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Ross Bollerup, "Catch," 2004, acrylic on canvas, 38" x 69".
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Ross Bollerup, "Red Ball," 2006, acrylic, canvas, wood.
ROSS BOLLERUP, Good Dog
Evergreen Cultural Centre, Coquitlam
Sept 14 – Oct 21, 2006
By Beverly Cramp
It’s true that many of the pieces in Ross Bollerup’s show Good Dog contain images of dogs, people and balls. Bollerup does write in his artist statement specifically about his family dog Jessie (who was at the show’s opening night reception). Yet the images evoke more than dog as man’s best friend. Bollerup provides us with a more abstract perspective when he writes in his artist statement that the dog, hand and ball became metaphors of play for him. He also describes the exhibit in terms of his technique and how his work is an exploration of colour, texture and visual elements including stenciling.
To add to the multi-faceted nature of this show, curator Ellen van Eijnbergen says it’s actually two bodies of work: one for Good Dog and another Bollerup calls A Family Experience. The Family pictures were inspired by Bollerup and his wife’s extended families.
Before I see the show, an artist friend says that such typically personal experiences run the risk of being narrow in perspective and sentimental in treatment. I counter that the universal can be found in the personal. My friend agrees that the subject isn’t necessarily important but how it is handled. For the careful viewer, Bollerup’s work represents something beyond man’s sentimental relationship with family and pets.
Bollerup’s superb and experienced art-making technique bears appreciation too. Over many years, Bollerup developed a unique layering process that involves transferring painted images from glass onto canvas. Bollerup writes of his method: “It is similar to collage as the paint is glued to the canvas after being lifted from the glass. One painting can be comprised of several transfers. Various textures can be achieved by working on the glass surface…mainly the process provides a flexibility that is not available in a more traditional method.” Bollerup also paints directly onto the canvas in some of his work.
All these techniques are clearly revealed in Bollerup’s show. In the middle of the gallery are two exhibits that show the process of a series of different paintings on glass that are then transferred one upon the other, onto a canvas. It’s fascinating to follow the layering of images from several glass sheets, each intriguing in its own right, as they come together to create a complex final image.
Bollerup’s layering process gives him the opportunity to explore repetitive imagery – a fascination obvious in both the Good Dog and Family series. One of the most arresting images is that of a dog’s head cupped in a human hand, which is repeated in many of the pieces. His images of dogs twisting in the air, running and rolling on the ground begin to transcend the simple notion of a fun day with the family pet. This is evident in a piece like Catch with its lyrical lines and movement.
The Good Dog and Family series point to memory, common occurrences and re-occurrences in our lives. Many of the Family pieces feature a family tree. Sometimes that tree is depicted more like a flame as in Family Flame, which speaks of a family gathering and the combustion that often occurs at such times. The flaming tree image represents both a sense of danger and warmth.
Texture, colour, a collision of visual elements, dog, man, family, and memories: Bollerup’s layered works have all these elements. When activated by the viewer’s imagination, his works become even more.