Texting, texting, 1, 2, 3…

take me home (2011)

I went to a couple of really great artist talks these past two weeks. One was by Damien Moppett, whose show I still have to see at The Rennie Collection, a space I fully encourage everyone to go check out in Vancouver. (You have to book an appointment to go see the exhibitions, but it’s well worth making the effort.) The other was by Frances Stark, who is showing a video piece at the Contemporary Art Gallery right now. It was really interesting listening to both artists talk about their works, especially the autobiographical aspects of their practice. I also related to Damien’s dialogue with art history and Frances’ use of text in her work. There was something that Frances said that stood out to me during her talk – she mentioned that for a long time, she struggled with feeling the need to choose between writing or making art, coming from a non-traditional fine arts background, having done her Bachelors degree in Humanities. This made me think about the dichotomy of text and image and also about friends that I know who are also working with text. Three out of the four friends interviewed as part of my monthly Fridays & Friends series have either always worked with or are currently working with text, and it’s interesting to see that they also studied what may be considered non-traditional degrees for fine arts, such as creative writing and advertising. Even I almost went the route of an English Literature degree over Fine Arts during my undergraduate degree, which is why you may sometimes find me posting random English Lit poems on my Tumblr blog.

My last blog post about lyrics showing up as text in the form of titles got me thinking, has text really not been part of my work since my BFA degree show in 2002? And then, I remembered…it was there in my MA degree show too, in 2004.

Queen Elizabeth I - The Coronation Portrait, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 in, 2004
Accompanying text

The text that was shown in the form of placards were just as integral to my Art History series as the paintings.

Queen Elizabeth I by Unknown artist, Oil on panel, 50 x 39 in, circa 1559 (image courtesy of npg.org.uk)

I went to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery in London and altered the text from the information placards that were next to the original paintings, which the films that I referenced in my paintings were based on. The original text that accompanied the Queen Elizabeth I painting, above, was:

This painting is known as ‘The Coronation portrait’, and shows the Queen crowned, wearing the cloth of gold which she wore at her coronation on 15 January 1559, which had previously been worn by Mary I. She holds the orb and sceptre, symbols of her authority. The portrait appears to have been painted in about 1600, and is probably a copy of a lost original of c.1559.

A still from the film Elizabeth of the coronation scene

And so, where does text fit into my work now? I find I’m still working in two veins – I think it’s the Gemini in me. I’ve always described my work as having two directions, one being more personal/private and the other being more public and pop culture based. Now with my work, I find there is a further split of image and image with text. In some ways it’s a separation and in other ways, they go hand in hand.  I’ve not yet married the two completely, but I like also having the option of doing one or the other at different times. It keeps things interesting, for me, but hopefully for the viewer as well.

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