“SEURAT AND FRIENDS”
MATT BROWNING, JORDY HAMILTON, GYUN HUR
November 22, 2014–January 10, 2015
Opening Friday, November 21, 8pm
Those who have nothing have only their discipline. —Alain Badiou
He has just graduated from his masters degree in fine arts. The opening for his graduate exhibition is overwhelming. He is relieved the darkest two years of his life have come to an end and he is preparing for the bone crushing depression to set in. He invites his family. His parents come, but his mother has a broken leg and his father inexplicably is wearing a button that confirms he once played our national sport as a child. He was pretty good at it, but no one cares now because he barely makes a living doing what he educated himself to do, nevermind what he did for mandatory recreation. His family is the most boisterous of the bunch, the variety that spills red wine on concrete floors. The conservator looks on, upset. A professor accuses him of setting up this scenario for laughs.
She is about to do her first international artist talk. This city feels big and exciting, maybe even new. This is terrifying. She is a working class kid from somewhere other than here. That alone means she has a seven-year handicap in this town. Everyone around her feels so sophisticated, so shiny. None of this matters, she says to herself. She is a working class kid from somewhere. Her steel belt is a badge of dishonour in some circles but it girds her for disappointment. How did she end up in this position, in this business of making? Silk dust is rubbed on her knees and under her fingernails. Loss lives in this dust, built by a community of hands over three, four, five months. She has her father’s hands but hers are covered in modern day soot, or papercuts and coffee grounds.
Yellow Cedar is native to the Pacific Coast of North America. It’s admired for its durability, fine grain and warm, uniform colour. It lives in our oars and our poles, the floors of his house and the boat he never uses. But it is a fraud, a cypress masquerading as a cedar. Someone once told her there was no room for sincerity in contemporary art. He argues that it is not a question of whether there is or is not sincerity in contemporary art, but that art is broken and we have no business grounding our sincerities in it. He’s looking to have it both ways, to assume both the practice and the aesthetic of work and labour. He wants to be both critical and complicit. There is contradiction in these corners. Although each appears to be a faithful reproduction of the one previous, imperfections from his two hands linger. They are mechanical, repetitive, devoid of narrative, but not free of sentiment. It’s a cypress as a cedar but at least it is resistant to decay.
In their repetition, in their banality, these paintings feel familiar. Non-offensive, normative forms repeatedly carved by his grandfather in his own work. He thinks the image came from a popular woodworking magazine. It feels good, making these. Versions of this image are littered across the country, he is certain. He worries about this notion of living with intention. Does that just mean making something with your own two hands? Has “your own two hands” become a synonym for condescension, classicism, and patriarchy? Is this obsession with craft creating an idealized and inaccurate portrait of ourselves? What becomes of us, when we pander to this conservative agrarian fantasy of making? He wonders if this network of images, littered across the country, are linking a community of underpaid and unpaid hands. He panics that what he makes should express the cultural and economic conditions of its making. His father called him an artiste, once.