January 14th - March 4th, 2016
Terri Fidelak, Solastagic Dream (detail), screen printed mylar, papier mache, ink, wax, raw pigment, dressmaker's pins, 2014 - 2016.
ARTICULATE INK – Michelle Brownridge, Karli Jessup, Caitlin Mullan, Terri Fidelak, Kyle Marshall, Bethany Liber, Jolene Erhardt, and Joe Lovick
January 14 – March 04, 2016
By Amber Andersen
Printmaking is an art medium steeped in craft tradition. It has specific conventions such as multiples or editions of prints. It is a unique because you must create a plate or template, of sorts, that can have ink applied to it. After the template has been inked, it is put through a printing press or print process to apply the image on the plate, or template, to a flat surface. Therefore multiples of an image or art piece is possible. This sets printmaking apart from other practices that have only one original. As most people do not even know what printmaking is or the various processes applied, it typical that training is necessary. I surmise that the un-commonality of print and general publics ignorance of process lend to the deep seeded desire, whether from an educational perspective or from an insider track (read: printmaker, of printmaking fandom), to explain technique and history. Assuming the desire is to have your audience understand the process, how it was made, there is certain specific jargon that deserves explanation. However, this brief essay seeks to explore what the artists are expressing in their works versus examining the craft used to make that work.
Surface Beauty is an exhibition of eight artists; Michelle Brownridge, Karli Jessup, Caitlin Mullan, Terri Fidelak, Joe Lovick, Kyle Marshall, Jolene Erhardt and Bethany Liber who all belong to “Articulate Ink,” an artist-run printmaking studio based out of Regina, Saskatchewan. A brief studio visit with each artist would define the loose subject of this exhibition - “Surface Beauty”. Each individual artist approached this subject in a completely unique way that was true to his or her practice. Diverse and distinctive, the subjects tackled in this exhibition are as complex as the topic of beauty itself.
Michelle Brownridge, Schmidt , inkjet and stone lithograph, 2011.
Playing with surface, Michelle Browridge’s work consists of layers of patterns. Working with images of brick buildings, interiors of busses and objects of the past, Brownridge creates a sort of nostalgic lens through which we can look at her work and feel comforted by it. It seems familiar. All five works allude to patterns and places. Of perhaps, favourite haunts and objects. The works read as distinctly nostalgic. This is all part of Brownridge’s play with “old” and “new” technologies. Using both her cell phone camera (new) and a Polaroid camera (old) to capture images of contemporary things/places, the final print product is a mixed of ink jet print (new) onto paper, with the final layer of security envelope texture applied to the surface via lithographic plate (old). New is considered hip, fresh, exciting, youthful, and these terms, whether applied to beverages, public transportation or lounges speak to an inherent beauty, without thinking or realization. That is a facet of consumerism. Things with pretty packaging and no trace of wear, of being “shiny and new” are seductive. Brownridge’s works subvert this notion of surface beauty by using nostalgia as a tool to express beauty as something that exists below the surface.
Caitlin Mullan, Panopticon , screen print and coloured pencil on coloured paper, 2015.
Using what she coins as “orphaned” antique photographs, Caitlin Mullan scours second hand stores for her resource. She scans the images and digitally alters them, prepping them to be screen-printed. For Mullan, narrative is strongly linked to her work. The series of prints in this exhibition were put in a specific order, seemingly telling a tale of two women in various stages of their lives. However, the story remains unscripted. The viewer has the pleasure of piecing Mullan’s story together. Or perhaps more accurately, the viewer gives context to these lost moments, frozen in time. Using select images, particularly relating to early 20th century or earlier, these are not read as nostalgic but rather as artefact, they are too old to be familiar, for most viewers. Interested in chance and fate, in Chaos Theory and The Butterfly Effect, Mullan’s practice incorporates processes that depend on each other, a small change having a rippling effect that can be massive in outcome. Of course, this effect only affects the viewer should they be privy to Mullan’s process of using vagabond images. In this way, Mullan enacts the theories she is invested in, the images remade, hand coloured and intentionally sequenced to create a notion that they interlinked all the while playing with a system of non-linear dynamics. Seemingly beautiful, these works are haunting, the truth and history of the photos long lost and buried well beneath our surface understanding.
Karli Jessup, Entitled 1,2,3 , screen print, 2015.
The focus of Karli Jessup’s work is value. She uses this iconic dollar symbol in an effort to generate discourse around subjects of commerce, wealth, greed, and accessibility as they relate to visual arts. The original printing press made literature and two-dimensional pictorial printing much more accessible to the masses. Images were much more affordable and could be purchased by the less wealthier classes, art could be owned by individuals operating outside of the established upper class or bourgeoisie. The printing process used for this body of work, ultimately owes its origins to the printing press of the 15th century. However the printing press and all forms of printmaking are now considered an outmoded and unconventional form of technology. The supplies, knowledge, and equipment necessary to create a finished product make fine art prints much more expensive to reproduce than their contemporary commercial cousin - the poster. Yet, as far as ownership of original art goes, prints are still much affordable than “one off” originals such as paintings. Jessup’s dilemma is a familiar one to most artists. It is the balance between her desire to make things of beauty that are affordable to the general public and her impulse to educate that same public on the value of art. She demands to be paid for her work and rightly so.
Bethany Liber, For I Consume and Am Consumed ,polyester plate lithography, 2015.
Bethany Liber or as she refers to herself “Barf Scabs” uses self-portraiture to discuss her struggle with self-perception. She uses the title of the exhibition, very literally, as a starting point for her work. Her series consists of: Images of food, a very Stephen King’s Carrie-esque self portrait seemingly dripping in condiments (not pigs blood), a body builder (her Olympia), a self portrait in costume, and a mantail (man with a ponytail) to relay to the audience an odd assortment of beauty. Her humour is instantly detected through her titles and choice of images. The muddy mix of colour and alignment or purposeful misalignment of different colour separations doesn’t allow the work to be “pretty”. It is not perfectly polished, and it is not meant to be. Although it is the folly of youth to never understand one’s own attractiveness, Liber seems to be a step ahead of the crowd. By embracing imperfection, we are, as she alludes, more attractive and unique than we understand ourselves to be. She has carved out a niche of her own, realizing that beauty, as the cliché goes, rests truly in the eye of the beholder. In these works, she sees and is seen as both author/artist and subject. Liber’s power rests in her ability to deconstruct traditional modes of beauty.
Jolene Erhardt, The Golden Hen , screen print on paper, 2015.
In a similar vein, Jolene Erhardt critiques societal norms through the use of her dog woman figure. As the text on one of her images suggests, we are examining the world according to a “middle-class bitch,” pun intended and embraced. The dog figure uses Erhardt’s body and her dog’s face. Through this series of five works we are confronted with pressures, which are placed on women “of a certain age” and privilege (read of middle class and Caucasian in origin) in North America. Whether in the application of make up to accent cheekbones or give the illusion of the perfect face, or our culture’s ever loving embrace and reverence for brand name exercise pants for anything but exercise purposes, Erhardt gives voice to concerns of stepping outside of normative values or cycles. The use of the mandala or circle seems to be a commonality through the work. This perhaps alludes to cycles, whether in the shape of wedding rings or referencing religious iconography. Just like dogs, in our society, as Erhardt claims, we seem to be trained into certain ways of thinking. Finding Mr. Right, owning a designer home, marriage, children, in these prints, is simultaneously scary, humourous, and annoying. Regardless, whether you are “jones-ing” with your neighbour over granite countertop, or gushing about your baby on Facebook, watch out, this bitch, Erhardt’s dog woman, has bite. Yet, it is comforting to know she is giving voice to critique and stand against patriarchal and consumerist demands.
Joe Lovick, Der Schmetterling,lino cut, 2015.
Joe Lovick is the most traditional in his subject matter in this exhibition. Using images of nature as his focus, his works speak to his fascination with, and desire to, study a subject he holds in great esteem. As an immigrant to Canada, nature became an immediate focus of what is “Canadian”. Lovick replicates the complex splendor of texture and pattern in nature through the most economic use of line. There is labour and knowledge crafted into these works and unlike other various forms of print that hide it, we can readily see it in these pieces. In the lino-cut process, what is carved away does not print. The surface that has remained untouched is what prints black. In this way, it is the opposite of drawing. Lovick’s studious skills in capturing his subject likely come in handy when replicating these images. Ranging from a flock of geese flying to a close up of a butterfly, Lovick’s simplicity of design and use of lino-cut technique really play up the form of these subjects. In his work, beauty neatly sits on the surface in the best of ways.
Kyle Marshall, Virgin Superstar , screen print on paper, 2014.
Kyle Marshall’s artwork features recognizable and popular images of women throughout different eras. He uses a model set up by Kristin J. Liebs in her book Gender, Branding, and the Modern music Industry, Marshall recreates and selects female icons that match Lieb’s five stages that a successful female pop star must go through. They are the virgin, the temptress, the hot mess, the gay icon, and the legend. In thinking of the constant stereotypes that women in the music industry face, he has selected an icon to accompany each of Lieb’s five stages. The Virgin Mary represents “The Virgin”, Britney Spears represents “The Hot Mess”, Judy Garland as Dorothy represents “The Gay Icon”, Marilyn Monroe represents “The Legend” and Eve represents “The Temptress”. Some silhouettes stand out where others bleed into the background. The visual play of what pops into the foreground and what doesn’t and use of background speak to pressures and stereotypes faced by musicians/actresses. For example: Marilyn Monroe and the America flag – perhaps implying ‘everyone’s all American.” Slightly discomforting and also entertaining, this work pushes us to question why we are so easily swayed to place women into niche constraints. The music industry can be ugly and stereotypes definitely are, Marshall reminds us of that.
Terri Fidelak, Solastagic Dream (detail), screen printed mylar, papier mache, ink, wax, raw pigment, dressmaker's pins, 2014 - 2016.
On a false wall Terri Fidelak’s work stands out amidst the two dimensional artworks in this exhibition. Pushing the boundaries of traditional printmaking, her three dimensional forms consist of papier-mâché, ink, wax, raw pigment, screen-printed bits of mylar, all held together with dressmaker’s pins. Her works are organic in form, referencing little ecosystems or perhaps a network of strange planets and cosmos. At once beautiful, these forms are also strange and somewhat unsettling due to her use of this fragile media. Things that look heavy are not: Objects that look like they should not float do and paper stands up and takes form. This is a world of her own making, unorthodox, beautiful and bizarre, it draws us in, we want to touch these beautiful forms but we also want to stand apart and absorb the work as it plays out on the wall, or surface in this case. Existing somewhere between drawing, sculpture and installation, we get can get lost in this work. Playing with notions of the beautiful and grotesque, fragile and sturdy, organic and manufactured, the key of this work lies in its own opposition to itself. Fidelak artwork plays, subverts and challenges what is beautiful, and what is not, often hovering between the two.
As diverse in their art practices as they are in personalities, these printers all have something in common. They are young, passionate, driven, and have something to say. In their collective desire to keep printmaking alive and well in the province of Saskatchewan, they are all dedicated to promoting and preserving this art form.