Maybe what we are drawn to is the passage of time. Certainly, what we are drawn through is time. This is (perhaps) ironic considering that the artworks in question will always assert their essential “nowness” as things hung on a wall. However, the trace of paint across a surface of canvas offers proof of minutes and hours having ticked by. And though the camera’s (for example) 1/20 of a second shutter speed is short, that very shortness is a defining element. And so even if these images sit, placid, they are evidence of time (as you stand, squandering your finite hours, looking at them). And this is without even considering the content held on their various surfaces. If we go looking for help on this issue of temporality and objecthood, consider H.G. Wells, asking in The Time Machine, “Can a cube that does not exist for any time at all have a real existence?”
Maybe we are drawn to the fourth dimension because it is the one we seem to have no say in.
What we wonder about is our own mortality, the ways in which we are pulled, or dance towards the void: the long, twin draglines of heels in dirt, or toes dancing on hardwood as a band keeps time (a small fuck you to the universe). The works assembled for this exhibition question what it means to count off the days of a human life. As Stanley Kubrick wrote (in Playboy),
“Why, [a man] might ask himself, should he bother to write a great symphony, or strive to make a living, or even to love another, when he is no more than a momentary microbe on a dust mote whirling through the unimaginable immensity of space?
We can, however, lean forward and tuck our shoulders in against this essential truth – a truth that might bring us to a standstill – by seeking solace and resilience in Cormac McCarthy’s words,
“we announce to the darkness that we will not be diminished by the brevity of our lives”
All four artists in this exhibition present images, or traces, of the difficulty and grace of being human. And to varying degrees this human presence is offered up via absence. A street stands empty, hand-written text flitters with legibility and a portrait is rendered as insubstantial. But in each case this presence is fundamentally imbued with the long pull of years that encompasses a human life. A figure alone in a field is compelling as an image not because of the moment in question, but because of what is implied before and after: we as viewers attempt time-travel. What has happened, what change is in the offing?
There is then, another common thread – or ligament, if we are to centre on human metaphors – and it is change. Change as it relates to the human experiment is really just another word for living. But there is, here, a restlessness at play. The Effaced text of Yan Wen Chang’s paintings refers to both a “do-over” but also a tally of what (or who) has been lost along the way. And in Chad Gauthier’s still, ephemeral figures we catch the human form in a liminal state of being and unbeing — a place at the edge of self-awareness where we begin to feel, as Kubrick also wrote, the ”tremendous psychic strains within us”.
Bryan Bowie scours the Eastern US for moments that remind him, and us, of the scale of things; of just how much like dust motes we perhaps are, but of our concurrent ability to capture this sense of scale and the undeniable magicality of existence. Scott Waters, taking his cues from utopic narratives, presents moments when the world order is about to shift – a car crash, or a nocturnal journey – via a crucible through the known, and into the possible.
So, if you like, these images acknowledge the many ways in which we square our shoulders against what waits for us all, but more importantly, they celebrate the struggle and the dance, and the heart-as-muscle that inevitably beats at the centre of an art image.
NO CREATURE CAN LEARN THAT WHICH HIS HEART HAS NO SHAPE TO HOLD.
BRYAN TIPTON BOWIE
YAN WEN CHANG
OPENING RECEPTION MARCH 31 6-9PM
MARCH 31 - APRIL 23
WIL KUCEY GALLERY
1183 Dundas St. W.
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Director: Wil Kucey
Gallery Manager: Vinna Ly