1 of 3
"You and I"
Stephen Andrews, "You and I," 2009, 18” x 36”, oil on canvas.
2 of 3
"Elimination of Badness"
Eleanor Bond, "Elimination of Badness," 2010, 30" x 22 ¾ x 2 ½”, oil on gessoed paper. Inspired by Kim Dorland. Photo by William Eakin.
3 of 3
Stephen Andrews, "03/01/2009," 2009, 72” x 96”, oil on canvas. Collection of Dan Donovan.
ELEANOR BOND AND STEPHEN ANDREWS, "Revealing the Subject"
Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Calgary
Feb 3 - Mar 12, 2011
By Diana Sherlock
Two exquisitely paired exhibitions currently on view at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art & Design (ACAD) in Calgary — Toronto artist Stephen Andrews’ subject and Winnipeg/Montreal-based artist Eleanor Bond’s Mountain of Shame — show work by two artists that explores embodiment through the materiality of painting. The titles of both exhibitions reveal the artists’ shared interest in subjectivity; a process of becoming that is made visible in these exhibitions through the materiality and processes of painting.
Andrews’ subject, organized by Wayne Baerwaldt, Director/Curator Exhibitions at ACAD, includes a dozen recent paintings since 2009 and a series of lithographs that hand-translate media images of mass social events and violent struggles, such as the war in Iraq, into seductively luminous, abstract, painterly surfaces. In subject, the seemingly disparate categories of politics and abstraction bleed into one another to reveal the reality of the spectacle is no more than an abstract matrix of coloured dots that float on a surface. Andrews uses painting’s materials and processes to render this abstraction visible, to materialize it. Using this method, he relates his subjective experience to the larger societal context represented in these images and, like Bond, creates an embodied space within our imagistic world.
Curated by Vancouver-based Helga Pakasaar,Mountain of Shame not only opened Winnipeg’s Plug-in Institute of Contemporary Art’s new space last fall, but also signaled a new direction for Bond’s work. Mountain of Shame is a singular work; a painting installation comprising 19 individual artworks with equally evocative, subjective titles. The large, rectangular gallery opens up in front of the viewer like a field receding into the distance. A long white table occupied by a sculpture and several lumpy, unframed paintings on paper cuts the horizon. Behind it stands a rather humorous, blue Styrofoam obelisk. In front of the horizon, the field where the viewer stands includes large, unstretched abstract canvases, small framed works on paper and, on white plinths, several sculptural copper/wire/steel armatures coated with lumpy polystyrene and muddy, earth-toned pigments slathered and squeezed directly from the tubes.
The works, including Grievous Object, Big Fear, and my personal favorite, Dark Cloud of Indecision, manifest the most unknowable of states. A world away from formal purity, Bond’s recent works seem to be extruded from an abject muck of matter. Suspended in a state of transition, these visceral abstract works refer to processes of making and represent models or intermediate stages between idea and form, between perception and reality.
Like Andrews’ subject, Mountain of Shame is concerned with representation from a particular, subjective point of view. Bond’s earlier landscapes of utopic/dystopic communities employed a speculative aerial view. More recently, her large abstract paintings read like excerpts or details of a microscopic or interior view of a much larger world.Mountain of Shame includes two such works, Brain and Happy Town, the latter of which also makes direct reference to the history of colour-field painting in its method of production. Here the space is shallow, the picture plane flatter and the viewer is drawn closer to the surface by a carefully handcrafted biomorphic surface of interwoven colours.
Mountain of Shame extends this spatial logic by flipping the field or ground of the painting into the gallery space itself so as to create an embodied topography through which viewers walk. As we navigate our way through the gallery, or through the field of the painting, we encounter each installation element visually, materially and spatially relative to our own bodies. The visual impulse on which painting, and particularly abstract painting, relies so completely is exchanged here for a much more immersive, phenomenological experience that engages both body and mind. Ephemeral, unknowable experiences, such as the media speculations of Andrews’ works or the emotions that they evoke, are made material, concrete and real, if not fully understandable, to our senses.