25 May 2000 - 30 June 2000
Opening Reception 25 May 2000 8pm
Was Kelly Richardson Born on a Hill?
Kelly Richardson’s work appears simple, but it makes me ruminate on primal things.
Often modest in scale and execution, her materials are often acutely banal: beer caps, broken drumsticks, used corks, old concert T-shirts. Her images are brief and concise: the moon at night, undulating red jello, a stop sign in the middle of a desert. The detritus and the ordinary. A motley and mundane assemblage. And a deceptive simplicity.
Her sculptural works appear to verge upon the territory of the one-liner: corks carved into canoes; broken drumsticks tenderly rebuilt with cork, thousands of beer caps glued together to form a six foot high tower; old concert T-shirts in a pile. Richardson creates her sculptures from objects retrieved and collected from the real world – they are what they are and she does very little to transform them. But the slight transformative touches which are subtly applied to these mundane objects move them beyond one-linerland into a persistent river of sensations.
Longing, desire, aspiration. That these sensations be embodied in not only mundane, but often modestly-sized artworks, is not an ironic device. It is the implementation of a microcosmic model. Richardson recognizes that scale need not dictate the impact of the work and that the universe can be located in small packages or slight moments. A full-scale canoe carved from cork might be impressive, but a discreet pile of hand-carved corks is more emotionally charged, even if the emotion is an anxious sigh. The gesture of rebuilding a drumstick is a tender and futile gesture, a desire to relive the glorious moment of impact when it broke in the first place.
Richardson’s sculptures depict a querulous modularity, a re-integration of like things into new forms. Her beer cap Tower does not simply itemize how many beers the artist served in her job as a bartender, or else she would have built a beer bottle and had herself photographed beside it for Bartender’s Monthly. Instead, Richardson has constructed a hollow tower, twisting slightly through its own torque. Glittering and bright, it is the endless upward stagger of aspiration, Richardson’s shining city on the hill.
Desire and longing are big, fat cosmic sensations, primal things, and Richardson’s two video works bookend these ideas with contrived and real images of universal import. Jello is a nonstop loop of jiggling, red jello, but with the image in full-bleed on the screen, it seems a seething bloody swirl of primordial ooze, the fiery birth of the universe, full of violent, beautiful desire. In Camp, a still shot of the full moon at night is distorted visually and interrupted aurally by the crackling snap of popcorn. The heat from the campfire off-screen gently mutates the shape of the moon and the sound of jiffypop speaks with an inarticulate but passionate crackle.
If these sensations sound too broad for the work described, consider that many of Richardson’s works are equally deft: a photograph of two bubbles floating over the city, a pencil-crayon drawing of a world ringed by rainbows, or a polaroid photograph of an image from a B-movie. The polaroid shows the back of a car in the midst of a barren desert, stopped, strangely enough, at a stop sign. This image, as much as any other work, contains traces of Richardson’s ubiquitous “It.” And “It” is not the meaning of life. It is the sensation of life: simultaneously absurd, hilarious, beautiful, sad, hopeful, futile, exciting, pathetic.
I heard tell recently of a woman who was born on a hill and I wondered what that might be like, what kind of person that would create. I think you would be forever imbued with an acute sense of the ever present slippage of life and compensate with a burning desire and a nonstop sense of aspiration. You would be filled with urgency. You would recognize the inherent absurdity of life. You would exhibit an impulse to not simply endure, but prevail.
Kelly Richardson graduated with honors from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1997 and previously from the Art Fundamentals Program at Sheridan College in 1993. She has exhibited at various galleries including Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo, New York, Galerie SKOL in Montreal, Quebec, and Robert Birch Gallery in Toronto, Ontario. Upcoming exhibitions include The Tunnel Channel in Melbourne, Australia and Floating Gallery in Winnipeg, Manitoba. She lives and works in Toronto.