Friday, September 27, 2013

Tanya Doody – Open Space Residency & “ Impression Formation “- review by Debora Alanna


My life is a succession of quarters of an hour which are spent in a succession of square meters.

~ The Return of the Repressed, Volume II: Psychoanalytic Writings, Louise Bourgeois, Violette Limited, London, England, 2012, pg. 62

Impression Formation is Tanya Doody’s exhibition, the outcome of her residency at Open Space, a culmination of three weeks work. 13 August to 2 September 2013. Impressiveness, the poignancy of significance is pervasive in Tanya Doody’s work. She forms implication and consequence in a place between one and the other, language and action, then and now.

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Atmospherically, Doody has wall hung 2 sets of 3 - 6 commemorative plates to observe and honour formative responses to Open Space in celebration of the gallery’s 40th anniversary. Square, decoratively fashioned edges pressed from a plate mould look architecturally detailed. Doody responded to the Open Space salute by showcasing founder and Director, Gene Miller, and pays attention to the gallery’s sensibilities. On the first set of plates Miller quotes are scrawled unsystematically on the three with whitish colouring and haphazard high gloss glazes splashed across texts. Other treatments/notations are a different set emphasised with a deeper glaze colour with different chartreuse treatments. Large pale green spots on one, à la Damien Hirst, but more whimsical than he, ostensibly referring to fun experienced in the place. Feels like fun. Architectural mapping with the Open Space name and a swatch of remaining monogram colour from the original colour branding, with a print of notes scribbled favours the Open Space entity. A drawing of Miller on another with a diagonal green glaze slashed on the upper half traverses time, a patina of the growth of the place through Miller. All plates are the same size and shape serving palatable, seminal moments of the gallery’s beginnings. These fired and glazed works are a separate series, as are the ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’ stack of now fired handshake intimations in the Open Space Resource Centre, singular and independent of her Impression Formation installation.


Early in her residency, Doody’s interacted with the Integrate Arts Festival (23, 24 August 2013) public at Open Space during her performance, ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, where solid damp grey clay discs were assembled, waiting for Doody to hold each newly flattened oval of earthy material piece in her hand in anticipation of a handshake with individuals lined up for the purpose. The result was a moment of negotiated contact between strangers, and a courteous memento of their interaction, an expression of indulgence and generosity of the moment pressed between Doody and each person willing to join her in the making of unique handshake creations. Open Space interviewed Tania Doody about her process here: Doody’s performance, MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, experienced publically before in Halifax at the Anna Leonowens Gallery on November 14, 2011, and in a different variation, Greeting/Touch, earlier in 2011, where Doody wore a clay hand and forearm extended for her audience to grasp. Doody’s past project documentation can be found here:

Holly Hanessian EEG and fMRI recording during participant handshakes and hand holding during her Emotion Neuroscience and Development (TREND)/Touch in Real Time 2013 Artist in Residence at the University of Florida – Edgecomb & Westport, ME- Tempe AZ – New Orleans LA – Houston TX- New York City NY - Charleston SC – Pittsburgh PA[1], wrote:

I thought clay was the conduit for touch. I was right and wrong.

The clay imprint became an artifact of the moment. But interestingly enough, when my own brain was measured while holding clay, few neurons lit up. Why? My brain said, nothing new going on here. I know this material. It’s like eating- my brain has walked this walk thousands of times.

In April, I went to Pittsburgh to work with Dr. Greg Siegle and his lab of neuroscientists. Four people were measured using EEG in the lab, 10 people were measured at the Carnegie Museum of Art with EEG and then 4 people were measured using the same experiment in an fMRI[2]. The experiment asked participants to randomly of hold hands with clay, with an inanimate object and then with clay and held hands, the touching of the hands became the most distinct correspondence of arousal in our brain.

Doody’s clay handshakes, ‘MOMENT’ and ‘MEMENTO’, too are a distinct correspondence that have plied emotion through provocation, an encouraged awakening now piled as a unit, white with the heat of the kiln, resemble disjointed spinal column bones, remains of the day. Disassociated moments accumulated as one mound of reminders, keepsakes. Together, they are a collective memory. Public, informal connections with the weight and mediated touch of another separated by thick clay is memorialized, a mound of curious exchanges. A cultural norm, uniquely imprinted because of each handshake, captured and assembled becomes a disconnected experience, but imbued with inscrutability. The context for the forms disappears. The edges are rough and sharp, thick, undulating, the depths of the imprint evoke a humanoid converge, humanity’s void. We cannot hold onto the soupçon of touch within an interaction, really. Doody provides the evidence.

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In her current exhibition, Impression Formation at Open Space, the retention of marks acquired through clay is a kind of a handshake, too. Dooley relates to the Open Space space, informs the extruded clay, moulds configurations disconnected from the original acts that made the impressions, forming disparate connections with the enigmatic. Through her work Doody traces lives lived.

In creativity, outer and inner reality will always be organized together by the same indivisible process. The artist, too, has to face chaos in his work before unconscious scanning brings about the integration of his work as well as of his own personality. My point will be that unconscious scanning makes use of undifferentiated modes of vision that to normal awareness would seem chaotic. Hence comes the impression that the primary process merely produces chaotic phantasy material that has to be ordered and shaped by the ego’s secondary processes. On the contrary, the primary process is a precision instrument for creative scanning that is far superior to discursive reason and logic.

~The Hidden Order of Art, Anton Ehrenzweig, University of California Press, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1971, pg. 5

Perfection is a momentary equilibrium above chaos, a most difficult and dangerous balance. Throw a little weight to one side or the other, and it falls.

~ Report to Greco, Nikos Kazantzakis, Faber and Faber, London, 1973, pg. 172

...low relief is the most poignant form of visual art there is.

~ David Sylvester. About Modern Art: Critical Essays, 1948-1996. Henry Holt and Co. (August 15, 1997):


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Impression Formation is a collection of distinct impressions, segregated broken skins, some with assembled elements, constructions as the substantiation of use, taut, bracing the facts of a place, not relations between people, a solo interchange between Doody and the Open Space building structure imprinted by the people that it populates leaving indications of their occupations. Doody’s installation entails individual works resulting from her pressing and bruising thin rolled paper clay slabs against the gallery interior in various configurations. Full body relations between the building and Doody rely on her influential cogency with compelling demands to extract historical detail into the cellulose bound material that air dries hard. Grey is a provisional, speculative colour, the work’s hue imbibing the confusion, dynamical chaos that has a sensitive dependence on the myriad of original marks. Doody, in her precision is indivisibly attentive to compound realities, balancing her perfected crafting of pronounced distress with imperturbable craftiness.


 The Open Space press release for Impression Formation describes her exhibition, explaining the title: ...’Impression Formation’, a term borrowed from social psychology, to reflect the social dimension of ceramics and to examine the complexities, unintentional inscriptions, and other accumulative events that form a patina of place touched by thousands of artists, performers, and audiences. ... with some observations by Tanya Doody/Doug Jarvis: Early in her residency, Doody noted, “This architectural space is a living and breathing entity. As Doug Jarvis (curator) mentioned, the residency is like a collaboration with the space itself.” Impression Formation is a theory pioneered by Solomon E. Asch in 1946, and later challenged, theorized by a slew of other psychologists, including Gestalt theorists each with different expressions of how people understand each other, form assessments (impressions) through initial contact and human learning processes, interpret each other during the act of meeting with environmental implications, understanding of traits, cognition, through consideration etc etc. That Tanya Doody titled her work based on the social psychology reference implies her interest in examining the possibilities within this wide experimental investigation from her intermedia, craftist perspective. In this installation, Doody careful forms deliberations of the Open Space habitation, architectural manoeuvring, pressing clay flats to record faint textures’ indication, wear assessment as it relates to cumulative events, marks’ integrity, the evidence of the environment’s existence, patinas respectfully appropriated and interpreted through her choices, acknowledging and transforming the development process she observed that she showcases in her work. Impelling coactions, Doody indeed collaborates with Open Space, that living and breathing entity.

Doody establishes patina captured through pressing clay onto surfaces – window intersections, walls, pillars, floors, stairs into documentary, bas relief/sunk relief as constructed prints. In his curatorial essay, Pedestrian Colour, John Luna describes the history of patina:

Patina was at one time the way to recognize value in objects. Before the fashion for imported goods (Calico, chintz and china), Patina was a signifier of tradition and belonging among families rooted in rustic ancestral seats. The conspicuous use of courtly display that coincided with the fashion for exotica was part of an effort to centralize power by controlling monarchs like Elizabeth I and Louis XIV. Patina became a lost signifier; a centuries-old relationship of reciprocity between object and onus rendered redundant.

Within the Pedestrian Colour group show, Luna describes new and innovative patina advances within the exhibition: Alex Grewal – ‘patina lends the signs familiarity, but it’s a troubling directness that can’t be exploited or deployed confidently. It demands insecurity’; Marlene Bouchard (Jess) – ‘’ patina is a charm, as in charisma but also like a talisman or note carried around in a pocket and mistaken for cash.’


Within Impression Formation, Doody investigates patina as a semblance of value, chronicles of use are selective mediations in discreet quietude Her patina investigates time scarring, how sustained activity impacts and gives credence to the patina of unidentified use in an extraordinary place. The result, Doody’s patina is an affecting touch, a distressed skin, an agonized but reverential tenderness, an ache.

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A historical base of architectural detail shared by the original uses of the building, and the culture operations of Open Space since the 70s becomes testament in Impression Formation. Doody creates reliefs of the particulars within Open Space as selective narratives. Doody’s reliefs (relievos) are a multipart result of patina impression formation. Revealing the realized, she releases distinct prominences figuring on emphatic grounds as essential structures of place and time, reverential faiyums. Several of Doody’s reliefs are brusquely rectangular, lean against the wall. And some are placed low on the floor, tentative floor imprints, unevenly angular patches of different sizes gracefully float with a hidden support and are arranged in a walk flow pattern, isolated, prone, some smaller, some, cozying up to each other because a proximity is required to show a comparison, a continuation of a mark, a reinforcement against remoteness.


The significance of play … is by no means defined or exhausted by calling it ‘not earnest,’ or ‘not serious.’ Play is a thing by itself. The play-concept as such is of a higher order than is seriousness. For seriousness seeks to exclude play, whereas play can very well include seriousness.

- Homo Ludens, by Johan Huizinga, Beacon Press, 1971

Sets of stair runner aspects lie delightfully awkward on their sides, inspecting flights as discomfited, but engaging associations, where people have gone before, as the stairs sets are as rendered suspicious, ghostly sideways apparitions. An animated set within the installation, this humorous grouping shows patina as vivacious running spirit sculptures. farewell sad sigh;

And come instead demurest meditation,

To occupy me wholly, and to fashion

My pilgrimage for the world’s dusty brink.

~ Keats, Edymion

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Window intersections, muntin impression formations along with window face segments are impaled on a wall, with long thin builder nails that could have been used on the original Open Space construction, on a wall opposite to their origins. Windowless window grills are an echo of a past view, implying unseen relation between a historical place and the present introspection, scene gaps, a covert outlook, a passage – transience, humanity undistinguishable, but witnessed, and what cannot be grasped, beyond.

What would a calling of first principles mean, even if this must be left unspoken, a trace to be intuited?
I suggest this: … to chart ourselves back into the enwombing outlines of the source that encompasses–and compasses–our minds and souls.

~ Mystic Trudeau: The Fire and the Rose, B.W. Powe, Thomas Allen Publishers, Toronto, Ontario, 2007. pg. 226

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Constructed hollow towers from faces of the space columns appear as ruins, with mismatched elevations, ragged, tethered tops, relatively person height. Faces of vertical containment excavated – the recreation of isolated pillars, artifacts stand as the mainstay of the edifice, sepulchral. Animate, the risk and ventures of people that made Open Space are the investments of these upholding towers. Fragile memories of those departed, others alive, upheld within the resilient clay constitution, appointed impressively. Uncanny, these voids, vessels embody the deeply familiar.

For Lacan, the Real was one of the three Orders which, unlike the Symbolic and the Imaginary, is literally impossible since it stands outside language and signification. The Lacanian Real is not exactly the same thing as “reality,” but rather a state of nature from which language cuts us off at an early age. Despite its impossibility, its presence is felt in all our subsequent lives, usually in a traumatic way since our failure to reach it brings us face to face with the realities of our own existences.

~Pataphysics: A Useless Guide, Andrew Hugill, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2012, pg. 96 – 97

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Impression Formation articulates the discerning real. Perhaps it is her sensitivity to detail, the subdued nuances of place and time her reliefs personify, a patina of the grey ache of absence that her intuition explicates. Doody’s choices and care press, measuring, imparting records of humanity that surface as visages throughout the exhibition space. An overwhelming, formative tension is gathered and imparted. We need to look down at the wall supported work, down at the floor. We need to look within the hollows of the vestiges of the building support. We need to look beyond the pinched framework of the window pressings. Doody has peeled off transient loss, forward minutiae as vulnerable candor. Impression Formation bears impressions extant when the ensuing real is the cutting chasm pressing though past reveals.

Open Space
Victoria BC
13 – 28 September 2013

[2] Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging
[3] Asch, S.E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology.
[4] Hamilton, David L.; Sherman, Steven J. (1 January 1996). "Perceiving persons and groups.". Psychological Review 103 (2): 336–355.

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