisdom gleaned from the unclassifiable. This work questions the premise, according to Taxology, the relative importance of the homosapien at the top of the biological assessment categories, scientific law principals that is therefore deemed homosapiens as most wise, wiser than animals. Morey asserts that this ordering, and resulting implication of the wisdom of homosapiens classified through taxology principals is flawed and further investigates ideas about how the symbiosis of human and animal pertain to a wider concept of wisdom.

Crafted, unevenly fantastic creatures labeled with Latin poetics incorporating adaptations of the suffix sapien acknowledging the innate wisdom within body parts live in a library cabinet branded with burnt muddled letters. A library housing books was referenced in this reconfigured coffer. Now the cabinet drawers hold indefinable handmades that establish we can define wisdom through humour of the mysterious and extraordinary, and what is impossible as taxonomy. The arrangement and management of thoughts, empirical evidence collected, as a library would collect printed thoughts to define wisdom is in question. The voiceless critters are demanding reconsideration and redefinition as conceptual wisdom. Morey voices an acknowledgement of what Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party strived to achieve [14] for example, where dinner plates acknowledge a crafted wisdom, and also refer to the multiple meaning of Sapien (wise and .to taste). Personified animalized subjects assert a prickly wisdom. Morey responds as Chicago did to the politics of denigrating craft as a source of wisdom.

Morey asks, ‘What then is meant by wisdom?  By whom and how is it defined? And who is excluded from this politics of language?’[15] Morey evokes timeless female sensibilities to answer her questions. Interesting that the ancient goddesses of wisdom were also the goddesses associated with the arts, craft, poetry, creativity – Brighid, Minerva, Neith, Metis, Snotra, Anahita, Vör, Saraswati, Athena, and many more. They were revered for the creative weaving of society, the leadership of the arts, as the means for a flow of creativity. Many were associated with animals, nature. The olive tree and owl, for Athena, Saraswati’s Ganesh, the elephant and lotus, for example. Wisdom was predominantly a female deity, in those cultured minds. Wisdom for the worshipers was the result of the art’s breadth, and was valued leadership. This obsolete veneration is now a poetic symbiosis, where we benefit from the relationship with the ages as inspiration of multifaceted existence. Morey’s Taxaphonia is the quiet determination that lost symbology can be resurrected is evident in the collection of ambiguous beings in a chest labelling (Morey associates her non-literal creations with Latin labelling) her warily crafted animal spirits as entities with unidentified wisdom of body parts, a means to sensory exploration and understanding to refer to what was available and important wisdom, associated with animal evocations in pre-scientific eras and is still viable. Morey answers her own questions. She has recorded and stored the ageless crafting of female wisdom, even if the crafting is a bit circumspect. 

"Following (Rumination)"; acrylic, photographs, encaustic and string on paper & cradle panels; 25 panels; dimensions variable; 2012
Detail: Following (Rumination)
Photos courtesy Connie Morey
"The strategies of this right (for more) to follow [droit de suite] that I have just evoked resemble those of the hunt, whether the animal thereby follows its desire, what is desirable in its desire (or in its need, as will be said by those who wish, out of desire or need, to believe in an ironclad distinction between the two, desire and need, just as in the distinction between man and animal), or whether, while following its drive, the animal finds itself followed, tracked by the drive of the other.  And we should not exclude the possibility that the same living creature is at the same time follower and followed, tracked by the drive of the other." (Jacques Derrida, 2008, p. 55) [ from Connie Morey’s website]

"But can we, for our part, reply to the question "But as for me, who am I?" And what would ever distinguish the response, in its total purity, the so-called free and responsible response, from a reaction to a complex system of stimuli?  And what, after all, is a citation?" (Jacques Derrida, 2008, p. 53-54) [16] [ from Connie Morey’s website]


Gregor was shocked when he heard his own voice answering, it could hardly 
be recognised as the voice he had had before.  As if from deep inside him, 
there was a painful and uncontrollable squeaking mixed in with it, the 
words could be made out at first but then there was a sort of echo which 
made them unclear, leaving the hearer unsure whether he had heard properly 
or not. ~ Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis. 1915. Translated by David Wyllie. 

Morey assembles pictorial references to childhood imagery, with fluffy noiseless sheep cut out of cradle panels and pasted on wide red bordered squares. Illuminating dots detail the configurations, expressive of what is in the air, what is felt but not spoken. Loosely linking animals’ mouth to mouth and ear to ear sensory organ to nowhere, just hanging. With string as exchanged connections, Morey sometimes directs lines to speech bubbles scribbled as indiscernible conversations. Sequences of suspended successions lead to a bound end, a collected wrapping topping the squared images. Wrapping up the tendrils of exchange. Although some lines are dropped.

On her website, Morey accompanies photos of her installation, Following (Rumination)with Jacques Derrida’s philosophical contemplations. Strategies for desire, desire and need as an ensemble or distinctly separate, following, followed, tracking tracked? Man divided from animal or living creatures with the same desire and needs, as intertwined connectivity? Who is following what or who? "But as for me, who am I?" Derrida asks, and Morey asks with this work.

Sheep have several cultural associations. That these were lamb images initially adornment for children, innocence personified is asserted as a desirable quality, an aspiration or willful insistence to follow choices that do not result in the best outcomes. The sheep/lamb for sleeping with or by as a count, the sheep for/as woolly comfort, the sheep as communing spirits, gathering, the lamb needing, following is comfortable – objectives of consequence, of virtue, of purity where following is naivety and awkward. The only hunt for the sheep/lamb is the hunting for a fresh patch of grass, or parental direction or as the elder guide, ideally, but when all are without guidance, miscommunication can result. Morey presents no animal longing or impassioned need. Each animal is segregated. Communicating is simplified, indirect and when cartoon-like speech bubbles are scattered amongst the frank animal interconnectedness, the scribbles are confusion. Abiding these incorruptible sheep is challenging.

Desire as need is the need for interconnectivity. Morey’s strings link communication between sheep, and between the bubbles (people). People longing for connection, following the sheep examples are muddled by the simplicity. Who are we that the inexplicable transmission through sight and sound, of contact is fuddling? Clouds of bewilderment. Sheep flocked may need to follow a shepherd, but Morey’s Following (Rumination) needs no shepherding for her assembly of ba_bes. Morey ministers to us that bleat. The bleating is the unclear voicing within human relations. We need to ruminate, Morey shows us, explicates our need to communicate while expounding on our resistance to be clear. What the sheep in this work do well is pretty complacency, ignoring their capacity for attaining understanding, which remains our quest. Entwined connectivity? We are in a bit of a tangle with each other, as the sheep deliveries and responses are swooping lines criss-crossing and cornered. We need to follow, hunt, plot the dots of ephemera to connect with what the sheep/lambs are not endowed with for any kind of consequential, desirable need to be addressed. Morey articulates being, a complex follow and our necessitating interdependence on instinctive relations, suspending our desires for those buoyant ephemera.

This work is a metaphor for how we articulate, and are inarticulate. We hang on conversation, sometimes sinking thoughts trail or are misdirected, sometimes. We monitor ourselves, and adhere collectively to the quality distinguishing ourselves from other ruminants. Morey’s sheep strive to communicate, and the speech scribbles articulate the misunderstanding, inarticulate thoughts. As Kafka described in Metamorphosis, when we are in the process of change, we cannot recognize our own voice. Transformative, Morey’s voices our sheepishness with formative imagery, sheep floating desirous, connected by drooping string lines and indecipherable intention that imparts communication processes and processing. Morey deliberates our sheepish natures, how it is more comfortable follow even if the following is misunderstanding, which is cause for rumination. 

Photo courtesy Connie Morey
(Regurgitation; toy cow, clay, acrylic, paper, ink and synthetic grass on wood shelf; 2008-2013)
Details: Regurgitation
Photos courtesy Debora Alanna

Cantilevered from the wall, Morey constructs a platform for a symbolic gurgitation of her Master’s Thesis, with a magnifying glass so we can read the minuscule text of her actual miniaturized Thesis. Exposing the innards of the cow body, Morey, shows how a thesis becomes one’s viscera. Digesting the content of an argument, a view of the digestion accessories becomes bare, revealing the guts it takes to consume data and theorize, and finally regurgitating the processing that becomes the thesis releasing as the cow’s mouth discharge. Morey’s miniaturized Masters Thesis is on the scrolled paper emitting from the cow, and hanging from a loop on the outer pseudo lawn, a pristine concourse retaining the cow. The hanging Thesis has departed from the creator (cow), the female giver of good things to consume, now a giver of a theory, the result of ingesting information, absorbing the ideas to integrate into the product. Regurgitation is the outcome of what Morey assimilated, and is now expelled for public inspection. The female scholar as a cow grazing knowledge, which is now regurgitated is confounding as it is cute, even charming but is difficult feminist analogy. The equivalence parallels the derogative female name yet Morey shows force, is not cowed, and is not intimidated by the sacred cow, academia, as her humour decrees, don’t have a cow. . 

("Articulate Bodies"; 2011; watercolour, acrylic, graphite, pen and thread on paper, 2 x 22" x 30)
Photo courtesy Connie Morey
Detail: Articulate Bodies
Photo courtesy Debora Alanna

Vectors of subjectification do not necessarily pass through the individual, which in reality appears to be something like a ‘terminal’ for processes that involve human groups, socio-economic ensembles, data-processing machines, etc.  Therefore, interiority establishes itself at the crossroads of multiple components, each relatively autonomous in relation to the other, and, if need be, in open conflict.
(Guattari, 2008: 25) [18]

Stitched to the work, a fox hovers in the midst of a spilled blood red wash with distinct marked spheres connected with lines as the middle ground. Articulate Bodies holds the interconnected essence of what is eloquent and lucid, but impalpable. The fox is sutured to the reddish variable streaming wash, an uncomfortable taint. Morey creates a constellation of fox, astute presence crafted into ethereal dimensions, a correlation between what is familiar and inexplicable. The stain, a veneer of pervading memory, a semblance of evocation bleeds behind the spots, perhaps micro Felix Guattari terminals (quote above), sites drawn together to configure what can be articulated, bodies of penetration present and distinct without the need of the usual sensory faculties. If there is conflict, it is signified by the red background evocation. The lines connecting the differentiated circles with perforated surrounds, criss-cross the flushed expanse, and are oblivious to the animal presence, which demands our attention. Morey ensures that we are attentive to the fox existence facing the viewer. The fox becomes the representative of ecosophical wisdom that Arne Næss speaks aboutBy an ecosophy I mean a philosophy of ecological harmony or equilibrium. A philosophy as a kind of sofia (or) wisdom, is openly normative, it contains both norms, rules, postulates, value priority announcements and hypotheses concerning the state of affairs in our universe. Wisdom is policy wisdom, prescription, not only scientific description and prediction. The details of an ecosophy will show many variations due to significant differences concerning not only the ‘facts’ of pollution, resources, population, etc. but also value priorities.[19]Morey insists that although the universe/universal articulations she represents with the hubs of interconnected dots, the value of ecological priorities that the fox stance distinguishes as the a priori fact where the rest of our experience originates from - the suspended, interconnected widespread bodies of thinking, endeavours that inform and motivate, are our consciousness that depends on acknowledging the confounding fox as an intimate and ancient wisdom, is the prescription for future values. 

"Symbiophonia"; Pen on paper; 3 x 22" x 30"; 2013
DETAIL Symbiophonia 
Photos courtesy Connie Morey

If no one learns to sing you, song, 
I do not mind at all: no one
Could sing you as I can. 

Fourth Day: Conclusion. P. 299. The Decameròn (Il Decameron, cognominato Prencipe Galeotto). 1351 or 1353 by Giovanni Boccaccio. Tr. by J. G. Nichols. Everyman’s Library. Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

A natal sky, a cellular expanse has a human turned inward inspecting on its edge, listening to the marcro cellscape constitution made available by Morey, while a dog inspects us. Human and canine are also composed of highly differentiated cells. Morey devises the associations possible with symbiotic relationships, the interdependence that impacts all living entities. Morey crafts the resonance of these symbiotic relationships, which may be complementary, mutually beneficial. Morey concentrates on optimistic, ideal symbiosis, especially from a human perspective that benefit species involved but symbiosis can be parasitism, where one species feeds off another, the host and generally diminishes because of the other’s thriving, commensalism, where only one species benefits, and the other usually is unaffected, amensalism where one species is harmed or inhibited and the other is unaffected. Natural entails of all these types of symbiotic relational constructs. Morey shows symbiosis generatively, involving positivity. Her cellular matters are enlivened colours speaking through the scene and are within the work’s figure turned away and inward, within the tethered animal looking outward, at us. What Morey succeeds in revealing is what the metaphysical can intone and what we can perceive as a type of unique symbiosis, our irrefutably beneficial animal-human relationship, animal and human connectivity and our longing for and draw towards nature that is sound affirmation - encouraging, is creatively synergistic, restorative. If the animal was wild, not tethered in time to its human, this would be a different sounding scenario. The human would not be casually listening to benefitting causality. The androgynous human is alone tied to the dog, the dog’s attachment. The two seem to be an insulated existence. Morey dots in her cellular vista, splotches of the indefinable in the cosmos, can only be understood metaphysically.

The human may seem to intently listen independently; the dog may seem to hear what we thoughts we are thinking, though we think they are our own, our own song. What we internalize, we sonically embody, hear, feel, our consciousness is merely more spots cohabitating a symbiotic exchange, cellular interconnections on the verge of the universe. Morey articulates those sounds of the spheres tacitly. 

Connie Michele Morey
ba_ble: inarticulations on human-animal relations
Xchanges Gallery
Victoria BC
1st February – 24 February 2013
Part 2 – Review by Debora Alanna

[1] http://pepperell.blogspot.ca/
[2] Originally published in Flash Art International, Milan, Italy, January /
February 1993.
[3] http://ontology.buffalo.edu/
[4] Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. “The Primacy of Perception and Its Philosophical Consequences,” from The Primacy of Perception and Other Essays, pp. 121-127. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1964. Translation ©1964 by Northwestern University Press.
4 "...While we dawdle, our lives pass swiftly. The proverb has been traced back in English to 1386 in Chaucer's 'Prologue to the Clerk's Tale.' The earliest American appearance in print is 1710 in 'Mayflower Descendant.' The idea was first expressed by Virgil (70-19 B.C.), who wrote in the 'Aeneid': Fugit inreparabile tempus' (Time is flying never to return)..." [5] From "Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings" by Gregory Y. Titelman.
[6] http://www.scribd.com/doc/49161532/The-conference-of-the-birds
[7] Takahashi  M Toward a culturally inclusive understanding of wisdom: historical roots in the East and West. Int J Aging Hum Dev 2000;51 (3) 217- 230
[8] Webster's Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language.  New York, NY Lexicon Publications1990;
[9] Jeste  DVVahia  I Comparison of the conceptualization of wisdom in ancient Indian literature with modern views: focus on the Bhagavad Gita. Psychiatry 2008;71 (3) 197- 209
[10] Takahashi  MOverton  WF Cultural foundations of wisdom: an integrated developmental approach. Sternberg  RJJordan  JA Handbook of Wisdom Psychological Perspectives.New York, NY Cambridge University Press2005;32- 60
[11] Brugman  GM Wisdom and Aging.  Amsterdam, Netherlands Elsevier2006;
[12] Birren  JESvensson  CM Wisdom in history. Sternberg  RJJordan  JA Handbook of Wisdom Psychological Perspectives. New York, NY Cambridge University Press2005;3- 31
[13] Ardelt  M Wisdom as expert knowledge system: a critical review of a contemporary operationalization of an ancient concept. Hum Dev 2004;47 (5) 257- 285
[14] Excerpts from The Dinner Part: A Symbol of Our Heritage (1979). Copyright © Judy Chicago.
[15] http://www.conniemorey.com/taxonaphonia.html
[16] http://www.conniemorey.com/following.html
[17] http://www.gutenberg.org/catalog/world/readfile?fk_files=3248835&pageno=3
[18] Guattari, Felix. The Three Ecologies, trans. Ian Pindar and Paul Sutton (London: Continuum, 2008). - See more at: http://eighteen.fibreculturejournal.org/2011/10/09/fcj-121-transversalising-the-ecological-turn-four-components-of-felix-guattari%E2%80%99s-ecosophical-perspective/#sthash.5C4wm7Mr.50ngPAZg.dpuf
[19] http://www.ecospherics.net/pages/DrengEcophil.html 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Connie Michele Morey – ba_ble: articulations on human-animal relations by Debora Alanna

PART 1 - Interview with Connie Michele Morey – 5 February 2013 with Debora Alanna
(Parentheses are descriptions by Debora Alanna)

DA I find these very moving. Sculpturally, they impact. Would you please start with this?
"Language as Longing:, earthenware, glaze and dissection pins, dimensions variable, 2010)
CM Sure. This is work that I did a couple of years ago. All the work in the exhibition is part of my studio research related to my doctorate. This work is about the relation between desire and dominance, or the threshold between them. At the time I made this, I was thinking about birds, and how much we learn from our experience with birds. We may not be able to make a formula for what we learn – it is something much more intuitive. I was thinking about how our relationship with animals is one where we feel inspired by them, and sometimes awestruck by them, and how that experience is so positive that it results in desire to capture that experience and that desire teeters over into dominance. It’s not only this way with our relationship with birds but our relationship with anything that is different from us.

There is a quote that’s by Luce Irigaray [i], where she talks about her experience of butterflies. She was enthralled with them as a child but she also wanted to control and capture them. How is it possible that we can have a relationship with birds - or anything we deem different - and it not become one of control or dominance, to be able to appreciate what it is, as it is.

DA These are almost egg like, contained in their own visceral environment.

CM I like that interpretation.
The original image was a bird that looked like it was both dead and alive. I don’t know if that is apparent.

DA It’s successful. I saw that.

CM I started with rectangular tiles, but they felt too rigid, too controlled for a work that is negotiating the line between desire and dominance. Dominance almost becomes a violence against something. If I have to capture something to be able to appreciate it, I’ve imposed some violence on that creature. And if I was to appreciate something in a space of its own I don’t want to have that element of control. For me, these tiles have the sense of being free but also restraint because of the dissection pins holding them in place. I am trying to play between that tension of freedom and being controlled.

DA Could you talk about the lines around the birds?

CM The work evolved intuitively. When I look at them now I think those lines show that there is no space that isn’t activated. There is no space that is empty. The lines give movement and motion. The fact that the birds are cropped or cut off implies there is something beyond this space.

DA Connie, is there any reason you have put this in a horizontal stance?

CM I would have to say no. Again, it is intuitive. I would have to say the reason is not a formulated conscious objective.

DA The birds have become the landscape. It’s almost as if they have built some consecutive landscape and the formation is almost mountainous.

CM I love this take. See this is where you and I together make meaning of the work. It’s never just me. Often when people tell me what they see in the work, it makes perfect sense. It alters my perception a little bit. But it also adds to it. I think the colour is important in the work. I find that I am very attracted to this range of reds and pinks that some people would consider as me expressing some type of violence. But I think these are like the life lines that makes us who we are.

DA Blood is red.

CM Yes it is. But I don’t always see it as violent. I know it has the potential to be red in that way, but I also see it as something that is intensely beautiful. For example, for a child to be born, it is sort of - I hesitate to use the word, but it is sort of a violent act. It is intense and involves some rupture. So I think in that sense, out of things that are very difficult, there is an opening – that is a positive thing. Red, for me, is something that shows the complexity of that. It has some sense of beauty.

DA A dichotomy?

CM . A dichotomy implies they are opposites. I would say they are completely dependent on each other.

DA Okay. I would like to talk about this work.
("Small Bird Trap (Learning to Sing)"; 2011-2012; wood, crocheted thread, stain; dimensions variable, collaborative work with Christina and Irvin Morey)

CM This work I did in collaboration with my mom, dad and my son. It was done not very long ago but I’ve redone it several times…. Can I show you how they work?

DA Yes
CM Normally what would happen is there would be a tree, maybe a sapling, that would have a hole drilled through it, and there would be a rock with a little noose on it. And this (top) would be pointed so the bird wouldn’t land on it. The bird would land on this perch, and the string would fall out, causing their foot to get trapped in the noose. I have been thinking about how I can make it more apparent without me demonstrating it. It’s has the idea of a trap, but it also has this net below it, which catches it. I wanted it to feel a little bit like a nest, a home - between nurture and control. Again it’s this desire, which is both complete appreciation of the beauty of the bird and the dominance of the capture of holding something down. It no longer exists in a space of its own or has its own choice.
I am really interested in mixing craft with traditional art practices like sculpture and installation, and playing with those boundaries. If you look at the work there are a lot of the elements that have some sort of contemporary craft incorporated into sculpture.
I am interested in craft because it is women who have been excluded from the traditions of fine art and because of that so have their practises. I think also non-western cultures have been excluded from western fine arts, as well as others. The male trajectory of what western fine arts used to be. Not any more, but what it used to be. I am interested in this boundary of inclusion and exclusion. I am interested in that history.

DA I would like to talk about this piece. (continuing to talk about Small Bird Trap) Besides the meaning behind it, there is the visual structure. I have discomfort with this work, with what you have embraced here. Not because it is disturbing, but because it is very beautiful. And that in itself is a problem for me.

CA Because it is aesthetic?

DA Yes.

CA And is it because it becomes an object?

DA No. Does the repetition involved earlier enable it or disable it?

CA With the repetition, there are two things. There’s me, in the process of repeating and making something over and over. And then there is the object, being repeated. It is very hard for me to make a singular work. I always work in series. That work (a single work in the corner titled Embodiment: Stomach Growls) is the one that makes me the most uncomfortable.
The reason is that I have problems with the preciousness of an object. And objects for me become a part of the way I feel about the world. I see the world as always engaging a community. I see it being even more complex than an ecosystem. There is always more going on than the singular. Western traditions have a tendency to see you as an individual. We talk about isolated individuals, as autonomous individuals. That any decision I make comes solely from me and largely impacts me and my future. I don’t fit with that way of thinking. To make a singular object, an isolated object, emphasizes for me, that the object exists by itself. There isn’t anything in the world that exists in this way. It always involves relationships. However, I think there are a whole bunch of reasons why people would approach the repetition and see it in a completely different way.

DA I like multiples. That isn’t what I was referring to. I was referring to your crocheted work. And I love the stone associated. I had no idea of the system you have evolved. I really like what you are saying. Ojbecthood in itself is powerful. A point of reference, and is a possible way to incorporate all things material-wise. I think this has a lot to say about isolation, what the meaning of community versus isolation is.

CM I am not saying that I find objects on a whole problematic. I love objects. I make objects. I am not denying that I make objects. The perspective that I am looking at the world from right now is one that is about being dependent upon much more than myself. Who knows? In ten years I might be – I have never done it, but I might be making a whole bunch of single objects. I don’t dismiss other people making objects. There is so much work out there that is... I am thinking of Abigail Doan who makes these gorgeous little crocheted nest-like balls that are objects. We seem to see objects as not placed in a context. This is less the case within critically engaged contemporary art practice, I think. But when somebody comes to an object or comes to an individual we tend to talk, in Western culture, about people as if they are not dependent upon nature, as if they are not dependent upon animals, as if they are not dependent upon - me talking to you, as if my voice is just going across to your ears and entering at one point, there. There is so much more going on. That is what I am interested in.

DA I would like to talk about ("Taxonaphonia" (DETAIL), Library cabinet, pyrographied letters, faux fur, thread and paper, 2012-2013 ) I have to say, it is problematic for me.

CM I like that you say that openly.

DA I have seen cabinets of curiosity before. It is not you, particularity, it’s the genre. This is almost the antithesis of what you were just saying.

CM I don’t know that I would see this as a cabinet of curiosity. And I also don’t know that I would see my art as promoting my view of the world. I see it more as me critically engaging with both perspectives and trying to figure out what I think about it through that. Engaging with the degree to which we are individuals and the degree to which we are dependent is a negotiation that I do through my work. I wouldn’t say that my work promotes the idea of interdependence. I am not interested in doing that.

DA Okay.

CM I don’t want to preach anything. I am just trying to figure things out for myself. My work engages with the process of questioning the boundaries between those two things. So it’s always a threshold or a boundary. When I think about something being contained or being porous I think it is a negotiation or questioning. This work is a questioning, not a statement.
This one ("Taxonaphonia”, Library cabinet, pyrographied letters, faux fur, thread and paper, 2012-2013) is about language. About how language can be used as something that separates us from other species or something that connects us, making the world something that is much more experiential. If you think about the difference between a poem or definition... when I enter a poem, I enter it experientially, I can get in the poem, I feel like I am a part of it. If I look at a definition if feels more like I am on the outside looking in at this definition or thing defined.

DA Your labels on the work are poetic descriptions.

CM Yes. They are poetic descriptions of things that are usually referred to as more precise and definitive. And in that sense, they are trying to open meaning up. This comes partly from the fact that I am doing a PhD and I am housed in a department that is situated in the social sciences – which tends to rely on the sciences and its methods and I have a background in art, which is much more experiential. I have to negotiate language in a way that bridges those two traditions.

DA Is that why the alphabet is all jumbled here?

CM I think this is an opening up of language, so that language becomes a pattern. When I burned the letters in I was thinking about stamping and branding that happens with animals. That practice, functions, in a way like a definition, it holds something down as a method of control or domination. I think there are moments when we dominate language. Where we say, you are a homo sapien, and you are something else. There are political ramifications and cultural roots for these definitions. But we make them as though they are universal.

DA You have used Latin for the titles and I don’t know what they are.

CM Cilium is eyelash in Latin. I wouldn’t know this except I looked it up. And sapien is the word ‘wise’. I mention a little bit about this in a small book I made about the work. Around 250 years ago, human beings… man at that time… was labelled homo sapien. So man named himself ‘man the wise’. But, in doing that, he essentially said this is what sets man apart. The thing that makes man a particular species is wisdom. This act disallows wisdom to some extent, to others that aren’t humans. By including the word ‘sapien’ in the labels on the work, I am playing or pushing the boundaries of what is meant by ‘wise’. I’m proposing that ‘wise’ isn’t something that just belongs to human beings. To see wisdom as a human possession, I have to understand myself as a human being that is completely isolated, in this sense, I didn’t get wisdom from the birds or another experience with the world. Each label includes the word ‘wise’ because the work is playing with or pushing the boundaries of what is considered wise. It is also playing with taxonomical language that holds something down, in that sense the work is an attempt to open meaning up.

DA They (works in drawers) are really high contrast in texture and development – even the case in relation to the objects in the drawers. They are almost worlds, even galaxies apart.

CM They are meant to embody difference. They are meant to be unnameable. It seems that I know what an apple is and I don’t know what an apple is. I call it an apple, but there is no particular apple that is like this generalization. We have all these stereotypes. These words that make us seem that we know what something is, but we don’t know. Even if we experience it, we only do so from one perspective. These works are meant to embody difference. They are very different from the cabinet. When you open the drawer, they seem like they don’t fit in. They are others that have been excluded; they are not quite animals. We could say they are and are not what animals look like.

DA If you put all the cabinet drawers to a certain level, you obliterate the view (inside the drawers).

CM Yes, it’s true. I want people to play with this. I want people to do things with it.

DA This book(s) is/are in association with your exhibition?

CM I don’t think the work needs the book. It’s me contemplating the work in another medium. It’s a reflection of the work in another form. So it can exist separately.

DA This ("Following (Rumination)"; acrylic, photographs, encaustic and string on paper & cradle panels; 25 panels; dimensions variable; 2012) looks like a child’s wall. With string that connects the pieces. clip_image008 

CM Craft is seen as something that is not critically engaged, not serious. We tend to categorize anything we deem as ‘different’ and can’t relate to (like the creatures in “Taxonaphonia”), as disturbing, threatening or we sentimentalise or infantilize it. So that it is so childlike that it needs our care; this is the approach of colonial history. We rationalized violence through the language of nurture and disallowed choice. I think the same is true with our relations with animals. They either become this wild beast we are fearful of or they become these really sweet, cute things that are intellectually inferior, like how we think of a cow or a sheep. Craft that has been excluded is a little bit different. I don’t know if we have been fearful of it, but certainly fearful of women’s traditions to some extent. Like ‘femme fatales’, for example. But definitely we sentimentalized craft. We’ve made it not politically or socially engaged. Not subversive.
I have a friend who recently went to South Africa. In the small village she visited there is a group of women who are mostly grandmothers and are there caring for their grandchildren. The community has a high percentage of HIV positive people. The women there have been making tapestries, which are embroidered with unbelievable detail, they are gorgeous. They are also very politically engaged. They show the politics of HIV, of children dying – they are about issues that are both intensely personal and political. I think even the word ‘decorative’ is problematic here, craft, even sentimental craft is about more than decoration; it is highly political.
This, "Following (Rumination)", is both about that and about animals being sentimentalized to the point of no longer having any power. If I was to put this string here (disconnecting the string connection to another part of the work) this sheep no longer has a power of speech.

DA This is string, not wool. Why? You have all these sheep, but you have used string, not wool.

CM I don’t think it needs to be wool.

DA I don’t know if this applies...When we were kids, we used to play telephone with cans, and use string attached to the cans to carry the sound. That’s the way I look at it – that’s what you are doing. You are using string to carry the speech. And you have speech bubbles, too.

CM Right, and there are strings coming from their ears too, at times. I hadn’t thought of that but I think it’s a legitimate thing to see. It makes sense.
I am interested in string, there is string in my work, there’s thread. I stitch up things. I am interested in it because string shows the connections between things. The work is, in part, about how things are connected and disconnected. This work is a good example of where I am not interested in making a statement or trying to promote something. I am really questioning. There are moments when you can move these strings so they are disallowing speech. There are some that don’t have anything and are completely isolated. And there are some that are connected only to each other. And some that are connected to speech bubbles. I am not really interested in making a firm statement, I am interested in questioning… although I have ethical concerns about our treatment of animals.
I think these animals (sheep) are really sentimentalized. Sentimentalizing animals is a highly political act. And I think to say something is sentimental it makes it seem as if it is passive. But how is that passive?

DA No. It is very strong.

CM It’s very strong. It’s hugely political. Especially when you think about how much has been excluded by deeming something as such. The more sweet and toy-like they look the more political they seem to me. You don’t expect that to be included within serious art discussions, although I am sure there are instances where it has been.

DA For me, this work is about being seen and heard. It’s very powerful. I was struck by the presence of the voicing. I find it very moving.

CM Thank you.

DA You have the dots again. Dot, dot, dot. It is interesting because it is almost a separate dialogue happening.

CM It’s in the holes as well.

DA Yes, and the holes with the fur, feathers.

Do you want to talk about the heads? ("Dysphonia (Mouth Stuffed Full)"; 2011-2012; clay slip, glaze, graphite & fur; dimensions variable) / ("Osmophonia (The Porosity of Song)"; 2012-2013; clay slip, glaze, & feathers; dimensions variable)

CM I never think that one thing is just one thing. A dot is both a dot and a hole. It is both a positive and negative, present and absent. When I think about the thresholds between things like desire and dominance or nurturing and control – those lines between everything, they exist almost like a dot or hole. There is a line where they are interdependent, much like life and death. If you think about the point of death, being like a hole – a loss of something that is on one hand tragic. And this, almost negative hole also provides an opening where you can see things in a slightly different light than you did before, the hole becomes a presence, a possibility. One thing existing as two things. There is complexity of presence with absence. Stuff is around us all the time that we cannot name. When I communicate with you, it’s not just me talking and it going straight to your ear. It is the exchange that happens between us and the space involved.

DA The light between us.

CM And also between the work. Salmon Rushdie, in his book Haroun and the Sea of Stories, talks about a P2C2E, which is a process too complicated to explain, which I just love. These dots are like the P2C2E, this process too complicated to explain but doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. It is still there. I can’t name it. It would be a shame to scientifically put it under a microscope… even though we try to explain it.

DA Like hope.

CM Yes, it is. I have the idea that something exists beyond me. That the world is not just me and the ideas that come from me. I am not wholly in control of these thoughts or ideas or wholly on top of them. It feels kind of liberating to me. I can breathe. Being an autonomous being sounds hard. I don’t want to be in that space. I feel appreciative that there are all these other things that are at play in whatever I do. Things I don’t understand.

DA You are like a shaman. You allow things to happen. It’s a thing that happens. You are an intermediary.

CM I would be cautious to use that language, because I don’t know what it is that I am.

DA Let’s talk about the feathers.
"Osmophonia (The Porosity of Song)"; 2012-2013; clay slip, glaze, & feathers; dimensions variable
Because you have taken the birds’ feathers and made the work enlivened with them, all the feathers are now stuck all over the heads.

CM This piece, the bird traps and the birds on the wall – they started at about the same time.
A few years ago my daughter and I bought bird feeders and put them outside our window. We spent a huge amount of time watching the birds, noticing the birds. At that time, I went into her school and did an art project with the kids about local birds. They drew birds, built birds’ nests. Birds can teach you something. But not in a sentimental way. I can learn something from them, although it might not be possible to make what I learn into a formula. I think this is partly about me being able to gain something from the experience of being with birds, something porous. The work is partly about that and partly about blurring the lines between what is human what is animal.

DA Your heads are really hard and blue.

CM Yes, they are china blue.

DA There is this huge anxiety here.

CM I know that is what some people see in it. And I know sometimes people feel the same anxiety in the piece that is on the opposite side of the wall - "Dysphonia (Mouth Stuffed Full)"… the fur in the mouth. I know they can make people anxious. I am not saying that I make them without knowing that. I think they make people anxious because they are different.

DA No it is not that. It is because of the fur. Fur and feathers are huge. They come from the animals. Creatures. And they are misplaced. And they are not functioning the way...

CM We don’t have problems with going to the grocery store and buying meat that comes from animals.

DA Some people do.

CM Some people do. But we don’t see that as being displaced. It is because it is placed in a different context. It creates a point of difference.

DA Also, it disallows the speech, which would normally be evoked from the mouth. And you have this scribbling, so it is as if whatever was held in the head has now become distorted on the faces, instead of coming through the mouth.

CM You are quite perceptive.
They are meant to disturb but not necessarily sensationalize. I don’t want to disturb for the purpose of sensation; I am interested in art that makes us look at things differently.

DA Like the cow, with the magnifying glass.
(Regurgitation; toy cow, clay, acrylic, paper, ink and synthetic grass on wood shelf; 2008-2013)

CM Yes.

DA Did you make this whole thing?

CM I didn’t make the cow. I made the intestine and constructed the rest of the piece. This (text) is actually my Master’s thesis.

DA That’s funny.

CM The cow is regurgitating. I think academics get really serious. It becomes as if you see everything. When you write a thesis it seems, in a way as if the object and ideas exist on their own. I think, however, there is way to write that is more questioning, but traditionally a thesis is written in a way that is like a statement. It’s meant to be solid so that people can’t poke holes in it. In a way it is quite different from how I see art practice, which is for me a process of questioning, of me engaging questions. I have been trying to find a way for the process of writing to feel more honest. Ten years down the road you might look at what you wrote and decide it doesn’t make sense. So it seems odd to take it so seriously, as if it is the absolute truth.

DA We like to try and figure it out.

CM Yes, I am trying to negotiate and engage with this honesty. At times I have to poke really far in one direction or the other to be able to say… okay it is not quite that. I can say there is a difference between what academic practice of writing has been and what, let’s say, poetic writing is. Those are different forms. One, you tend to participate and engage with. And the other is a much more objective process. You have more distance from the world when you write a thesis. Traditionally, objectivity has been seen as something that is considered valuable in academic writing, only recently has it been questioned.

DA I think your approach, too for me is subjective

CM How can you not be subjective? You are there. It just feels honest to acknowledge that you bring a presence to whatever it is that you engage in.

DA What about this fuzzy furry guy there?
("Articulate Bodies"; 2011; watercolour, acrylic, graphite, pen and thread on paper, 2 x 22" x 30"). He looks like he’s in the midst of blood. And he’s stitched. On top of that. And these... (spots) all are these all organisms?

CM They are something like organisms. If we think of organisms as something that is a molecule, we tend to think of something that is physical, that doesn’t have consciousness. I wouldn’t say they are just biological organisms. They are things that exist that make up the complex world that we are a part of. That is the reason for the title ‘Articulate Bodies’…

DA Sorry to interrupt you. I need to talk about this.
("Symbiophonia"; Pen on paper; 3 x 22" x 30"; 2013)
I have been avoiding it and I don’t know why. I would like to know why I am avoiding it.

CM For me it is different than the other work.

DA The figure has its back to the viewers. And the animal is forefront. So this figure is getting lost in whatever is here. His head is almost in it. What does that mean?

CM It’s called Symbiophonia - phonia has to do with sound. There’s a whole bunch of things going on in this work. I don’t want to present a relationship that is oversimplified. It is about the complexity of our relationship with the world that is around us. I’m trying to show the complexity of the relationship we have with the world and with animals. And that is where the “symbio” comes from. The theory of evolution has often been interpreted as the survival of the fittest, which is based on competition, which emphasizes to some degree the separation of different species. Originally, I don’t know that Darwin wrote it in that way but it is often interpreted as this type of competition, of species against this species, where one species is going to come out on top. There is a writer named Lynn Margulis who writes about evolution as a form of symbiogenesis. She talks about how the smallest parts of us – microbes and protists evolve collaboratively. They are completely dependent on each other. If you look at species from one perspective - they appear to be competing with each other, but if you look at them from a different, more intimate or micro perspective, species evolve through entanglements with each other, it is a collaborative process. So, Symbiophonia is me thinking about language and all the ways we communicate with each other; all the ways we experience and know the world as beings that are intricately entangled.

DA I heard about that before, and I really liked that idea. I feel that idea. I have difficulty with... it is presence and absence at the same time.
if you look at the tethering of the rock, "Small Bird Trap (Learning to Sing)" at the nest, is, to me a reflection of that also, what is happening. That’s to catch birds and this is...

CM To hold on to animals. Yes, there is an element, a question or suggestion of dominance in the piece. And I think there is a question or suggestion in "Following (Rumination)", in the strings that connect or tie down and in (Dysphonia) with the pieces with fur in their mouths. There is a suggestion of dominance in those works. This is where our ethics comes into play. That moment of dominance where, whatever it is we desire, even if it is me not desiring this thing that is in front of me, this cultural other or this animal – it ends up involving some complicated chain that possibly involves dominance.
I like the conversation with you because it makes me more aware of how this is important to the work.

DA I am happy to have been involved.

ba_ble: inarticulations on human-animal relations
Xchanges Gallery
1st February – 24 February 2013
Victoria BC

[i] Luce Irigaray: Belgian-born French feministphilosopherlinguist,psychoanalyst,sociologist and cultural theorist. She is best known for her works Speculum of the Other Woman (1974) and This Sex Which Is Not One (1977). 

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