Paul Collins

4 April 1996 - 15 May 1996
Opening Reception 4 April 1996 8pm

Main Gallery:

Paul Collins

Mercer Union is pleased to present a solo exhibition of new paintings by Paris based artist Paul Collins. His recent paintings are produced with a method of using sheets of Bubble Wrap as dot-laden printing plates. The inked bubbles, popped or whole, act as image-carrying pixels, allowing for the construction of half-tone, duo-tone and four colour prints. Each work contains a culturally-charged French or Anglo-American word or phrase – a linguistic Ready-made, such as areu, the french equivalent of “goo-goo-ga-ga” and s/he/it, which characterizes the English language debate around restructuring an ideal neutral subject. Collins recent work has evolved from the position of the emigré. It speaks of the experience of settling into a second language and culture and it poses questions around the accessibility and ownership of language.

Born and educated in Toronto, Collins has lived and worked in Paris, France, since 1982. Collins has exhibited at Garnet Press Gallery (1990), YYZ (1980) and A Space (1978). His most recent solo exhibitions include Galerie Janos, Paris (1995) and Galerie ESCA in Milhaud (Nimes), 1995. This is his first solo exhibition in Toronto in five years.

Brochure essays by Michael Dalziel and Oliver Girling:

The Viewer to the Idea of Meditation

Guy walks into Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris, France. He wants to see Jim Morrison’s grave but he can’t find anyone to show him where it is. Finally he spots a beautiful girl and goes up to ask her the way. Problem is this guy can’t speak a word of French. He thinks, no problem, he’ll just say “Jim Morrison?” and the beautiful girl will understand what he wants. So the guy does this but the beautiful girl only gives him a blank look and ignores him. At first, the guy doesn’t know what to make of this, and then it hits him that he needs to say “Jim Morrison?” in French because the beautiful girl can’t understand him saying it in English. Now the guy’s a bit rusty, but he’s had a couple of comparative phonology classes years ago in college and he decides to just go ahead and give it a try. Right away he remembers that the voiced palato-alveolar affricate -(dz)- of English does not exist in French. Best they can do is -(j)- the voiced palato-central fricative. So he does this and has a look to see if the beautiful girl has figured it out. No response. So he goes on to the vowel, keeping in mind that that French vowels are higher-than-mid-open, fronted, rounded, and stressed compared to English ones. He knows he has to push it to somewhere near the Cardinal vowel No.1 -(i)- and he gets it right on the money. Still no response. But he thinks his troubles are over with -(m)- the voiced bilabial nasal because they’re the same in both languages. Again -nothing doing. By now the guy’s getting worried because he has to catch a train and it doesn’t look like he’s going to get to see Jim Morrison’s grave which is why he came to Paris in the first place. So he skips a beat, repeats the voiced bilabial nasal, counts up from the French neutral position -in principal, the vowel sound uttered when thinking or deciding- slides through the Cardinal vowel No.6 -the open “o” -smack into -(r)- the voiced radico-pharyngeal (steering clear of the English retroflex -a totally inappropriate frictionless continuant). Here the guy has to acquire a totally new articulatory process on the spot because he’s used to performing it as a centro-palatal, not a centro-pharyngeal. first he draws his tongue back sharply toward the pharyngeal wall so he’s got a radico-pharyngeal constriction. Next he launches the whole works towards the following vowel -(i)- the Cardinal vowel No.1 again -by moving his tongue forward in a rising circular motion motion but meanwhile keeping the constriction intact. And then -in the middle of everything- the guy almost forgets to let his uvula flap! Anyhow, somehow he does it -but he has to take his time. He knows that the intervocalic position of the double ‘r’s makes their duration distinctive: he has to get the arresting phase to last just as long as the releasing phase -not a problem in English. Then -suddenly- the beautiful girl is starting to look at him like she’s listening. Only this couldn’t be happening at a worse moment because not only is the guy unsure if the alveolar sibilant is voiced -(z)- or unvoiced -(s)- he’s getting totally confused from trying to forget the “schwa” and keep his mind firmly on the open “o” and -(n)- the alveolar nasal. So he nearly has a coronary when he remembers: internal juncture in French is not distinctive! What has he been saying? Guy gets himself into such a knot that he doesn’t notice that the beautiful girl has vanished. Now he won’t get to see Jim Morrison’s grave, his train is long gone and he doesn’t know what to do. But then he finds a piece of paper with “Nadja” and a telephone number written on it right where she was standing. As he leaves the cemetery, guy slaps himself in the head and says, “Diagramic iconicity.”

Michael Dalziel