The Beaver Still Needs a Log
For many years, Denise Hawrysio has been working with print in unique and innovative ways, both materially and as a kind of social engagement developed from the tradition of performance and process art of the 1970s, combined with more contemporary movements such as relational aesthetics. Her work is a departure from the technique and craft that is usually associated with the medium and practice of printmaking.
Titled The Beaver Still Needs a Log, this exhibition continues to push the boundaries of etching and lithography into new territory. Hawrysio builds a much needed bridge between the conceptual lineage of contemporary art and the typical tradition of print. The plates that were used to create the prints in this exhibition were removed from a studio environment and placed into everyday public spaces. With the help of participants, Hawrysio choreographed performances in which marks were made and then later impressed onto paper.
The resulting prints act as documentation of activity. The printed document is a means of accessing a deeper understanding of the process involved in their creation, wherein lies the meaning and value of the work. Although most of the prints seem to contain abstract marks, they are not intended to be read for their form and composition, rather for their role in activating social spaces.
For Everyone, Hawrysio worked with a land excavation company in Vancouver. She asked them to make marks on an etching plate with the bucket of a backhoe. While marking the plate, one of the drivers shouted out enthusiastically “hey, everyone’s an artist!” which Hawrysio then printed on the paper in green font before printing the plate.
In Etching plate as shield in case I am attacked by wildlife, hit by an avalanche, or caught in a mud slide while in Canada, the etching plate becomes an extension of the artist’s body, a matrix of interpersonal affect, and a record of the marks that one is subject to throughout their daily movements. The work references My Heroes in the Streets, a photographic series from 1987 by Vancouver artist Ian Wallace.
Taking Out is a print made from the cutting board in the printmaking studio at the University of Alberta. On top of the cut marks that document years of studio usage reads in red font “these are the marks from the cutting board in the studio, but Steve says telling you this takes out all the beauty.” Superimposing this comment from Steve, the studio’s technician, highlights Hawrysio’s material interest in process and narrative rather than form and abstraction.
99 and 1% was made by taking an offset lithography plate to an occupy site in Edmonton. Protestors were asked to write their thoughts relating to the event on the plate. The plate was then printed onto paper, which was then formed into the shape of a shield. An image of a passerby sticking his tongue out at protestors at a similar event in London was digitally printed onto the back of the shield.
I hit my head references I Am Sitting in a Room by Alvin Lucier, an American composer of experimental music and sound installations. The work features a recording of himself narrating a text, and then playing the recording back into the room, re-recording it. Hawrysio wore fake eyelashes with ink and then marked a piece of paper with her blinking eyes. She then scanned this print, and reprinted it, then scanned this new print, repeating this process again and again. The original eyelash marks became transformed into new derivative images that reveal the noisy effect of technological repetition and reproduction.
Hawrysio clearly remains committed to the study of the impression as more than simply a technical process, but rather as a subjective process of human interaction and social consciousness.
Curated by Justin Muir
Denise Hawrysio was born in Toronto, received her BFA from Queen’s University, Kingston, and her MFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She works in a variety of media including site-specific installation, book works and print media. She has received fellowships for residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the prestigious MacDowell Colony in the United States, University of British Columbia, and University of Alberta. Her book works are in collections at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Chelsea Art Library, Yale University, the Bruce Peel Collection in Edmonton, and the National Gallery of Canada. She has taught at the University of British Columbia, the Architectural Association of Great Britain, the University of Southampton, and the University of the Arts London. She has exhibited at Kunstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Uppsala Konstmuseum (Sweden), The Showroom (London), Mercer Union (Toronto), Dare Dare Gallery (Montréal), Overgaden Institute of Contemporary Art (Copenhagen), Simon Fraser University Gallery (Vancouver) and Dundee Contemporary Art, (Scotland).