Pulp Fictions: Regional Handmade Paper Products
by Pan Wendt
This exhibition of paper-based work, curated by Shauna McCabe, inaugurates the striking new display cases in the Confederation Centre (hallway). The show continues the Confederation Centre Art Gallery's practice of using the cases to highlight objects that are not generally considered under the rubric of "art"; in the past, historical or ethnographic artifacts, functional and/or decorative works have been displayed along these walls.
In this exhibition, however, McCabe has deliberately selected works that are either sitting on the fence between the realms of high art and decorative art, or are art works that either recall functional objects or employ craft practices. Paper, or maybe just pulp, is the material around which she centres her selection.
The "fictions," beyond providing a snappy cliche for the title, are the overriding theme, as the artists concerned all appear to be grappling with the problem that what is art and what is craft is based on mythologies of function, of beauty, and of material. Most of these works revel in a confusion of function, and highlight the processes of naming and framing that are as much a part of the transformation of raw materials into whole, defined, classifiable and usable objects as are the work of the artist or craftsperson's hand.
Nigel Roe's group of bowls, apparently not, which is a group of text-covered papier mache bowls with unformed edges, and punctured by bright red dowels, confronts this question head-on in its title. Newfoundlander Helen Gregory's dirtbooks, in which thickly encrusted books open to reveal fragments from the natural world, are beautiful, if slightly overwrought variations on the theme.
The most striking works in the show are by Christine Trainor. Here a book is displayed in what seems to be a process of decomposition or dissection, paper untrimmed, loose, still raw. The book features carefully composed anatomical notes and drawings; the book itself like a dissected body; our own body as a text, as a fictive constellation of names and categories; nothing new, perhaps, but Trainor's is a singularly beautiful and powerful reworking of the theme.