Friday, September 10, 2010

Recontextualisation: Part 2

House on De Brebeuf 2010

As someone who has always lived and worked in a vacuum it’s been an interesting experience letting friends into my life. The fact that most are artists makes it even more interesting. Strange as it sounds, I’ve always avoided artists and have made it a point not to obsess over other people’s opinions on art. I’d rather have my own thoughts and the accompanying illusion of their originality.

I’m glad I developed in this vacuum but I’m also beginning to see the benefits of allowing a discourse.

The second part of my attempt at recontextualising my work is thanks, in a large part, to Montreal artist Randall Anderson. Randall and I met just over a year ago in my old neighbourhood, days before he left for a cross-Canada bike trip and a scant couple of weeks before I left the area for good. At our first meeting we found a lot of common ground despite the apparent dissimilarity of our work.

I now meet Randall every week to talk about art and I think we’ve had a broadening effect on each other’s perceptions of our own work. At one meeting Randall, who at the time was doing a series of hard edge paintings, talked about the sheer joy of peeling off the final piece of tape to reveal the completed painting and asked if I ever have that moment with my work. I said ‘No!’ but then I thought of that moment when I take off the protective paper that surrounds the painting and see the image floating in the white of the board. I get a kind of rush, a feeling of ‘I did that?’ The painting appears to have emerged from the board through some divine process.

Randall suggested that if I painted the images in the middle of a larger sheet, I could frame them without a mat. Float a sheet of glass above the image. Add a white frame.

Cue the angels singing. Instant contemporary context.

The idea of the bare image excited me. I’ve been framing these things like an ancestor’s needlepoint or an old etching torn from a book. The sickly antique white of the always poorly cut mat, the blah black frame. Enough!

I’ve always hated frames and the experience of going to the framer. It can’t be a fun job. Nothing less than perfection is expected but so rarely is it delivered. My first framer in Montreal actually touched the painting with a finger as I tried to convince her that the image was a painting and not a print. This encounter was all the more curious as it was entirely in French. I researched all the words I would need in a dictionary before heading out that day!

The last painting I gave to a framer for the full process was ‘Parkside Bar’, a painting which had consumed just under 700 hours of my life. As I left the framer which, in all honesty, was a perfectly sterile and safe looking environment, I had a queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I thought to myself, ‘What kind of an idiot would leave that with a stranger?’

I assemble the pieces at home now. I order the frame, the glass, the spacers, the backing and put it all together in the safety of my studio. Even so, the spacers are always a little off, there is occasionally a shoe print on the acid free backing board and the odd mark on the white frame. No system is perfect!

I’ve illustrated two recent examples of the new framing method. It seems like a small thing to change but it feels like an important shift in how I present the work. Context is everything.

A.B. Demolition 2010