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.
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
This summer I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to intern at the Contemporary Art Gallery as the Communications Assistant. This was my first internship in the industry, so I did not really know what to expect, but it ended up being an incredibly insightful and motivating experience for me.
If you are familiar with the CAG blog, you have likely seen my “From the Archives” series, in which I discussed past exhibitions at the gallery and their relationships to themes of current exhibitions or other current issues in contemporary art. This gave me the chance to research and learn more about emerging and established artists, and was a great chance to use my academic knowledge in a real-world situation. It was pretty awesome to be able to write about an artist who’s work I had seen a few months ago while on exchange in Scotland (Nathan Coley!) on a gallery’s website in Vancouver.
I was excited to use my marketing and communications knowledge to assist with research into the marketing of art institutions and how non-profit galleries can reach a wider audience, especially in Vancouver. It was also eye-opening to be given the chance to attend Brendan Fernandes‘ interim performance and help with the gallery’s Family Day events; seeing and being a part of the processes of the gallery’s programs allowed me to experience what a career in the arts really entails.
I am now back in Montréal to complete my final year as an undergraduate Art History student at McGill University. After my internship this summer, I am looking forward to undertaking independent research concerning issues in contemporary art, something I had never studied heavily before this experience.
I want to thank the staff at the CAG for encouraging my creativity during this internship and giving me an authentic experience at the gallery. I hope to continue to contribute to the gallery in the future and am now even more thrilled to pursue a career in the arts industry!
– Kelli SturkenboomMORE
Kicking off our new series of blog posts featuring CAG staff, board members, interns and volunteers writing book recommendations selecting from the CAG’s thirty year history of publishing, Jaclyn Bruneau, CAG Visitor Assistant, picks one of her favourite CAG publications from back in the late 1990’s: French Kiss.
Ghada Amer, Jean-Sylvain Bieth, Bernard Lallemand, Dany Leriche & Patrick Reynaud
Exhibition: December 13, 1997 – January 31, 1998
This exhibition presented works by five French artists around nuanced notions of sex and sexuality. Far from the tedium of ready-made erotica, these works extend into realms of psychological complexity, esotericism and France’s rich philosophical history of desire. French Kiss is soft to the touch, the colours saturated, and the images immense.
French Kiss can be purchased in the CAG book shop or online, with the special Summer discount of 40%, use the coupon code CAGSUMMER on check out. Purchase here.
This past Saturday, the CAG held its monthly Family Day. Participants crafted landscape collages in response to Kelly Richardson’s Legion. A few of the volunteers and I decided to have a little fun and create our own! From the beginning of my piece’s construction, I had a vague idea of what I wanted my collage to look like. Halfway through, however, I realized it had completely changed as I sorted through the materials we had and gained new inspiration.
Experiencing this process myself got me thinking about the art-making process in general. Artists may start with a certain idea about how they want a piece to look, but the finished product is often very different from the initial plan.
On looking through the CAG exhibition archives, an exhibition in 2010 by artist Elizabeth McIntosh, Violet’s Hair, explicitly seems to address the artistic process. Vancouver based, McIntosh is known for her abstract paintings. When one looks closely at many of her canvasses, faint clues to how the paintings have evolved can be seen. As well as a selection of paintings McIntosh also transformed a gallery room into a collage itself. Colours From a Story (2010) overlaid large, colourful pieces of paper in various sizes creating a sculptural representation of her art-making process. This piece addressed how McIntosh approaches painting; various colours overlapping creating new shapes and the painting itself revealing process and change.
This idea can also be applied to how we view art ourselves. Approaching art that we have never before seen, we often do so with uncertainty. One can never know how the experience will be until we are in front of it and letting our imagination run wild. Sometimes it is useful to wait to read about an exhibition until after you go through it for the first time, allowing yourself to creatively contemplate what it means to you at first glance.
We hope that you will visit us at the CAG for the next family day on Saturday, August, 30 (12-3pm) to enjoy the making and the experience of art.
– Kelli Sturkenboom, Communications internMORE
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.MORE
Looking back on past CAG exhibitions, a particular performative piece caught my eye; one that seemed to involve a simple, wooden chair. Max Dean’s 2008 exhibition Robotic Chair took a familiar household object and transformed it into a shocking and thought-provoking piece. With the help of robotic technology, the chair would move, fall apart—and then pull itself back together.
It is exciting how technological developments have allowed artists to create pieces that express ideas in completely new ways. The great thing about this exhibition, for me, was the fact that the meaning behind this piece was left for the spectator to contemplate. A common theme drawn from it was the idea of hope and picking oneself up after a tragedy. However, as the curator suggested, it also pointed to our human attraction to failure.
I couldn’t help but draw a similarity between this exhibition and Kelly Richardson’s current exhibition at the CAG, Legion. Through the use of technology, Richardson is able to create extraordinary moving images that transform real, photographed landscapes into completely different worlds; Orion Tide (2013) and Leviathan (2011). These images are presented in a way that invites visitors to sit down and become immersed in the landscapes, drawing their own meaning from their personal experience with them.
I have led several friends through this exhibition and all have had completely different responses; some seeing the projections as beautiful and enchanting, and others experiencing an uncomfortable and suspenseful sensation.
Stop by the CAG to encounter Kelly Richardson’s Legion for yourself, and tweet us @CAGVancouver with your thoughts! Also—snag a copy of her publication The Last Frontier, for sale in our bookshop for a special exhibition price of $40.
– Kelly Sturkenboom, Communications internMORE
As you may have noticed, the CAG is currently closed in preparation for Kelly Richardson’sLegion, exciting new installations which open next Thursday. I have really been looking forward to this one! Flipping through Richardson’s recent publication The Last Frontier, I’ve begun to get an idea of what this exhibition has in store. For her projection and photographic works, Richardson digitally alters her own photographs and video to create environments which raise questions about our relationship with the natural world. As an art history student, I have definitely studied my fair share of landscape-themed pieces, mainly traditional oil paintings from earlier centuries. Looking through past exhibitions and CAG publications, I have found it interesting how this theme of “landscape” has been tackled in other exhibitions here at the CAG in very unique and innovative ways.
In 2000, the CAG published Quick aging pivoting city to accompany artist Eleanor Bond’s exhibition. Bond’s paintings approached a different type of environment; the urban landscape. These large-scale paintings were not meant to represent existing and specific places, rather, they incorporated both actual and imaginary forms. Exploring Vancouver for ten days, the artist took photographs and made videos, and used these as the source to create her own constructed environments on canvas. For me, the knowledge of this process creates uncertainty when looking at these pieces about what is “actual” and what is not.
Cai Guo Qiang’s Performing Chinese Ink Painting was a performance made at the CAG in 2001 involving three different artists, each rendering their own versions of the same site in the same medium. Not only did this bring together the Eastern tradition of ink drawing with the more recent rise of Western performance art, it also posed questions about the “reality” of landscape painting. Although the artists were using the same specific landscape as inspiration, they each constructed their own distinct interpretations. Like Richardson’s installations which feature modified landscapes, the artists used this single landscape as a starting point to create works with augmented and altered meaning.
Sentimental Journey at the CAG in 2009 invited a group of artists from British Columbia to engage with ideas of the personal journey based on eighteenth and nineteenth century Romanticism. In this exhibition, it was not necessarily “landscapes” that were put on view. Instead, the artists went on their own expeditions, gathering information from the spaces they experienced to create their own individual pieces. The resulting works did not necessarily picture the landscapes themselves. While much of the work produced would be seen by many as completely different to the traditional idea of landscape in art history, when you think about it, both these and more conventional styles of landscape painting are based on an artist’s own experience looking at, or journeying through, a specific space.
The CAG’s LANDSCAPE publication examines even more of this subject and is available in our bookshop. Come check out Kelly Richardson’s Legion next week to experience for yourself her awesome and immersive pieces—the opening is on Thursday July 10 from 7-10pm and the exhibition is on until August 31!
– Kelli SturkenboomMORE