Raw/Beauty

January 8 - 26, 2003 

Saint John Arts Centre 

The Drawing Club, Hannah Jickling, Timothy Comeau, Ben Skinner, Genevieve Dionne, Jo Cook, Tashia Friesen 

Jo Cook

  

The Drawing Club

 Hannah Jickling

A survey of emerging contemporary artists working in various printed matter mediums that examine the nature of beauty in contemporary consumer society.

There are a lot of definitions for the terms “raw” and “beauty”. Rawness has many undesirable connotations: uncooked, unrefined, untrained, inexperienced, inflamed, sore, unpleasantly damp and chilly, cruel and unfair, crude and naked. Conversely, beauty is a much-debated term that jostles for equal footing with the very term “art”. Art and beauty are synonymous for many people. Beauty conjures up qualities that give pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.

To combine the raw and the beautiful sounds a lot like the classic story Beauty and the Beast, in which a hideous monster is revealed to be a handsome prince; presenting a sort of ‘don’t judge the book by its cover’ moral. This exhibition aims not only to show the similarities that exist between raw and beauty, but that they are in fact flip sides of the same coin; that one cannot exist without the other. The artists presented use artist books, posters, wall-drawings and text to illustrate the beauty in the banal, and elevate the moments that comprise everyday existence. The works presented use the unfinished, the crude mark and the repetitive gesture to isolate these moments of beauty, and examine how the concept of beauty fits into contemporary consumer society.

Artists selected to be part of this exhibition have all been affiliated at some point with the Khyber Centre for the Arts in Halifax, either as members, volunteers, staff or exhibited artists. The Khyber is an artist-run centre which seeks to inspire critical thought in society through exhibitions of non-commercial contemporary art and facilitates dialogue, social interaction and information exchange. The Khyber provides many opportunities for emerging artists to show their work, participate in panel discussions and volunteer with gallery operations.

Tashia Friesen will exhibit an artwork inspired by International Situationist Guy Dubard’s statement that there can only be a beauty of situations. I pray for grace is a documentation of a performance in which a so-called moment of beauty is created. The work will take the form of a bookwork of video stills as well as a poster of undetermined dimensions. Tashia recently exhibited an on-line bookwork of digital stills in a Khyber collaboration with the CBC affiliate, 120seconds.com.

Timothy Comeau creates handmade artist books made to order which describe the interesting intersection of events that lead to its creation. Accompanying the artists books will be wall drawings based on crude computer-aided drawings of imagined futuristic idyllic parks. Timothy also exhibited work on the 120seconds.com website and as well had a show in one of the Khyber alternative exhibition spaces, the Skylight Gallery.

Jo Cook will present artist books and digital prints documenting an art action. Her  handmade artist books, drawings and quirky installations probe the intersections of the real world (comprised of objects and situations) with our internal responses. Her work gravitates towards the context of play, where subjectivity and objectivity overlap. In Rock Dress-Up Cook uses her drawing practice to intervene directly with the landscape in a manner that is playful, performative and ephemeral: an anti-monument to moments of fantasy and reverie. Jo Cook participated in a three-person exhibition at the Khyber is June 2002.

Ben Skinner & Genevieve Dionne use William Morris-inspired floral motifs in jarring colour juxtapositions to heighten the emotional recoil that often results from aspirations of love and happiness. Hot pinks pulsate with the unbridled rawness of saccharine desire. Utilizing a thoroughly domesticated household item of decoration, wallpaper, combined with commercial lettering, Skinner and Dionne provide a poetic take on the emotional contradictions of contemporary consumer society. They exhibited work together in the Khyber alternative space the Closet Gallery in April 2002.

Hannah Jickling locates our cultural obsession with stardom in the rawness of human flesh and skin. The human urge to collect is at the root of such projects as Brad’s Body Orbits, where fingernail clippings and pubic hair are elevated to cult status through their supposed association with Hollywood glamour. In a further comment on collecting and possession, these items of detritus are offered up for silent auction, encouraging a direct form of interaction from the gallery public. Hannah is a volunteer at the Khyber who has organized renowned events such as the Circus Ruckus and is currently a Khyber Kids art instructor.

Rebecca Roberts will present a collection of drawings from her ongoing project, The Drawing Club. The Drawing Club is a loosely constituted Halifax-based collective of artists who share an interest in various forms of drawing. Members of The Drawing Club meet bi-weekly for intensive collaborative drawing sessions. The drawings that the group produces are the poignant and absurd results of collaborations that are casual, intense, intuitive and informed. They are often executed on the scraps of paper that are the detritus of daily life, and often refer satirically to the realities of life as an artist. The drawings are playful, creative, ephemeral, and immediately appealing. As an additional component to the large-scale photocopies of drawings in the gallery, The Drawing Club mailed original drawings in customized envelopes to random addresses in the Saint John area. Trade with your friends! Rebecca is a member and volunteers at the Khyber.

As curator of this exhibition I am also presenting an ongoing correspondence work of my own. In Daily Letters to Jean Chrétien I examine and compare the movement of media news stories. I write detailed, personal letters to the Prime Minister of Canada on a daily basis. This is part response to the constant barrage of mediated images and stories the general populace receives from news agencies, and part mimicry of the obsessive fan. In over 2 years worth of daily letters I have received only a few typically bureaucratic replies. For Raw/Beauty I am presenting 2 letters written a year apart, enlarged to poster size.

The works in this exhibition emphasize the hand-made as well as the reproducible object. The works are not necessarily about the rawness of sketching, as in working through an idea, but rather the rawness of an idea realized in a certain format: a format which can be reproduced through commercial printing, scanning, photocopy, and video stills. This is the DIY art-making ethos; self-publishing. Make it yourself. The editing may be raw, but the translation from artists’ voice to audience reception is more immediate. The work takes from the everyday the beauty that can be found in rawness.

-Chris Lloyd, curator
December 31, 2002