That’s me with a little bit of a smirk bidding last year at the annual Contemporary Art Gallery auction.
I’m pretty sure that smirk was a paddle-lifting induced buzz. It’s a natural high — nerve wracking, exhilarating, nauseating, and exciting, all at once, especially when there’s something that really speaks to you. Auctions are fun, and hopefully you’ll join us November 8th for our next one.
If you follow the CAG on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll see there’s all kinds of ways – most of them free! – you can come experience the exhilaration of art. Hanging out with art is a gift, and I’m proud to be able to be a service to the CAG and in some small way help ensure this institution can continue to provide that opportunity to everyone.
It’s meant a lot to my life. Contemporary art has so much to tell us about the world, about our experiences, and how we relate to each other. The wonders of the world and the magic of our complicated relationships to each other and to the current moment.
I can see or experience something that gives me that “a ha” feeling. Where the artist is able to evoke something that maybe has crossed my often too busy brain, but that I was unable to express or quantify. An elegant representation of a feeling or a sense that I wasn’t sure I had. I’ve caught myself at times in galleries silently nodding as this thing that was on the tip of my tongue is represented to me, and there’s a kind of feeling of relief that goes with that. It’s magical to me in those moments.
Almost, dare I say, a place where I experience spirituality – my connection to the bigger we.
Sometimes it might take me to a place of sadness. Social anxiety; human suffering; the loss of love; the struggle with sorrow. Sometimes it’s joyous, or funny. Outrageously ridiculous, or ridiculously outrageous….those moments are the best! I’ve even at times been disgusted by pieces of contemporary art where I’ve walked in and turned around moments later.
But it’s all good as the saying goes…it all matters, it all sticks and swirls around inside and makes some sense of the sometimes chaotic world we live in and that lives in us. It is all worth it for the sense it provides that we are not alone in the universe. That the infinite uniqueness of our experiences can be represented and shared and we have places like the CAG where we can gather to experience, discuss, and celebrate them.
It’s pretty great.
Please keep in touch, and I hope to see you soon at a CAG event.
Marcella Munro became President of the Board of the Contemporary Art Gallery on June 19, 2014.
The Contemporary Art Gallery presents a survey exhibition of work by Canadian artist Kelly Richardson, best known for her immersive projection works which create environments prompting a questioning of our relationship to the natural world.
The universe Richardson constructs can seem somewhat bleak, devoid of all but the strangest forms of life, and notionally touching upon issues within ecological discussion and environmental debate. Yet if we consider nature not as omniscient, but mediated, appropriated, subjugated and vulnerable, then by examining any simple concept of the “natural”, Richardson actually makes the interrogation even more urgent. Immense and unsettling projections show animated scenes of primordial swamps or forests, desolate moonscapes or eerie holographic trees flickering in and out of view. And yet the videos are open-ended, drawing us in to develop our own narratives for these unsettling scenes, which could be humanity’s last attempt at caring for a ruined planet. Even though she leaves the questions unanswered, it’s clear that she is suggesting we should project farther into the future than we’re comfortable doing, a quality enhanced in understanding how these works are made. A particular quality in Richardson’s videos– in addition to technical facility and her embrace of beauty as a way to prime us about the disturbing undercurrents snaking through her otherwise seductive work – is the way she seems to look back from the future.
The exhibition comprises a selection of recent major projections and photographs. In the large-scale, multi-screen installation of Leviathan (2011) we are confronted with an all-encompassing projection. Through the image and its reflections on walls and floors, it occupies or rather infiltrates the space, implicating us as audience as we simultaneously behold and are contained within the image. It asserts itself, with its Biblical title, as suggestive of some kind of apocalyptic flood, the swirling water appearing to almost envelop and swallow up the viewer. The works too are in many other ways absorbing; they elicit a terrible beauty through the seduction of surface. And yet this slow, churning motion becomes almost hypnotic, a narcotic mesmerizing image, an illusion perhaps not at odds with the evocation of a notional poisonous or toxic liquid; a substance that is at once of our world but at the same time transforming, of becoming somewhere else.
Richardson’s work touches also on the notion of the sublime, that mixture of awe, hope and fear that reveals something uncomfortable about the depth and darkness of human desire. While technically pristine, in part through the process of computer manipulation and invention of form, her work has precedents in sources as seemingly disparate as the romantic landscape paintings of the late 18th century or the B-horror and science-fiction films of the 1970s and 80s. She has stated: “I’m interested in that contradiction at this critical time in human history when current predictions for our future are not just unsettling, but terrifying.”
The notion of the artificial is brought to bear in contemplation of what might be considered natural, in part reinforced by the visual polish of the moving images, which reach the point where most viewers are unable to distinguish between what is real and what is computer-generated. In Orion Tide, (2013) we see rocks and foliage littering the ground, convincing us of some form of scrub land. Then an eerie, distant sound warns us of that which follows, the slow eruption of a lit pod from the surface. Trails of flame and smoke lead the eye up through the dark sky and then out of sight, followed by another and another and another. Are they escape pods —final humans abandoning all hope— or are they a death rattle of a dying planet? Richardson deftly avoids simplistic environmental and sci-fi cliché with a painterly sense of narrative mystery.
The exhibition is developed in collaboration with the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, UK; Grundy Art Gallery, Blackpool, UK; Towner, Eastbourne, UK and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo. An extensive monograph accompanies the exhibition.MORE
CJSF interns Ana Costa + Anh Dang interview New York visual and video artist Maryam Jafri about her work AVALON (2011), which is Contemporary Art Gallery’s June 2014 exhibition The Act Of Seeing With One’s Own Eyes.
Jafri weaves themes of production, representation and role playing throughout her work.
Aired originally on CJSF’s Spoken Word Surprise July 1st (Tuesday 4pm)
Includes notes from CAG curator and excerpts from the June 26th artist talk.
Talk info + audio: www.contemporaryartgallery.ca/learning/a…yam-jafri/MORE