Supercharger by Michael Forry

As part of the exhibition Supercharger by Northern BC artist Michael Forry, I put together a short exhibition text, which follows here. 


 

A number of influences are apparent in Michael Forry’s work, most prominent being the punk movement. As an ideology, punk is characterized by an anti-establishment and anti-authoritarian perspective with a distinctive DIY aesthetic. Los Angeles art critic, Andrew Berardini identifies “the monstrous” as an aspect of this movement. Individuals emerge from the shadows, becoming avatars reflecting their personal and political motivations. Punk bands like the Cramps and Misfits merge a type of proto-punk face-paint resembling Alice Cooper with a B-movie, sci-fi and horror aesthetic as a manifestation of the monstrous. As a metaphor for adult imagination, this practice allows individuals to act out experiences of trauma and rage within a like-minded community. (1)  

In the exhibition Supercharger, elements of the Punk movement surface through Forry’s use of three distinctive substrates: found animal skulls, traditional canvases and repurposed skateboards. Individual freedom is one of the foremost concerns that surfaced in Punk, a characteristic that is visible through the use of skateboards here. Forry recovered six used skateboards, colloquially referred to as decks, all made at CBA in Northern BC. The decks are imbued with cultural and political meaning despite being ubiquitous objects. As an expression, the decks are emblematic of independence, individual freedom and rule breaking. (2)

Forry’s canvases are layered with acrylic and spray paint and collaged materials. He uses found objects and detritus, instilling the works with distinctive qualities that hold a direct lineage in his world. Many of the canvases feature repetitive circular forms, complete or not, with some layered over each other. This repetition appears meditative and is suggestive of the obsessive use of dots and circles in the work of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. Equally compelling is his use of acrylic, applied in splatters and long drips and dribbles in the manner of Jackson Pollock. Underneath are strong lines of spray paint, where his own personal iconography of tagging emerges, in the spirit of contemporary street artists. 

In his use of found animal skulls Forry’s personal story unravels. He finds them discarded in the wilderness and in many cases reconstructs them. In saving their skulls he is restoring their spirits. These relics are permeated with the power and prestige they held as fierce, living beings. The titles speak to the spirits of the animals that once were, carrying a legacy that would have been lost with their deaths. As with the grizzly entitled Supercharger, the skulls emulate a “supercharged” revived strength, power and endurance. 


Endnotes.

(1)  Berardini, Andrew. "Marnie Weber's "Chapel of the Moon"" Marnie Weber's "Chapel of the Moon" | Art Agenda. Art Agenda, 2 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 2 Dec. 2016. < http://www.art-agenda.com/reviews/marnie-weber’s-“chapel-of-the-moon”/

(2)  For an example of an exhibition on skateboard culture see: MacLaughlin, Bryne. "On Board Culture and Rule Breaking." Canadian Art. Canadian Art, 24 Nov. 2016. Web. Accessed 02 Dec. 2016. < http://canadianart.ca/features/boarderx/

Home Making by Susan Barton-Tait

Back in 2013 as a newly minted Assistant Curator, fresh out of graduate school with my diploma in hand, bright eyed and bushy tailed like a little white rabbit, I curated an exhibition of work by then local Prince George artist Susan Barton-Tait. I went on to work with Susan on many occasions and become good friends with her as well. This is the text from that initial project we worked on together. 

 

 

…, well beyond geometry…, we must recapture the quality of light; then come the sweet smells that linger in empty rooms, setting an aerial seal on each room in the house of memory.  Still farther it is possible to recover not merely the timbre of the voices, ‘the inflections of beloved voices now silent,’ but also the resonance of each room…” (Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space, 60 – 61)

Susan Barton-Tait’s exhibition Home Making embodies the notion of home as elaborated by French philosopher and phenomenologist Gaston Bachelard. The author examined his understanding of the house as a fragile, nebulous kind of place in his 1964 book The Poetics of Space. The magic of the home, as we have all experienced and as Bachelard suggested, is imbued in our memories, in our imagination. We carry with us these figments from our childhood homes, emotive understandings that can no longer live on in the walls of the homes we have left behind, but only in our memories. 

Barton-Tait’s large scale installation Home Making brings together the nostalgia, fragility and monotony of homemaking.  Simultaneously, her installation focuses on the tenuous aspect of home that Bachelard spoke to, while also demolishing the boundaries around the traditional understanding of domesticity and the home. Her inspiration for the work was her experience of being a new mother and wife in Winnipeg in the 1980s. The house the artist was living in at the time, a converted cottage by the Red River that the artist affectionately nicknamed “The Smallest House Known to Man”, resurfaces in this installation, as do the chores that are familiar to many, which Barton-Tait was performing as a new mother and continues to perform to this day. They are the activities of any household looped together in a silent dialogue that drills the tireless redundancy of homemaking into the viewers mind. 

Casts of the walls of the “Smallest House Known to Man” hang in layers throughout the gallery space, growing and diminishing in size. Made from paper, the walls of the house come apart at the seams. They no longer create a closed off space but rather a lateral one through which the viewer can freely move. The ephemeral nature of pulp suggests the obliteration of a traditional sense of the home, lacking shelter from rain or snow, protection from the outside world, and the enclosed safe space of a traditional notion of home. In destroying these boundaries, Barton-Tait builds a kind of universal home. Projected over these scattered walls are a series of looped videos portraying a variety of domestic activities. A pair of hands are seen making sandwiches, folding laundry, hammering and vacuuming among other household tasks. The perpetual nature of these chores is amplified by the looping of the videos. The work never ends: more sandwiches need to be made, more laundry washed and folded, and the pile never seems to grow smaller. This continual repetition of activities heightens the viewers sense of the monotony involved in these types of chores. In the end, the work is rendered redundant and begins to lose all meaning. Home Making thus draws together the fragile, reminiscent, nostalgic yet tedious nature of making a home. 

 

Sage and tumble weed,

She collected sage brush, tumble weed tangled and caught, shed antlers - a roadside bouquet tied together with a scrap of yarn, dangled from the rear window. It carried her home, safe passage while the car rattled over the pavement the 900 km of journey to cover. 

 Thompson Valley, BC. 2016.

Thompson Valley, BC. 2016.

I am a collector of words, thoughts, images. This photograph was taken during a road trip from Prince George to Banff to Kelowna to Vancouver and back to Prince George last May. I was transported to another world in Banff, landing in the middle of an arts writing residency. I was welcomed by kindred souls, rapt and wrapped in their thoughts, words. I caught sight and scent of the sage rolling through the interior of BC and it caused my heart to thump thump and thrum in my chest. I'll be leaving in a few days to return to Banff more than a year later. That magical place, settled on land resting on a deposit of rose quartz, will gift me again with memories and notions to carry my soul for awhile now.