Monday, 19 August 2013

The Conversation that is Art

This is the net as it appeared, rag by rag, at Model Citizens.
Pam Hall has worked for years on a series of site-specific installations around the theme of women's labour but also prayer.

On Saturday afternoon at Model Citizens vintage and specialty clothing boutique in St. John's the usual ebb and flow of shoppers was augmented by waves of art-inclined visitors.  Installed for the special occasion of the 24-Hour Art Marathon was Pam Hall's A Wish and a Prayer.  It was quite literally a handmade net to which visitors were invited to tie a strip of cloth after they had written a wish on it.  Pam called the cloth strips "rags" and in the female tradition of crafting that term would be appropriate (as in rag rug) but there was something that wasn't everyday or cast off going on.  It was ritualistic and the taking something used and worn and reclaiming it and then elevating it with near prayer-like reverence was a far cry from the status denoted by "rag".  The humble white strip of cloth and the devotional aspect of writing a wish and then submitting it to the wall of netting has a resonance that goes back throughout human history and across cultures.  It is a meaningful act that transcends what many would consider the function of art–but not me.  Without the authority-laden atmosphere of the art gallery, Pam Hall's installation has a meaning accessible to a wide audience.  It is interactive as opposed to the "do not touch" environment of the institutional art gallery.  It afforded the public an interactive role and valued that contribution.  In short, it made art the conversation that, I believe, it ought to be.  And for that reason, Pam Hall's A Wish and a Prayer did my heart good.

An example of Nelio's eye popping mural art.

This year's art marathon had a theme:  Dreamworlds, that really seemed to help focus and energize the series of events and activities that made up the festival.  As Mary MacDonald, Director of Eastern Edge Gallery, which is the epi-centre and hub of the art marathon states, "A dreamworld can be many things: a utopian paradise perfect and untouched, the stuff of nightmare or perhaps an alternate universe where all your wildest fantasies come true."  I think of the surrealists and also the Inuit Art's shamans skilled at transformation.  The unconscious is the home of the dreamworld and I guess, in many ways, what the art marathon does is make dreams come true.  Either way, the visionary capacity of the artist is a role in society that holds hope.

Eastern Edge is to be congratulated for the breadth and scope of the projects by this year's invited artists.  From Nelio's sophisticated yet energetic wall art, to Damien Worth's creative manipulation of free ware to fashion shimmering, living worlds from crowd sourced images, to Pam Hall's interactive installation not to mention the films, bands and so much more the diversity of contemporary art practice was unavoidable.  And a regular feature, and a crowd favourite, is the 24-hour art marathon itself where members of the public could float through the open spaces and see artists from junior to veteran working in clay, wax, paint, video and found objects.  The opportunity to ask questions and engage in conversation about inspiration and process, in short to share art, is a welcome break from the daily isolation of the studio for both artists and members of the public.

Prayers by Stephen Hiscock, who was one of the younger artists participating in the marathon.  His pencil and ink drawings explore duality with fantastic creatures often with a brooding authority.

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