Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wanda Koop article out in today's Post

Going to the Wanda Koop survey at the National Gallery last month--an experience I recommend--the relative brevity of my time in the art world, and my limitation to certain art centres during that time, came to the fore. I had only ever seen Koop's paintings in Toronto dealer shows, really, and they were all fairly small--four feet at the widest, I'd say. So it was a shock for me to go into the galleries in Ottawa and see what Koop's main production has been over the past 30 years: massive, eight-foot-wide-and-wider canvases.

I talk about that experience of surprise today in the National Post. The article also covers some of the wonderful childhood artifacts Koop has in the exhibition, like a mod dollhouse she made for herself as a young teenager.

Here's an excerpt from the article:

Asked about this size surprise, Koop explains that those smaller works are "almost like residue" left over from her central, three-decade-long practice of making gigantic canvases and installations.

"For me, it's about intimacy," she says. "I think that the paintings [here] are to my scale. I start with really tiny notes and work up to something that I feel will involve the viewer -that the viewer looks at as an actual physical experience."

And yet, Koop is also eager to show off some of the more humble origins of her oeuvre, like a tiny cardboard dollhouse outfitted with miniscule orange shag carpets and inch-long Jackson Pollock- style paintings.

"This is a little house I made when I was 13 years old," says Koop, now 59. "It was called Roundhouse for One. It was my dream home. I grew up in a large family, and I'd just keep it under my bed and slide it out when I needed to go somewhere else."

That tiny teenage fantasia is one of hundreds of sketches, books, maquettes and photographs that cluster in what the gallery calls the survey's "studio room" -though Koop says, "I think of it more as my brain." In it are piles of split-second Post-it note drawings and tomes such as The Eye: A Natural History by Simon Ings.

Read on at the Post for more peeks at the show.

I'm sorry I didn't see the premiere of this show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery--Koop told me some kids from Art City, the youth-arts nonprofit that she founded, made a great mural for the show as well, unreproduced in the Ottawa exhibition.

(Image of Wanda Koop from Site Media Inc, which has recently released a beautifully shot documentary on the artist, KOOP)


Dr. Anja said...

I was most impressed by Koop's series Hybrid Human (2010) in the last room of the exhibition. It consists of a few large-scale paintings with tiny, solitary figures standing in front of an empty, monochrome screen, that is embedded on a bright red or green background. They are combined with a video projection, contemporary dance, and a sound piece. It shows on the one hand, how mediated our experiences are nowadays. On the other, we as the beholders really become part of the installation...

Leah Sandals said...

HI Anja,

Thanks for your comment. Yes, I think that room was a big surprise for a lot of people as well, given that it integrated video projection and paintings. Overall, I wasn't as taken with the results as some might have been. But it's definitely a big step for someone traditionally associated with painting. I also heard the performance on opening-night might have had a more visceral effect than the resulting projection.