Blackfriars, etching on Kurotani and Taiwanese papers, foamcore, acrylic, 2013
September 8th, 2017 to October 21st, 2017
Opening: September 8th, 5-8pm
Artist Talk: Saturday September 9, 3pm
Toronto-based, Winnipeg-raised artist Yael Brotman returns to Manitoba this fall to showcase her print constructions in the solo exhibition Waterfront. Brotman credits Winnipeg's rivers and spring floods as the catalyst for her interest in the shoreline. It is the precarity of built structures along these shorelines that serves to inform Waterfront's various sculptural installations. Bridges, piers, and boardwalks are recalled by the seemingly delicate composition of pieces such as "Blackfriars."Square sticks made of etched Japanese paper offer a dichotomy of warm tones and hard edges. Brotman mixes unpredictability with a playful sense of humour and optimism in Waterfront as she presents pieces that push the boundaries of printed media.
Yael Brotman has exhibited nationally and internationally at museums, artist-run centres and university galleries. She has been awarded grants, residencies (recently including Australia, Ireland, Haida Gwaii) and has been elected to Member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. She lives in Toronto and teaches at the University of Toronto.
If she ifs: a response to Yael Brotman’s Waterfront
by Kegan McFadden
These small offerings, odes to past perambulations and unseen permutations in advance of presentation, are here to invoke the memories —and choices— of a woman. At some stage every artist will face questions of scale, intention, material abundance, the longings of legacy, and the possibilities in iffing, just as every woman has always if’d, in the face of all things supposedly unquestionable and still beyond reason in this world. To if is to drive a wedge between what is taken for granted and what is unspoken. To parcel innovation out of tradition. To go big, (or small). To go inward (and maybe out, too). To want to know the wind of sideways. To investigate the skeletal armature of all that has yet to happen. To know there is another way, a different reality, an unmeasured distance. To if does not discount the knowledge that there will always be someone who wants to keep you from questioning.
A supercut of movie footage or scenes from plays or newspaper headlines about men making the wrong choices with women’s bodies, with women’s lives: Joan of Arc is never not aflame. Tina Fontaine is never not without breath. Margaret Keane is never not an artist, trapped by her big eyes. Chief Theresa Spence is never not hungry for a conversation continually denied her from the top down. Malala Yousafzai is never not dodging bullets on her way to school. Marsha P. Johnson is never not mid-fight, stiletto in one hand as the other clutches the uniform of an officer who wished he’d just stayed home that night. Ana Mendieta is never not falling.
A flattening of space because sometimes it’s too hard to conceive of the enormity of options (or parallel routes), of alternative paths, and we just need to focus on how to see it all at once, for the first time, again. An echo between the economy of materials and an elaboration of prints: film strips lead to grids lead to footprints as tracks as patterns, wheat or shells, columns or smokestacks. (This is not a question; If does not always imply the interrogative.) But then the pier loops around, promising the horizon only to bring you back to shore. How does anything ever get to be water under the bridge unless we allow it to pass? This persistence of memory that has yet to truly be formed, a void fat with possibility, plump with methods of undoing, ripe with if. The scaffolding going higher and higher, wrapping around buildings (or nothing at all), tracing promises for something better, if she would only think of it first. Skyward, or at least off the beaten track might be safest. Walking in snow leaves foot prints. But walking in spring (in Winnipeg) the tracks of your shoes find dust from sanding the ice over the past months just as perceptively and continue to give away your route. In summer it’s dog shit, or maybe bubblegum. In the fall no one can follow you… at least not as easily.
The parts of the city that you keep in your brain, landmarks, bridges, pathways — the crumbling architecture of memory: The bar where your friend was roofied. A car’s headlights chasing another friend under a thick elm canopy down some suburban street in the middle of July. The university office where another, still, weighed the exchange of a blowjob for an A+ from a tenured professor. Buses at night because walking means you’re a target… but then streamlined shelter, for that matter, holds as many dangers… What is it about the variations of shelter? When does conversation cease to mean communication and begin to act as protection?
An executive rolls her eyes at her superior who speaks in laboured metaphors rather than getting to the point — that there will be no fourth quarter this year, that her business is beyond recovering from the last rounds of market speculation and shareholders selling off their stocks. The all-inlcusive Mexican getaway will have to wait another year. A teenager feels her breasts fill out her t-shirt for the first time and is uncomfortable with how she thinks she will now be perceived, in the wake of her childhood, the pressure of what is to come filling more than her clothes. A toddler on her plastic trike, the thick impenetrable wheels so close to the gravel as she, for the first of so many more times to come, crosses the road without looking.
The ‘I’, when uppercase, is made up of three parts — the two cross-sections acting as scaffolding above and below a straight up and down line, a vertical personage placed beside the lowercase ‘f’, which is a hinge to its two horizontal appendages, together a springboard for speculation. If choice and decision are two sides of a footbridge — the underneath and the trodden, the plank and the space below — then both are leading in one of two possible directions, steps that take you from where you thought you were to where you think you might want to be, both leading away from where you came and closer to where you’re going.
About the author:
Kegan McFadden is an artist, a writer, and an independent curator. He has organized exhibitions across Canada over the last ten years, including PaperCut for Martha Street Studio in 2008. His writing has been published by numerous artist-run centres and magazines, and through these channels has been translated into French, Inuktitut, Cantonese, and Spanish.