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"I no longer find you attractive, but I can’t say that because then I’ll feel guilty #3"
Karla Griffin, "I no longer find you attractive, but I can’t say that because then I’ll feel guilty #3," 2013, pencil crayon on paper, 8’ x 12’.
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"I no longer find you attractive, but I can’t say that because then I’ll feel guilty #2"
Karla Griffin, "I no longer find you attractive, but I can’t say that because then I’ll feel guilty #2," 2012, pencil crayon on paper, 8’x 8’.
KARLA GRIFFIN : It’s not you, it’s me
Frances Morrison Library Gallery, Saskatoon
February 13 to March 15, 2013
By Liz Wylie
We’ve all seen the couch before – that beat-up, sagging, stinky old hulk on the crumbling front porch of a house on the wrong side of the tracks, or left on the curb to be picked up as trash. So there is a huge recognition factor in Karla Griffin’s slightly larger-than-life rendering of the orange-and-gold sofa, painstakingly replicated in coloured pencils on three colossal sheets of white Stonehenge paper. But her drawing, with its surreal tactility and imposing presence, also has a tremendous wow factor. This impressive work is the centrepiece of her exhibition on the theme of dumping: The dumping of old possessions, and how that can be seen as a parallel to the dumping of one lover by another at the end of a relationship. While the exhibition title (It’s not you, it’s me) and its echoes in other break-up clichés in the titles of individual works may seem light-hearted, they could feel like slaps to anyone still nursing a broken heart. The parallels are there: The initial excitement and desire, the gradual boredom and dissatisfaction and, finally, the desire for replacement goods. The end point of each cycle is the same.
Griffin came upon the abandoned desk, lamp and couch depicted in the exhibition while walking her dog in Saskatoon. After taking photographs, she created big coloured drawings of each. For other works, she enlarged the original photographs and then extended them onto the gallery wall using coloured vinyl cut to mimic elements in the images. This created visual puns referenced in her titles, such as, you cut me out of your life. And in a separate small suite of drawings, each object is depicted just as it was found, in full colour, with its ambient setting rendered only in black lines.
One of the most successful aspects of Griffin’s work is its neutrality in terms of emotion, handling and democratic selection. There is nothing heavy handed on her part, no implied lecture on the negative environmental impact of filling dumps with perfectly good household items, no remonstration on callous treatment within relationships begun in trust.
In considering antecedents for Griffin’s work, we might recall the even-handedness and neutral subjects of the so-called new realism that began in the late 1960s: Highly detailed paintings of diners, urban streetscapes and such. In contemporary art, the collaborative works of Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky come to mind, with their respectful and slightly tongue-in-cheek attitude to consumer goods and packaging of everything from coffee cups to cars. The art niche Griffin’s work fits into is one where the quotidian is displayed in all its everydayness, so that viewers tend to skip over that aspect to engage with the content of the work – the deeper questions being posed and explored. As a result, Griffin’s work becomes relational to a degree not normally associated with the traditional medium of drawing.