Sarah Gee Miller says she's pretty handy. That's the understatement of the evening. Her paper 'paintings' are not only visually stunning and conceptually rich but they resonate with the dedication of a serious craftsman.
Funny how the word 'crafts' only gets the serious respect it deserves when the 'man' is attached to it. Suddenly the mind moves from, say, knitting or embroidering to, say, boat-building or blacksmithing. Here at the Voices from Another Room show at the Hot Art Wet City gallery, the craftsmanship is here in the medium of paper.
It's that juxtaposition between the humble, ephemeral material and the heavy-duty skill and commitment of craftsmanship that makes this show of five artists' work so compelling. The results of that individual devotional patience, determination, repetition is on view. And I can attest that there's also frustration, physical exertion, second-guessing and the flops. You don't get to this calibre of work without enduring a few hard battles.
The conceptual elements of the pieces in this group show may reference particular art genres (or not) but the methods are perhaps unconsciously rooted in this region that is built on a New World culture of self-sufficiency, innovation and handwork, in a medium fitting for this corner of the world that was built in large part on the pulp and paper industry. Location, whether in art or real estate, is everything.
The beauty of the group show that has that one connecting thread — or in this case, wood fibre — is in how far that thread can be stretched, from Miller's totemic paintings to Sabo's heavy net-like installations of twisted newspaper, to Ashe's filigree screens, to Alison Woodward's three-dimensional twisted fairytale vignettes and Joseph Wu's origami sculptures. But beyond the medium there's the other connecting thread of craftsmanship, which Wu articulates as both a scientific and artistic exploration.
This is a show of skill that is developed through the often meditative repetitive act of carving or twisting or folding, but the art is in the repetition of those expanding skills. It is how Sabo's net works have led her to ideas about laminating newspaper blocks, or how Miller's paper paintings grew out of her own drawing machine.
"The open relation between problem solving and problem finding... builds and expands skills," according to author Richard Sennett in The Craftsman. "But this can't be a one-off event. Skill opens up in this way only because the rhythm of solving and opening up occurs again and again."
Voices from Another Room: 5 Artists Explore Paper continues to April 25, Wed-Sat noon to 5 p.m. at 2206 Main (at 6th Ave.), Vancouver.