The Hamilton Spectator -- Final
Burlington Friday, December 22, 2000
Going out on a limb for art's sake; Group installation effort crosses boundaries and questions dogma
10 Body Contexts -- The Convergence Collective
Artists: Woon-Ngor Ballik, Tracey Bowen, Lois Crawford, Donna Giles, Diana Gordon, Kate Hawkins, Clarissa Schmidt Inglis, Wayne Moore, Lynda Morris, Saundi Vivian.
Mentor/Curator: V. Jane Gordon
Burlington Art Centre: Main Gallery, until Dec. 31.
Something very exciting happens when visual artists really start to think, to question, to express opinions and to solve problems. It is this process that is going on in 10 Body Contexts, an exhilarating exhibition of installation art on view at the Burlington Art Centre until Dec. 31.
The show is the result of a special two-year education and development project sponsored by the art centre, a project that was facilitated by V. Jane Gordon, a Waterdown-based artist and educator. The 10 artists involved: Woon-Ngor Ballik, Tracey Bowen, Lois Crawford, Donna Giles, Diana Gordon, Kate Hawkins, Clarissa Schmidt Inglis, Wayne Moore, Lynda Morris and Saundi Vivian were selected from an open call to all Burlington Art Centre and guild members.
Over the two-year period, the members of the group became The Convergence Collective and communicated largely through e-mail.
The new artworks that resulted are all installation pieces and the thematic focus of the show is the human body in various contexts. This theme has been very loosely interpreted; some works investigate the body and its relationship to nature, others the body and the spiritual realm and still others express concerns with the restrictions and constructions of modern society that have been placed on the body.
Bowen, for instance, uses framed photographs of families, homes and landscapes in an attempt to suggest the structured confines of suburban living. Employing the esthetic of repetition and uniformity and exploiting the limiting effects of frames and edges, her mixed-media pieces critique the gridded spaces and constructed uniformity of the modernist environment.
Vivian, in a similar manner, questions the constructed nature of texts, in a work that is meant to be read as a half-open book. But the most accessible and powerful work in this vein is, perhaps, the artwork of Wayne Moore, the only man in the group. In a piece called Corporate Father, Moore passionately condemns the corporate culture to which he used to belong.
Moore's depictions of seductively glamorous offices, with their sleek and slick surfaces, expensive furniture and expansive views, are painted in washed-out, icy tones of blues and greens. The accoutrements of corporate efficiency, the answering machine, the ergonomic chair, the calculator, are modelled in spooky, lifeless white castings that stand mutely and resemble colourless, late 20th century grave monuments. Like Bowen's suburbia, Moore's corporate world is a rootless, counterfeit environment of emptiness, anonymity and alienation.
Other artists are prepared to celebrate the sheer physical presence of the body and its relationship to nature. Gordon has created a series of paintings that relate the phases of the moon to the hormonal chaos that sometimes drives the menopausal female psyche.
In Branching Out, Hawkins investigates the belief that all living things share certain qualities of materiality. And Crawford sees herself as a sort of Swamp Wom(b)an. Her metaphorical comparison of the Beverly Swamp to the womb -- moist, messy, fecund --combines paintings stained with grasses and weeds and her own three-dimensional great piece of turf put together with the help of Elizabeth Jarvis. In her reference to Durer's magnificent watercolour, is Crawford also saying that art must be an eternally changing and transformative process, like nature itself? This is a giant leap of imagination and originality for an artist best known for charming and decorative paintings of flowers and children.
The relationship between the body and the spiritual or philosophical is also a source of inspiration. Ballik, in a series of paintings as light, transparent and airy as bubbles, expresses the belief that the body has seven layers or levels that can be represented by colours. Giles compares the domestic table to a temple. In Celebration and Acceptance, Morris attempts to assuage her grief at the death of a beloved granddaughter, with photographs and computer-generated images of religious artifacts symbolizing the Jewish holidays. And in a complex, multi-layered work of art, Inglis uses images and text, etched on rigid unmoving metal, to agonize over the gender conditioning that affected her as a Roman Catholic female.
This is a show that is all about taking a chance, going out on a limb and braving self-exposure. The artists here are working without rules, transgressing boundaries and questioning dogma. For these reasons alone, perhaps this show should be called an event, rather than an exhibition.
Reprinted with permission of the Hamilton Spectator