Skew makes room for Begin Neudorf and Bartlett

Skew’s latest triple threat of solo offerings by some of Calgary’s finest artists display humour art history and ideology in ways that will leave gallery goers thinking in a whole new light.

Ashleigh Bartlett’s Something Like Gravity displays a sense of exaggerated materiality presented through cartoon references and quotations of historical paintings aiming at injecting abstraction with a sense of humour.

“I started collecting a loose configuration of images and they were coming from a lot of different places like video game characters and comic books” says Bartlett of her cartoon inspiration. “I began to notice that oftentimes within some of the imagery… there was a sense of exaggeration alongside something that was simplified at the same time so I found that to be just a really interesting idea to examine.”

The confluence of exaggeration and simplicity within her collection allowed Bartlett to create hybrid forms through the language of contradictions. It’s been described as a painterly Esperanto after the less-than-successful international language.

“I thought there was a nice interplay between the different forms that were happening that way” she says.

The viscosity of paint application in Bartlett’s work further represents the overall inspiration. The thick blobs of paint lean towards the sculptural and she says they often mimic edible matter like frosting which is used to further the concept of humour and play.

During her research for this series Bartlett noticed a recurring conversation consistently referring back to modernism.

The question “How do you make an abstract painting now?” was an important consideration for Bartlett and bringing humour into the equation was her entry point. “Somewhere within that research and that question I think that became more and more important” she says.

Interdisciplinary artist Noel Bégin’s A Decombinant Diapositive Verisimilitude Leaning Precarious Against the Verdance was originally done as a commission for In Your Orbit a film by Andrea Mann which brought together a number of artists and creative types.

One scene called for an art gallery but rather than fake an installation just for the sake of the film Bégin seized the opportunity to create an entirely new piece.

“It coincided with me wanting to make this new installation that was all slide projections” he says. “In order to see the image properly you have to walk through the image and interrupt aspects of it.”

The projectors are situated at the back of the gallery and are accompanied by a variety of photographs featuring details from the projection. It’s all a compilation of lush vegetation inanimate objects and moving figures.

Bégin’s work literally and symbolically references The Swing an iconic painting from the French Rococo period by Jean-Honoré Fragonard. High society was living large creating civil unrest among the people of France and the period was ultimately curtailed by the French Revolution

“I’ve always been enamoured with that painting” says Bégin who began making slide projections during his time at The Night Gallery in the late ’90s.

For Bégin the swing represents a time of innocence and frivolity moving towards the volatility of the French Revolution but his installation was shot in June when countries like Egypt and Lebanon were experiencing their own civil conflicts. Bégin drew a parallel between the two time periods and used them as elements for his work which reflects themes of contemporary hedonism and indulgence.

“There’s still sort of an opportunity to rectify things and bring things back into balance” he says. “That opportunity for innocence or frivolity maybe can still be shared.”

Kim Neudorf rounds out the trio with Proximities which explores the idea of painting as an event rather than simply illustration.

“This is actually based on part of a statement made by a painter named Dana Schutz wherein she talked about how she was looking for a way for her paintings to be affective rather than merely illustrate an affective experience which can be the problem with any painting” says Neudorf.

This statement could be argued by saying all paintings are affective but Neudorf sees the possibility to further this notion and strives to achieve it through the materiality of tone and colour. Her work creates a dialogue regarding an inanimate object’s ability to play an active role.

During her undergrad at the Alberta College of Art and Design Neudorf was introduced to the writings of Maurice Merleau-Ponty and others studying the theory of phenomenology which has become the basis of Proximities and her own writing.

“Encountering an object or another body is never an experience of distance between you and what you encounter but as Merleau-Ponty writes ‘rather than seeing it I see according to or with it.’” she says.

Neudorf says that within phenomenology there is an idea that a reader or writer combined with an artwork or text can collaborate to create a third entity. This could be created in any number of forms including a conversation a piece of writing or a performance but could not exist independently from either source.

“I’m very interested in painting which could only have been made through day-to-day transformations rather than through a repetitive strategy including technique which has no room for deviations” she says.