Notes on Systems, with Winnipeg in Mind

In recent years Winnipeg has had its reputation, at least in the visual arts, blossom internationally. With high profile group exhibitions in Ottawa, New York, San Francisco and Paris, artists from our prairie city have been talked about like never before. These exhibitions have favoured place over anything else, and brought artists together (again) based principally on where they come from/where they live, sometimes cobbling together disparate themes. For CV2’s Winnipeg Issue, I have gathered work by a small collection of Winnipeg artists with more than place in mind. The specific selection of work by Karen Asher, Steven Leyden Cochrane, Derek Dunlop, Dave Grywinski, Divya Mehra, Freya Bjorg Olafson, Nicole Shimonek and Collin Zipp references interpretations of systems of classification. This selection is not meant to be definitive or even exploratory of these artists’ individual practices, but instead fulfills a certain slant of research, rounds out a conversation, blurs a context.

I begin with curtains. Looking outward is an apt metaphor for life on the Prairies. Recent Winnipeg import Steven Leyden Cochrane has created a similitude of colour that reminds him of a sunset in his native Tampa. The electric green, crushed velvet fabric that comprises the 2011 installation, Curtain to reproduce a quality of interior light characteristic of central Florida at sunset after a thunderstorm in summer (page 49) when hit by light (natural and fabricated) provides a sense of other, a simulacrum of various memories and events experienced in his formative years. It is, like so much contemporary art, a ghost; or perhaps a glowing sentinel.

J.J. Kegan McFadden is interested in the intersection between visual art and written language. As such, he is an active writer, publisher, curator and artist living in Winnipeg. He has published creative and critical texts in magazines such as Border Crossings, BlackFlash, Canadian Art, Geist, Front and Fuse and through artist-run as well as public galleries throughout Canada. Exhibitions he has curated have been produced throughout Canada and beyond.