Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Kirsten Johnson and Yvonne Singer: June 2, 2011
Kirsten Johnson and Yvonne Singer will both be present at the reception. This will be Johnson's third solo exhibition with us. We are pleased to welcome Yvonne Singer for her first solo exhibition at KWTcontemporary. Singer is an established artist, distinguished and respected for both her artistic output (primarily text-based conceptual installations in recent years), and for her academic contributions to the Canadian contemporary art scene as Professor of Fine Art at York University.
Deliberately theatrical, provocative, yet humourous: Johnson's paintings explore the specificity and range of human emotions. Her paintings play with the stylistic traditions of classical portraiture while subverting the formality in favour of social commentary.
In her new series, "Prom Storm" Johnson's oil on wood paintings present portraits of adolescent prom-goers superimposed on tornadoes and other images of extreme weather conditions culled from the internet and historical archives. Her bold, graphic colours lie just below (and sometimes above) the surface of nature. Utilizing realism to the extreme, moments are frozen in time, dynamic actions and reactions are caught in a freeze-frame.
The subjects of the paintings become characters whose personalities are exposed to reveal the storm of emotion and hormones that constitute the typical adolescent Prom experience. Desire, hope, envy, disdain and regret are fully on view. You may recognise yourself.
Accompanying the exhibition of paintings, Johnson presents a video installation which is at turns funny, self-depreciating and poignant, chronicling her own adolescent experience, as understood from her now adult and mature perspective.
"I I I I wa wa wa want"
"I I I I wa wa wa want" is an installation with neon letters, mounted on a pair of opposite-facing mirrors. The self-reflecting mirrors create the illusion of repeating the words to infinity as well as implicating the viewers who are also reflected in the mirrors. The work speaks to our desires. Neon signs are familiar signifiers of commerce in our urban setting and the media advertising that surrounds us promotes our endless desiring. Who doesn't want something? Who hasn't looked longingly at a shop window?
..."if only" is an excerpt from a longer neon work with 3 other phrases; I should have, I could have, I would have... ...if only. The phrases are a lament that references regret and longing for unfulfilled desires as well as a response to social expectations. By reading the words, the viewer is at once in both a public and private space.
...."I do, I undo, I redo" is a phrase borrowed from a drawing by Louise Bourgeois, who wrote these words to describe her working process. For Singer, the phrase succinctly describes the creative process and also functions as a metaphor for the endless routine of our daily life. It can be interpreted pessimistically as a dead end or optimistically as the opening of creative possibilities. The script version (a rendering of Singer's own quirkily charming handwriting) of this plexi/acrylic installation is presented as a multiple, in an edition of three in each of several colours. The typographic version of the same phrase consists of Singer's modification of classic Helvetica, presented in three one-off renderings in red, blue or black.