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June 02, 2004

Canadian Women Artists Pondering The Limitations of Vision and Self

Two Canadian women use photographs and explorations of the self within the constraints of space, time and the body to come up with some interesting work:

* Lisa Klapstock is a Toronto based artist who examines overlooked environments in urban areas, typically deserted alleyways and passages behind houses. She uses color and the square composition in rigorous yet imaginative ways to put a different spin on this often photographed subject for her latest and most interesting project, Threshold. From her statement:

"These images were shot from the public space of Toronto laneways looking into the private space of residential backyards. In this work, I am interested in the way that the particularities of photography can draw attention to the act of looking and to the limitations of vision."

Apart from the Threshold exhibition, I also found the Living Room series entertaining, with some clever humor. Here's an article from the National Post regarding the Living Room series, and here's an interview with Klapstock regarding the Threshold project. Klapstock's personal website is the best and quickest way to view her interesting images, but if you're allergic to Flash, there's a good sampling of images available here as well.


Lisa Klapstock image, from Threshold series

* Then you have the very peculiar case of another Toronto based artist, Janieta Eyre, who probably shouldn't even be mentioned in the same breath as Klapstock, as Eyre seems to inhabit an entirely different universe. I've seen and heard of Eyre in different places in the past, but she came to my attention more forcefully with the arrival of the latest issue of Shots Magazine (number 84, not yet listed on the website), which has a Russell Joslin interview with her.

Whereas Klapstock is modest and thoughtful in a stereotypically Canadian way, Eyre has more of the theatrical trappings of a contemporary art star from the New York gallery circuit, even though (to the best of my knowledge) she doesn't actively cultivate such an aura. She appears in most of her portraits doubled (using multiple exposures and lately, Photoshop) and in a highly varied range of theatrical scenarios, raising questions about alternative identities, the self, and death. Because of some of her methods, the most obvious and superficial referent is Cindy Sherman, and I have no doubt that a first glance at these images will send the Cindy-phobic ( and the "pomo-phobic" in general) running to the hills. (Francesca Woodman is another obvious comparision, given the surreal nature of Eyre's images)

Indeed, the themes Eyre explores can be seen as well-worn and mining a certain narcissistic impulse, but the Shots interview and Eyre's most compelling images reveal something more unrestrained and awkward, and almost feral at times...whereas Sherman's later work started to get more static and conceptual even as she played with more overtly outrageous concepts, in most of Eyre's work, I never miss her presence in the frame, squirming or fighting with the ideas that she's presenting to the viewer. She also uses humor to keep viewers engaged when appropriate...sometimes it works, sometimes it's goofy or just simply falls flat (not that dissimilar from Sherman in this regard). Eyre also has a better and more rigorous sense of geometry and form than Sherman does, in my opinion.

I tend to prefer Eyre's quieter black and white work, but some of the color work is stunning...some of it is also too loud and theatrical for my taste, and because of her obsessive use of doubles, the images can get monotonous...but to be fair, the web exacerbates this, as many of the images available for viewing feature similar compositions (both doubles facing the camera). Eyre actually has a more varied repertoire as especially evidenced by the images reproduced in Shots.

I suspect there are some limits to web presentation in general when it comes to Eyre's work...perhaps the best place to see her stuff is a gallery, where the details of her staging and the sensual color and her physical presence can be felt more intensely.


"Debutante" Janieta Eyre image

Eyre's images can be found easily across the web, with the more recent color images seemingly the most popular...the best source to get an indication of her range (but the slowest and most difficult to navigate) is here, and more images can also be found here. There's an excellent and highly eccentric Eyre image ("From the Manual of Human Dissection") reprinted in Shots (I haven't found the image on the web yet), and the interview is worth checking out in general...Shots can be found in well-stocked Borders, Tower Records, and independent booksellers, and is definitely worth a subscription. There are also some thoughtful online articles/reviews about Eyre in Artforum, the Eye, and hive magazine.

A quote that seems to sum up Eyre's thought process well comes from the Shots interview, in response to the question of what she finds most satisfying about the process of photography:

"I love the unexpected. I love seeing something in my negatives that I didn't anticipate. Also my photography takes me somewhere else...that is basically always where I want to be. I have in my mind this elusive place, a home in which every room is painted in a different color and at each doorway is a different costume. This is where I hope to end my life."


"Book of Revelations" Janieta Eyre image

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Coincidences has an interesting postabout two Canadian photographers exploring vision and identity. Lisa Klapstock's pictures for a project called Threshold are captivating. They offer a view of life that is not visible to the naked eye, using enlarge... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 2, 2004 2:52:07 PM