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"Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird" installation
Eric Cameron and Chris Gardiner: Reveal/Conceal October 5 – November 19, 2011 Art Gallery of Swift Current
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"The Key to a Curator's Heart and the Long Wait Associated: A Notluge"
“The Key to a Curator's Heart and the Long Wait Associated: A Notluge 1998 to Day of Future” 20" x 27" x 9" locked wood display box with undeclared internal contents, fir construction with brass trunk hardware, varnish, non reflective display glass Master lock acquisition into the Mackenzie Art Gallery’s Permanent Collection with key being made available. Two keys not displayed – one in artist’s possession and other in safety deposit box alongside notarized document of intentions
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"Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird I (1836)"
Eric Cameron "Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird I (1836)" begun in 1994 10 x 9 x 10in acrylic gesso and acrylic on canister of undeveloped film
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"Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird IX (12)"
Eric Cameron "Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird IX (12)" begun in 2008 3 x 4 x 4in acrylic gesso and acrylic on canister of undeveloped film
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"Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird VIII (836)"
Eric Cameron "Exposed/Concealed: Laura Baird VIII (836)" begun in 1996 6 x 9 x 9inin acrylic gesso and acrylic on canister of undeveloped film
Eric Cameron and Chris Gardiner: Reveal/Conceal
October 5 – November 19, 2011
Art Gallery of Swift Current
Reviewed by Quentin Randall
Process is a commonly used word in the creation of artwork. Many times the artistic process is concealed from the public. Studios are private spaces where the ritual of artistic process plays out. When the ritual is complete, the artwork is exhibited – a beautiful “container” which conceals the ritual or process involved in creating it. In Reveal/Conceal however, Eric Cameron and Chris Gardiner attempt to strip away aesthetics, revealing hints about their rituals.
Eric Cameron’s series of thick paintings are the outcome of applying hundreds of layers (in some cases, nearly 2,000) of alternating grey and white gesso to household items, including wine gums, film canisters and yellow roses. The process is undertaken over the course of years, often leaving the original object unrecognizable. The way in which the artwork is presented – by identifying the year in which the first layer of gesso was applied – invites further exploration or speculation of Cameron’s ritual.
Gardiner’s work is a series of containers which hold “objects of anxiety.” Often, these objects are significant to him or others (a contrast to Cameron’s work, which largely represents insignificant objects) and by confining them, he attempts to remove the anxiety associated with them from the world. When confining the objects of others (including, interestingly, those of Cameron), Gardiner blindfolds himself to ensure he does not become aware of the contents. Knowing them would defeat the purpose of the work as the anxiety represented by the objects would only be transferred, not removed. The observer also will never know what is contained within due to the extraordinary effort Gardiner takes to conceal the object in each work.
Cameron’s Laura Baird IX, VIII and I explicitly document the effects of his ritual over time. Laura Baird IX, with only twelve layers of gesso applied, is clearly identifiable as a film canister. However, by the time layer 1,836 is applied (Laura Baird I), the original form is completely lost and the artist’s earlier brush strokes become the model, instead of the canister.
The ritual involved in Laura Baird IX is particularly striking when the starting date is considered – it was 1994 when Cameron first applied gesso to this piece. It is fascinating to imagine the artist in his studio, surrounded by these pieces – all in different stages of the process – as years, even decades passed. Internal and external events no doubt challenged Cameron over time, yet somehow the ritual was able to overcome these.
One of Gardiner’s most interesting pieces is The Key to a Curator’s Heart… It invites the observer to open it with a simple Master lock hanging from the bottom, in plain sight. Yet according to Kim Houghtaling, Art Gallery of Swift Current Curator, there are only two keys which will open the lock - one is in Gardiner’s possession and the other in a safety deposit box with a notarized document of intentions. On the front of this piece is some Braille covered with glass – perhaps a mysterious clue written in a language which usually relies on the sense of touch instead of sight. It is the only piece which suggests, in any way, that it may be opened. The intensity of being so close to knowing is so overwhelming it is almost causes anxiety in the observer.
Through their minimal, stark artwork, Gardiner and Cameron shift the observer’s focus from aesthetics to the ritual, an invisible yet fascinating part of the artistic process. While an artist’s ritual or process is often overlooked by the observer and/or concealed by the artist, Reveal/Conceal successfully turns the perceived importance of these two states - process and final product - inside out.