Friday, April 17, 2009

Reading images...

I went to the opening of the latest PCP show (Tanya Baker and Grace McKenzie) and had briefly considered writing some text about the work. Essentially I got distracted - more of those damn shiny things! - but have revisited it after reading some words from Ric Spencer today.

I have to confess to being quite out-of-sorts at openings and for me to read the artist statements would have involved standing in, for me, very uncomfortable places (high traffic). So, these thoughts come without the supporting structure of an intellectual construct.

In particular I was interested in Grace McKenzie's work. It's unclear if deliberate or not but the show appeared unedited.

That is to say, it was more a catalogue (for want of a better word) of all available subjects rather than a focus on the most effective or efficient subjects/images. I feel that it did suffer a bit for that... 'democracy' is all well and good but did it ultimately compromise the 'message'?

Empowerment was also on my mind whilst looking at the images. Who 'drove' or 'designed' the image? The subject or the image-maker? In some images it appeared very much that the subject had assumed control and 'here' doing 'this' or showing 'that' seemed critical to the subject's mindset.

In other images, it did appear that McKenzie was much more the instigator as the images took on stronger tones, textures and geometrical features.

I guess I ultimately found this disparity distracting. There were some very strong images on a variety of levels that were marginally weakened by others in the show.

Tanya Baker's work was also very interesting and this is where 'reading' comes into play.

From Ric Spencer in The West (April 17, 2009):
Five big works, each a triptych of a home environment, a child and a sleeping dog, illuminate ever-present notion of our finite existence. Baker's images hold an obviousness to them which constitutes our lives as if they are predicated - but, within the same frame, they also conversely hold the enormous potentiality of life.

Ric looks at the images optimistically but I read them significantly differently - again Sans-Statement - as for me the dogs were clearly dead... most likely on a Vet's table.

When you take the dogs, suburban scenes and the rather sombre-looking children, I read a clear and intimate statement about the first experience most children have in regards to death.

The suburban scenes are vernacular in style, often blurred and with dated colour casts. The surface of the film is also distorted and damaged so as to further hint of a personal, 'found' nostalgia rather than a constructed art object.

In one image a dog and cat stand on the edge of a street and stare into the camera. In this particular image it hints perhaps at the street scene element being forensic in nature... ie. 'dog x' was hit by a car 'here'.

Either which way, I found these images very engaging and quite discomforting.

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