Artworks Summer grand finale: Text in Art

Kathy Ramsey

Gabriola Artworks

Monday, August 20 2012

Text in art is nothing new. The Egyptian hieroglyphics, the Mayan glyphs and the Chinese ideograms all married text with image to animate communication.
The 20th century Dadaists used text in visual art to help define their anti-art/anti-aesthetic movement. Pablo Picasso, Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns and Jean-Michel Basquiat all incorporated text into their work. Can you even imagine Andy Warhol without thinking of text in art?
But just think about text today. Right here. Right now. Text today is vastly different than it was even 10 years ago. On Sept. 11, 2001, CNN adopted that annoying “scroll” across the bottom of our television screens. Today we carry text in our pockets. We take it to bed with us. We check for text when we eat. Text is everywhere.
“It is so ubiquitous that to its many users it has become invisible. This fluid and boundless connection to text influences both the creation of text-based art made in the 21st century and the reception of similar artwork made in prior years,” said U.S.A.-based art curator N. Elizabeth Schlatter.
“The new modes of textual communication underscores the continued relevancy of art incorporating text. The older works from the 1960s to 1990s maintain their original content but also acquire new import thanks in part to the role of text in today’s society. Meanwhile the most recent works were created amidst the infiltration of text into our everyday lives, and that contemporary context pervades both the production and the reception of the work.”
Text in Art is Gabriola Artworks’ summer season grand finale and features island artists Lindsay Stocking Godfrey working in silver, Tammy Hudgeon in glass, Nancy Crozier in stone, Mariko McCrae in ceramic, Doane Gregory in photography and Sheila Norgate and Jeff Molloy, both working in mixed media.
“You might well be wondering what all this text is about. Maybe you want to ask if it isn’t enough for me to just be seen? Do I have to be heard as well? And why can’t I let the viewer lay down their own interpretation over top of my imagery?” said award-winning mixed media artist Sheila Norgate.
“It would seem that the short answers are, respectively, “no,” “yes,” and “because I don’t want to.”
Mixed media artist Jeff Molloy, whose painting “Rebel” references Louis Riel, is keenly aware that text can take a visual art piece in a very different direction.
“I think that introducing text completely changes the way a viewer looks at and thinks about a work of art. For that reason my use of text is very cautious and limited,” said the three-time best-in-show winner of the Sooke Fine Art Show.
Photographer Doane Gregory, who has had everyone from the Dalai Lama to John Cleese, Kathryn Hepburn and Johnny Depp sit for one of his portraits, has an incredible eye for pulling out the profound moment in a seemingly random setting. Under Doane’s all-seeing lens everything from graffiti to road signs suddenly reach out and shake the viewer into taking a closer look both at the work and at oneself.
“For those with eyes to witness them, there is a wealth of wisdom to be discovered on the planetary bulletin board,” Doane said.
With such a wide variety of mediums and such a strong group of artists, this show will definitely have something to say!
Text in Art opens Thursday, Aug. 23 and runs through September.