MAIN SPACE EXHIBITION
SEPTEMBER 10 – OCTOBER 9, 2004
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 10 2004 AT 8 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
722, 11 AVE S.W, CALGARY, ALBERTA
The form of Landin’s studio practice ranges from traditional print editions on paper to installations of murals printed in components and large printed and painted works on metal. Autobiographical in nature, her recent work combines a sense of play with a consummate craftsmanship, to present a personal response to contemporary life. This body of work uses the repetition of cycles to explore notions of her laboured relationship with technology, the cultural polarities of North and Latin America, and the intersections of traditional and new media.
RECIDIVISM is packed with potent imagery. It is a kaleidoscope of images in movement; piñatas twist in the wind, both festive and foreboding; washing hands tell a story, clasping and unclasping, gesturing and explaining; inky black waves printed on aluminum wash away the sins of bright Vegas glitz.
AURORA LANDIN received a Diploma of Art and Design at Red Deer College, a B.F.A. from The University of Calgary, and an M.F.A. from Washington State University. After the ‘Calgary Hat-Trick’ of working for Stride, Truck and The New Gallery, Landin bundled up her NAFTA heritage and headed for the snowbanks of Winnipeg in 1995, where, until recently, she taught print making, drawing and painting at the University of Manitoba. She returns to Calgary this fall to teach at the Alberta College of Art and Design.
“Recidivism”, Aurora Landin’s current exhibit at Calgary’s Stride Gallery, is a sumptuous celebration of aesthetic delight. The show resonates with depths of thoughtful expression and evocation, and perhaps just a touch of tongue-in-cheek. Landin quirkily juxtaposes neon Las Vegas sights with poignant figurative images of posed piñatas, achieving an accomplished level of unity in an exhibit that responds to real life with sauciness, reverence and authenticity.
“Piñatas” consists of eighteen panels of ten inch by ten inch acrylic ink silkscreened on aluminum. Each square contains the image of a single piñata and its reflected shadow. The colours, each panel unique, are extraordinary in their acidic exuberance. The panels are printed in a controlled palette of citric pinks and oranges, offset by turquoise greens and chartreuse yellows, with a touch of mauve for balance. Each piñata appears star-shaped, with streamer-strung cones extruding from a circular body. Landin has gone back into the prints minimally, etching a small section in a number of the panels, giving just a peek of the aluminum at its shiniest. The silvery aura awarded each piñata by the choice of metal ground adds a hint of magic. The celebration is luxuriant, rich, young and alive. But the partying piñata, resplendent and celebratory, has at its heart something just a bit tawdry. Landin has captured the moment in which the piñata, party animal extraordinaire, is about to become prey.
In “Of Piñatas and Deadly Sins” (enamel silkscreen on aluminum, 21 panels of 21 inches by 21 inches, unique piece), the congruence of the relationship between each panel and the whole piece, and between each piece and the whole exhibit, is particularly striking. Viewers are reminded of the interconnectedness of all elements of life; Landin’s work blurs boundaries between religion and culture, between intellect and emotion, and between life and art. The black and silver panels, relieved only by a small teal green area on about half of the panels, provide a murkier emotional atmosphere. The black ink piñata poses appear identical in shape to the hedonistic coloured pieces, but their restraint of colour, luscious tonal variation and subtly diverse background treatments lend the “sin” piñatas their deeper, darker emotionality. The background – burnished, buffed and discreetly toned with charcoal – sweeps around the figure with great activity. The solitary piñata figure, though captured in a moment of perfect stillness, bears such force of motion and aliveness that its environment continues to reflect its motion. Landin’s decision to brightly colour a small area on some of the piñatas allows the whole piece to replicate the swirling motion of its individual components. The coloured areas add a foreign, almost clinical, aspect – a premonition perhaps of amputation to come. Each panel gives a sense of hovering, of suspended animation. Landin’s piñatas exist with such energy and power that they act like little hurricanes – sad frenetic clowns amidst the faux-fun intensity of the circus. “Of Piñatas and Deadly Sins” might even suggest the thin side of the wedge of inexorable apocalypse.
Most pieces in the exhibition are unique works. Though fine art printmaking affords the artist the opportunity to create a series of near-identical pieces, Landin has highlighted the individual by limiting editions to a maximum of three. Transitions are carefully considered – a garishly lit Vegas street scene coyly directs the viewer from Piñatas to Deadly Sins. Whereas the creation of objects to hang on walls can be perceived as “art-like art”, intended for viewing pleasure, “Recidivism” pays tribute to the complex capacity of the human eye and brain to form relationships between object and concept.
To create her piñata images, Landin scanned photographic images into a computer, broke down and fixed her resultant choices onto porous screens, then printed them using a light-sensitive emulsion method. For her ground, the artist chose aluminum plates fixed onto wooden boxes, an effective combination of contemporary and historical elements that contributes an aura of timelessness to her theme. Acrylic-based screen-printing ink was used for the smaller pieces, while the enamel-based black ink she printed onto the larger panels is particularly difficult to manage technically. Printmaking is a strikingly valid medium for Landin’s concepts; it requires a special type of artistic vision based on faith. The technical sequences do not allow the artist the immediacy of knowing the work visually as it develops. The combination of technology and inner vision in these works delivers a complete and integrated message, while the choice of a medium that requires the capacity to delay gratification unites in delightful irony with the transitory nature of the piñata.
I can’t help but attribute humanity to Landin’s piñatas. The lone figure in each panel opens its arms, ranging from the volitional, welcoming and celebratory to the tragic, humiliated and even crucifixion-like. In making the mental transition from object to human, a concurrent temporal transition occurs. The piñata, evocative of party and pleasure, becomes also a relic of Mexican religious and cultural tradition, a foreboding of the tragedy of colonization. The piñata was introduced to Mexico by Franciscan missionaries who were anxious to convert the polytheistic ideology of native Mexicans. The star-shaped piñata, with seven cones representing the deadly sins, represents temptation descending to tantalize humans. Family and friends surround the blindfolded participant, vision symbolically obscured by sin, who must strike to break the body of evil. The reward is a showering of gifts for all. Landin’s work is known for its use of personal narrative and her response to daily life; in these recent piñata pieces she also demonstrates exploration of her paternal Mexican heritage and its (mis)interpretation into mainstream North American society.
GWEN ARMSTRONG studies and practices art in Winnipeg with the loving support of her three teen daughters. In her previous profession as nurse therapist, she was honoured and humbled to be witness to the innermost lives of people facing grave challenges. She believes in art that makes the world be better, not just look better.