Sometimes an exhibition is an opportunity to present the conclusion of a fully developed and explored idea. Other times, an exhibition is a chapter in a longer story whose plot only reveals itself as it’s being written.
In 2012, my exhibition Heterotopia at Winsor Gallery marked chapter 1 of such a story. It was the first time my studio and the studios of other artists began showing up in my paintings. The journey started in my own studio, where I played around with integrating the paintings and drawings laying around the studio into new paintings. I noticed that when an older painting was reproduced and reworked into a new painting, its original narrative was stripped away. In the context of another painting, it became an actor, helping to tell a whole new story.
From my studio, my attention then turned to other artists’ studios. For chapter 2 of this exploration I set up a studio in Berlin and produced an exhibition of “studio paintings” that was shown in Münster (Galerie Steinrötter) and Düsseldorf (White Brush Gallery – André Schnaudt). Leaving my familiar Vancouver studio behind, I focused all of my attention to the workshops of other artists.
This exhibition at Winsor Gallery is Chapter 3, titled It’s Not You, It’s Me. Or is it It’s Not Me, it’s You? …I still struggle to figure it out. For this exhibition I’ve visited the studios of Jessica Eaton, Ron Moppett, Shawn Hunt, Lawrence Paul Yuxwelupten and Graeme Burglund. But are these paintings about them? I barely know most of these artists personally. And what (if anything) do these paintings say about their work? In Sunshine Freres essay “Breaking Up” (which accompanies the exhibition), she asks “What happens when the artist is absent, be it from the studio, or from the context of their paintings?” These are not portraits of the artists involved, nor are they even portraits of their studios. And even if I claimed they where, what about the old truism that all portraits are self-portraits? Based on this, can we not conclusively state, It’s definitely not you, it’s me.
But even George Costanza, who claims to have invented the “It’s not you, it’s me” understands the fundamental flaw of this argument. This argument is based on the false assumption that relationships are black and white. In fact, they are more yin and yang. So too is the production of art. Nothing is created in a vacuum. Even if you are alone, you are alone in the world. And if you find yourself alone in the ‘art world’, you’re probably not in it.
Though there may not be an obvious relationship between my work, and the work of these artists, we share some of the same audience, people who are interested in and talking about the art that’s being produced today. As artists, we also, importantly, share the common experience of waking up every day and going to “the studio”.
Are these paintings me? Are they you? In order for there to be a relationship, it has to be both me, and you. I have used these artist studios as the stage for my own stories. But in the same way that a story set in Dublin will be different from one set in Mumbai, my relationship to their work environments undoubtedly steer the stories I tell.
As artists, the studio is our runway. It’s the place we take off from when we start to work.
German Painter Charline von Heyl wrote:
“The idea of the ‘studio’ is as much a fantasy as the idea of the ‘artist’ is a fantasy.
Both cease to exist when the work begins.
If there is work, there is no studio, there is no artist.
The stage of the studio is necessary, though, to enjoy the tortures of procrastination,
For the enactment of the melodrama of solitude,
For the playing out of visceral monologues…
I borrowed their departure point, and traveled in another direction, documenting the journey in paint.
Winsor Gallery March 15, 2014