The Archive – The Raven Diaries
September 12 to November 9, 2014
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Canada of work by acclaimed German artist Jürgen Partenheimer. Reflecting the diversity of the artist’s practice, the exhibition comprises works on paper, text, printmaking, ceramics and sculpture, produced in Vancouver in spring 2014 during his recent residency as the Audain Distinguished Artist-in-Residence, hosted by Emily Carr University of Art + Design .
Partenheimer’s work is essentially abstract; his drawings and paintings are remarkable for their fragile beauty, whilst sculpture and ceramic work, suggesting some usefulness, remain elusive with respect to any specific function. His visual language, the particular form of poetic abstraction, and his life-long interest in notions of representation with consideration of locality, space and place, suggest a key resonance with artistic practice in the city, asserting continuity between these forms and an experience of daily life.
The imaginary archive that gives the exhibition and associated book its title provides the framework for the exhibition based on the oeuvre of the artist. They are the visible expression of both intellect and emotion carrying traces of their process, temporality and correspondence with other objects. To this end, in Vancouver the exhibition has a subtitle, The Raven Diaries, referencing the symbol and characteristics of the Raven to west coast First Nations culture, while simultaneously drawing analogies to similar figures in cultural myths elsewhere in the world, and especially to the role of the artist as trickster, representative of a catalyst for change in life, for creativity and humour.
Additionally, a selection of Partenheimer’s ceramic works will be on view at the Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver in the Koerner European Ceramics Gallery. Reflecting Partenheimer’s interest in the interconnectivity of cultural disciplines, in October we will host performances of electro-acoustic music by Vancouver Electronic Ensemble as part of the Vancouver New Music Festival.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents the first Canadian solo presentation of work by Swedish artist Gunilla Klingberg, two new interrelated large-scale commissions across the gallery façade and off-site, both challenging and exploiting the opportunities presented at each location.
Klingberg’s practice is characterized by the intersection of received knowledge, folk beliefs, popular culture and divergent cultural activities. Her work draws our attention to how complicated the connections between these systems are, but it also plays with the things that arise in this encounter, a pivotal feature being an interest in what is produced by the hybridization of distinct cultures, traditions and geographies. The disparate and heterogeneous are interwoven creating meanings that mutate to form a new context.
At the gallery and the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station, two murals of seemingly quasi-oriental pattern appear to evoke cosmic mandalas, transforming the individual spaces and enveloping the viewer in light and colour, shifting patterns and reflections. Klingberg’s work surrounds us. We are seduced, made part of a special atmosphere, immersed within the work rather than just looking at it. Her interest in using patterns and movement to manipulate our seeing, to influence our state of consciousness and our sensory impressions, has links with Op Art and the psychedelic movement of the late sixties, appropriate touchstones in the recent history of the counter culture in this part of the world.
However, what at first glance appears to recall a certain set of values and moments in time has another dimension, a different shared experience. If we look more closely we see that the intricate ornamentation, the symmetrically repeated symbols of these murals, is made up of something much more mainstream, corporate logos from Canadian low cost and high street stores. Concepts are intertwined: while science might appropriate metaphors from mythologies or New-Age ideas borrow from the language of the natural sciences, here spirituality merges with everyday consumer culture. Klingberg suggests that they are analogous, that both seem to promise the same thing: a state in which nothing is uncomfortable or threatening – the possibility of total, rapid satisfaction of our needs and desires, accessible to everyone. The images are so familiar that we no longer think about them, yet they present a subconscious influence uniting us in a no-man’s land between the public and the private. She evokes a spirit of community, or of communality, and poses questions regarding what it would be to have something in common.
Amid the proliferation of progressively similar goods it is the small, meaningful differences that count. The world around us is increasingly transformed into a surface filled with signs—computer screens, urban space, advertisements, the pages of newspapers— the most tangible properties being disposability and change. It is these surfaces that concern Klingberg. Our urban environment, its dwindling public places increasingly invaded by homogenous architecture and development, the objects we own, all constitute an intricate system of codes, messages and ideologies, our choices and participation tantamount to consuming. The boundary between art and design is often drawn along the line of utility and usefulness. But the edge becomes increasingly elastic when the difference between the values of these forms depends not so much on their functionality as on their seductiveness or power of rhetorical persuasion. Thus Klingberg’s work moves further than a mere critique of brand fetishism, the lure of contemporary global labels, beyond just pointing things out and rejecting them. It poses the awkward question of whether being alternative to a mainstream or on the “outside” is any longer possible. Might a more critical and appropriate assessment lie in revealing and acknowledging the subtle and insidious way in which we are all drawn into a sense of fascination with the things that surround us. Through her work we find ourselves in a situation in which we feel the power of images and beliefs being examined. We are all complicit.
The exhibition is supported by Iaspis, the Swedish Arts Grants Committee’s International Programme for Visual Artists.
‘Burrard Marina Field House Blog’
To read all the posts on the about the artists-in-residence and all events at the ‘CAG Burrard Marina Field House blog’ follow this link: http://www.contemporaryartgallery.ca/blog-category/field-house-studio-blog/
To read about all the events that have happened at the CAG Burrard Marina Field House follow this link:
The Field House Studio is an off-site artist residency space and community hub organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery.
This program moves beyond conventional exhibition making, echoing the founding origins of the gallery where artists were offered support toward the production of new work, while reaching out to communities and offering new ways for individuals to encounter and connect with art and artists.
Running parallel to the residency program are an ongoing series of public events for all ages.
The Field House Studio Residency Program is generously supported by the Vancouver Park Board and the City of Vancouver. We gratefully acknowledge the generosity of many private and individual donors toward this program. Please visit our website for a full list of supporters.MORE
Similar to the myths told in many large, cosmopolitan cities, Vancouver seeks strength through the telling of its cultural diversity. During my research residency at the Burrard Marina Field House Studio, I had the opportunity to visit a variety of institutions charged with cultural vitality. Time after time I was confronted by the awkwardness, sincerity, humour, and impossibility of such a project.
This spirit is not only evident in the stories exchanged between visitors to and residents of the city, but is calcified in its institutional counterparts: the ethnographic museum, the cultural centre, the theme park, the gift shop, and the tourist office. Together, these places dispense a type of ethnographic currency that both maintains an order and projects a hope for the city to be the best it can be. What is at stake when a city defines itself in terms of the cultural populations that make it up?
Visiting the Dr. Sun Yat-sen Classical Chinese Garden, a perfect replica of a Ming Dynasty Garden, was to be confronted with ideas that were vastly different from Vancouver’s Chinatown just beyond its walls, and again indecipherable from the modern, sprawling, predominantly-Chinese suburb of Richmond just beyond Vancouver. Within the pleasant confines of the garden (and its gift shop), books on Zen Buddhism, authentic jade jewelry, and Tibetan textiles, spoke a very different language than the world just outside. What is the function of distilling culture to objects, who is acting as the cultural translator between groups, and who is the assumed audience for such systems of display? A visit to the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) revealed a much more tightly curated experience, but similar questions persisted. Facing an impressive collection of encased objects from many corners of the earth, I wondered why the display of ethnographic material aims to compartmentalize, order, and control something that we know is fluid, dynamic and contradictory.
The focus of my continued work in Vancouver will play with the notion of ethnographic currency, who is the subject of ethnography and who is not, the materialization of cultural groups, and the display systems enlisted to communicate this material to an audience. In 2015 I will continue to research these areas with my longtime collaborator Mirjam Linschooten. Continuing to work with the supportive team at the CAG and within the inspiring cultural community of Vancouver is something I look forward to with great anticipation.
- Sameer FarooqMORE