April 2, 2005
Patti Dawkins: Paper and Silk, an exhibition of printmaking, is on view at the Stride Gallery through Apr. 23. Also showing is Kuh Del Rosario’s site-specific installation Skin So Pink So Fresh!
Adjectives to describe the two exhibitions on view now at the Stride Gallery spring readily to mind — tactile, intuitive, material-driven. This well-considered pairing, featuring the work of Calgary-based artists Patti Dawkins and Kuh Del Rosario, showcases two distinctive yet complementary approaches to art making, each with a marked installational bent. Dawkins’ Paper and Silk, in Stride’s main space, is comprised of work, created duriing a residency at The Banff Centre in 2004, which explores nature and the human experience through the medium of print and pa-permaking. A graduate of the Art College of Art and Design in 1989, Dawkins went on to work at the college as the printmaking technician for 14 years. She now concentrates solely on her own art practice, and Paper and Silk is her first solo exhibition in Calgary. “Paper and Silk, like with my previous bodies of work, explores personal issues like travel and memory as well as broader issues like my connection to the human spirit, nature, and mortality,” says Dawkins. “Important, especially, is how the repetitive almost meditative process of print and papermaking had a creative influence on the outcome of this particular body of work.” The largest and most powerful element of Paper and Silk is Promise (2004), a 2 x 8 metre installation made up of 500 sheets of handmade Gampi paper suspended on cotton twine with miniature clothespins. This piece stands out not only for its sheer size but also because its paper components are completely blank. The absence of an image, in combination with the delicate texture of the paper, seem to pull the work out of a purely aesthetic context towards the realm of the body. As you move away from the piece, the paper in Promise melts away and reforms as a gigantic empty landscape made up of wispy offerings that evoke scales or skin. Playing up the tactility of her medium even more is Dawkins’ Totemic Numens (2004). Comprised of a grid of 36 photo-litho prints on rice paper, Totemic Numens seems to begin in a place where Promise left off. No longer devoid of an image, this grid presents what looks like a series of EKG readings or Rorschach-like prints. Upon closer inspection, however, you realize that the images are actually vertical mirror images of mountains as seen reflected in water.Here the relationship between nature and the human body seems to have manifested itself in intrinsically fleshy curls of printed paper.
Kuh Del Rosario’s Skin So Pink So Fresh!, in the Stride Gallery’s basement Project Room Space, is the result of Del Rosario’s monthlong, site-specific Stride residency in which she explored the physical vocabulary of building materials. “For this particular body of work, I focused mainly in the construction, the gluing and piecing together of various materials,” says Del Rosario, a 2003 graduate of the Alberta Academy of Art and Design. “This was to help me further my awareness of the discourse between different mediums.”
If you’ve never had the chance to visit Stride’s alternative exhibition space, this is one juicy reason for venturing downstairs. Making up Del Rosario’s Skin So Pink So Fresh! installation is a collection of candy-floss coloured building materials that are now as surreal as they were once practical. Del Rosario’s work begins with a run of aqua blue plastic draping that leads gallery-goers down the basement stairwell into what seems to be a construction site on acid. Here the scratchy grey carpet we all hated as children has turned a bright lilac colour and foam carpet underlay has left the floor to climb up the wall and the ceiling. Looking upwards, of course, is an important precaution in Del Rosario’s installation because only then can you spot items such as the tiny chandelier of orange pigment-filled baggies waiting cheekily in the rafters like tiny paint bombs. Central to Skin So Pink So Fresh! is a massive pillar placed smackin the middle of the room and erected as if by Dr. Seuss himself. Its sides are covered with pretty pink insulation held together by sticky green insulation filler and a mysterious substance oozes out of every crevice like industrialized golden taffy. Even the cords of dangling lights are painted neon colours in an obvious bid not to camouflage their existence. Nothing in Skin So Pink So Fresh! is even remotely reasonable, thus emphasizing Del Rosario’s interest in the exotic subtleties of even the most mundane of materials.
Undeniably, whether it is through Dawkins’ quiet, almost contemplative paper-based wall piece or Del Rosario’s psychedelic site-specific installation, visitors to Stride will be privy to a thoughtful exploration of the art-making process. Each artist, while varying in her approach, highlights the indefinite potential of the most unassuming of materials.