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"Staples and Operations"
Erin McSavaney, "Staples and Operations," acrylic on panel, 2007, 53” x 60”.
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Erin McSavaney, "Collegiate Graveyard," acrylic on panel, 2007, 40” x 45”.
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Erin McSavaney, "Dogs Years," acrylic on panel, 2007, 40” x 45”.
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Erin McSavaney, "Lonely Spine," acrylic on panel, 2007, 30” x 36”.
ERIN MCSAVANEY, Universal Uniform
Atelier Gallery, Vancouver
April 21 – May 12, 2007
By Beverly Cramp
Growing up in British Columbia, it’s hard to escape landscape. “You’re surrounded by it and it becomes part of your identity,” says Erin McSavaney, whose first solo show of paintings and collages at Atelier Gallery is made up of industrial, man-made landscapes. McSavaney had previously focused on images of the natural world including forest interiors, mountains and rivers.
Although some of McSavaney’s earlier works did occasionally depict buildings, Universal Uniformspecifically examines aging mid 20th century industrial buildings, often up-close and at odd angles. “These new works are a left turn for me,” he says. “Buildings in landscape are a fictional storage place for memories. They’re also a vehicle to explore common places and collective consciousness.”
McSavaney’s paintings use representational markers showing details of rooflines, window frames, air vents, louvers, exhaust hoods, air conditioning units, ramps, pipes, fire escape stairways, parts of paved parking lots abutting buildings and even the odd electrical pole with sagging wires. The perspective is often tilted, as if being viewed from a car while lying down in the back seat. This effect is most likely the result of McSavaney’s method of using video stills from footage he shoots from a moving car.
“I work by driving around places that reverberate for me and shooting video out the car window. The video eliminates the details because they’re blurry images and then I don’t have to decide what details to include in my work. And I’m a detail-oriented guy. That’s my struggle – wanting to strike a balance between detail and impression – and balancing that dichotomy.”
The mixture of precise lines with hazy details and white space creates dream-like images. “I consciously tried to stay cryptic,” McSavaney says. “The images are triggers for my memories; they work in code for me. But they force a narrative on viewers who finish it off by adding narrative from their personal memories.”
For example, to me the acrylic panel titled Device for the Protection of Memories could be an aging chicken coop visible from the highway that passes through agricultural land on the way from Vancouver to Hope. And the painting called Adventure Peopleputs me in mind of industrial cranes on Vancouver’s inner harbour waterfront.
If many of the artist’s images are representational enough to be recognizable, they’re also increasingly abstract compositions featuring volumes and planes of colour. The work is painterly, an evocative and disquieting combination of detailed lines and fuzzy indications.
The off-kilter perspectives and angles also serve a purpose for McSavaney. “I like to skew things and disrupt the normal,” he says. “It adds to the sense of being vulnerable.”