Sean-William Dawson, Dan Donaldson, and Bonnie Marin June 3 - 25, 2011
Curated by Mary Reid
Sorta Pop brings together the work of three artists, Sean-William Dawson, Dan Donaldson, and Bonnie Marin, who each draw upon contemporary and historical pop culture imagery to create works of art infused with equal parts humour, foreboding, and unease. Each artist takes a different and fresh approach to the excess of imagery that litters our conscious and sub-conscious mind. By asking us to look again at the familiar, and “get in on the joke,” perhaps “some truth” on the contemporary condition is revealed.
Sean-William Dawson’s series Naughty by Nature is composed of animal imagery etched into found or discarded variations of metal objects. Dawson questions how humans take from the earth in order to manufacture metal, but once it has lost its usefulness, the metal is simply discarded with a lack of concern for the environment and the creatures that inhabit it. He posits that humans have not only been naughty to nature, but are fundamentally “naughty by nature.” The Animals and Athletes series is a comparison of living creatures (humans and animals), their innate instincts, and the profit that is made from both. The focus on hockey players is deliberate as it is a sport known for its violence as well as its close association with Canadian identity.
Dan Donaldson’s latest work deals with random patterns and textures. For years he has been using found imagery such as clip-art, comics, or advertisements as a starting point, but more recently, as with his Drawn Collage series, he has been drawing or painting in a style that mimics the activity of cut and paste. Playing around with different styles and mediums is important to Donaldson, as it keeps the imagery fresh. For him, the creative ideas he expresses are like problems or puzzles that need to be solved and the answer dictates the style and mediums he chooses. As a result his works are embedded with nonsensical symbols and signs which can cause one to crack a smile or nod in confusion. Just when you think you get the joke, it slips away.
Sandwiched somewhat between the styles of Dawson and Donaldson are the collages and constructions of Bonnie Marin. Her most recent body of work has been created under the title Film Noir, upon the film aesthetic of the 1940s and 1950s as well as lesbian pulp fiction from that time. Not coincidentally both were geared towards a male audience. Marin subverts the original intent of these images by reclaiming and repositioning them through a powerfully feminist lens. Her saucy collages entangle sexual fantasy with unsettling references to violence. The backdrops for these provocative scenarios are generally sourced from old “good housekeeping” magazines and catalogues. Humour plays an important role in not only the juxtapositions of the figures but also in the exercise of titling the works, which usually occurs sometime after they are created.
The work of these three artists plays on our recognition of the popular or to use another word, the familiar, which usually elicits a feeling of comfort and safety. However, a word of warning— don’t get too comfortable. The work of Dawson, Donaldson, and Marin holds the remarkable power to trick, to change and shift, until suddenly… POP!
Mary Reid, 2011