Adad Hannah, Philippa Jones, Marianne Nicolson, Ann Smith and Jennifer Pighin
Elasped looks at the work of these five exciting artists whose work seems to bridge the past with the future. Each artist makes artwork from a unique perspective embodying different philosophical approaches to their practice. Hannah’svideo represents a contemporary reimagining of a past event in Prince George’s history in a way that crosses into theatre. Ann Smith’s remarkable Ravens Tail weaving reprises a once lost form of indigenous weaving, Marianne Nicolson draws comparisons with significant moments in her own Kwakwaka’wakw history and present day in a series of mixed media paintings. Jennifer Pighin contrasts the past and present day using the notion of flight. Finally Philippa Jones uses the form of an animated bird to imply events in a recent past, and offer the hope of new possibility.
‘Silence, by Philippa Jones from St John’s, Newfoundland, is a 49-second projected animation made from 229 individual pen and ink drawings of a raven. While it is very different from Smith’s endeavours it is a similarly labour intensive work that addresses time in a similar spirit if on a different scale. When first encountered, the projection is static, the raven is cast onto the wall close to the ground within a circular frame. It is upside down, still and almost certainly dead. As one approaches, a sensor responds to the viewer’s proximity and runs the video. The raven begins to move and flex, right itself, gather in its wings and then flies out of the frame. If one leaves the projection before it has run its cycle, the raven goes into decline and reverts to the state of the first frame. Silence encompasses a far greater chain of events than it simply depicts. It suggests an incident before the viewer approached. Has the bird hit a wall, fallen, been the victim of an attack? This is left to the viewer to determine. Any concern or curiosity that might compel the viewer to approach and investigate is answered richly. The raven’s testing, slow and tentative movement is skillfully rendered as is the convincing and elaborate choreography as it stretches out and flaps its wing to right itself. Overleaves: Ann Smith, Grandmother’s Time, (detail left page, full artwork right page) 1994. Merino wool and beaver fur. Collection of the Yukon Permanent Art Collection 22 23 24 Silence is remarkable for the fashion in which it is rendered. Though hand-drawn celluloids (cels) represent one of the oldest techniques of animation, they rarely reflect the level of detail Jones provides. Many of them are frames drawn as outlines and later coloured with a view towards simplicity and time effectiveness. Jones’ finished raven, by comparison, is lush with detail as each of the 229 cels is realized as a complete work. The bird is carefully detailed, not simply outlined and coloured, as with much hand drawn animation, but given form: feathers in the wings, vanes in the feathers. Complex lines lend the body weight and depth, and definition to its legs and claws. The extraordinary expenditure of time and energy represented in Silence is underscored in a second ver – sion of this project shown elsewhere, but not at Two Rivers Gallery. Jones has exhibited the 229 drawings comprising the animation as an instal – lation titled 49 Seconds. The title deflects attention away from the story of the bird’s revival, literally putting on view the staggering amount of work demanded to complete the animation. 49 Seconds sheds some light on Silence . There is clearly more at stake than celebrating the revival of Jones’ raven. Jones’ process embodies traits of perseverance and care, which, on a lesser scale, viewers enact as they watch the raven come to life and fly away. She rewards those of us patient enough to see it through with work that is beautifully and complexly rendered. This mesmerizing journey back to life is also significant for the effort it represents, which, at its simplest level, extends to the narrative of the bird’s recovery. On another level, Silence represents a vehicle through which the art – ist’s conception and realization of her work can be expressed visually. Though the artist’s work might be couched in specialized terms like 25 problem solving, design, and material usage, among others, it embodies and distills that process into simple questions of struggle, time and perseverance in which we may all find resonance. Jones, Hannah, Nicolson, Pighin and Smith bridge points in time with their work. From the position of the familiar present they reach back to moments in our past. Smith samples elements of eighteenth century Tlingit culture. Nicolson draws on the historyof early colonialism among the Kwakwaka’wakw. Pighin compares the eras of manned and unmanned flight as a means of drawing attention to land development. Hannah’s work, in an interesting juxtaposition, hints at the pioneering spirit that paralleled these histories. If not as lit
erally as Hannah, all of these artists bring a lens to their work, allowing us to consider the past within the context of present day’ Excerpt from ‘Elapsed’ Essay by exhibition curator, George Harris