4 April – 27 May 1998
in Gairloch Gardens
Curated by Marnie Fleming
Recognized as an outstanding teacher at Oakville’s Sheridan College, Paul Kipps has been contributing to the Oakville art community for over twenty years. In his previous work, Kipps brought together stones as sculptural objects in order to investigate the inscription of culture into nature. His exhibition of new work at Oakville Galleries follows this theme, presenting the landscape as a cultural sign.
This new body of work presents a series of photographs combined with three dimensional and time-based elements. The photographic images show stones that have been scarred, marked or transformed through human touch – stones that are not unspoiled nature and not architecture, but which instead have become hybrid symbols referencing both nature and human intervention. Either isolated or incorporated into fences, gates, borders or walls that use parts of the land to mark and divide it, these stones indicate ideologies of private property, property management, and the will to control nature.This is in keeping with the Manor house tradition that marks the limit or boundaries of a personal domain with ancient stone enclosures, a tradition referenced in many of the estate homes surrounding Gairloch Gardens. The landscape, or our understanding of the landscape, is framed by the structures that exist to shape and tame it.
Kipps’s photographic installations enrich the photos with startling presentation strategies and compelling sound components. In some of the installations, the photograph is enclosed in an over-scaled, freestanding picture frame that both monumentalizes and memorializes. The disjunction between the frame’s intimate domestic reference and its large size points to a relationship mired in ambiguity. Presented at a human scale, the viewer relates to these representations of inert objects in a bodily way, anthropomorphizing them so that, for example, their surface characteristics read as wounds. In other works, the presence of emotional content is reinforced in the sound element. Emitted from audio systems placed behind the photographs, the sounds form words that are part of language. One of the primary elements of culture, language presupposes a community of speakers and listeners needing to communicate with one another, even if the other is only imagined. Here, the words spoken by a recorded female voice convey subjective emotions situated in the context of relationships. The voice animates the inanimate, adding a subjective human narrative to nature and blurring the distinctions between our relationships with nature and with each other.
The exhibition’s title, Cathexis, refers to a process of investing or concentrating emotional energy on an object, which in this case may be the process by which one attempts to fulfill one’s desire for the other. Our complex relationship with the nature we try to tame, cultivate, own, hold at bay, or even transform into beautiful parks for retreat according to our rules, is not so different from the relationships we construct amongst ourselves. They both stem from recognition of a lack that can be filled by the other – the mystery of nature or the diversity of human community.