EASY OPEN. - FACILE À OUVRIR.
Strolling through the imported fruit section of the grocery store, between the oranges and grapefruit, a heaping barrel of bulbous ruby pomegranates suddenly caught my eye. I have always felt a sense of inadequacy and ignorance when it comes to these complex seasonal fruits, as the process involved in acquiring the ruby seeds seems to somehow outweigh their deliciousness. However, to my surprise, just to the left of the barrel was a stack of small printed brochures that gave an "Easy Open" strategy to these seemingly threatening fruits. Suffice it to say I bought quite a lot of pomegranates that day.
In this body of work I am looking at food, pomegranates specifically, and various ways they can be depicted through print media. The pomegranate fruit is as rich with symbolic references as it is visually beautiful and complex. Some scholars have even gone so far as to suggest that the pomegranate rather than the apple was the fruit of the tree of life from which Eve tempted Adam . Pomegranates and food in general have been prevalent in art throughout history, serving as a means for survival, and also as a vehicle for religious symbolism, the transience of life, mass consumerism, and other metaphoric references. In my work I have looked at food in a textual way; mainly through the choices and reasons by which people eat certain foods and the strategies behind how they eat them. In this series I am working with some of these ideas in a purely visual way through the medium of print.
Print media and pomegranates seem to be far-removed comparators, but there are inherent qualities that they both share. Like print making, pomegranates are process-oriented fruits: they are complex and time consuming to prepare; they are not necessarily an immediate fruit when compared to an apple that can be eaten off the tree; they also stain and leave their mark on whatever surface they touch; and, in the end, they exist in multiplicity. This work consists of three components; a large scale micro-mural, a still life triptych depicting three ways of opening a pomegranate, and an artist book that consolidates the above mentioned prints into miniature form, specifically in the convention of the "Easy Open" grocery store brochure.
The first series in this body of work, the still life triptych, consists of three prints that depict three ways of opening a pomegranate. In this work three pomegranates are staged in three different ways to suggest the process or strategy by which each pomegranate has been opened. The tools on the table used for the process, however, make the whole scenario seem like a great procedure. The imagery of the series was partially inspired by artists, Anthony Goicolea's Septemberists series (2006), such as Dissection Right and Left. In this work, two surgeons seem to practice their dissection procedures on some decaying octopi, one clearly more skilled in the strategy than the other. There is an intense richness to these photographs which is highlighted by their scale and deep shadows. There is also a humor to the scenario, as one surgeon looks on dumbstruck at the other who sits looking content and satisfied. In my series, the humor is hopefully be achieved through its oddness, as the scene seems a little dark, and almost gory when in the end there are just three pomegranates sitting in a row.
The second set of prints, the large scale micro-mural, depicts a scene of pomegranate carnage using several layers of woodblock relief. In this work the visual aspect of pomegranates are explored at a micro-level, it can be read as a landscape, a war scene, and a kitchen counter all in one. The scene depicts a close up version of some opened pomegranates but the sheer scale of this work makes the pith seem like mountains, the rind as a leathery carcass and the deserted seeds left in solitude like fallen soldiers. With this work, the unusual visual quality of pomegranates are highlighted, there is an odd quality I find to these fruits, brought to light by the fact that the fruits bleed almost instantly when they are opened.
In this work I would like to create a dialogue with the sculpture/glass artist Catherine Vamvakas Lay. Lay has created a series relating to pomegranates (2007) in which she creates ostrich egg-sized pieces of luminescent blown glass pomegranate seeds with perfectly contoured cast bronze pith that holds some but not all of the seeds. In the "Easy Open" series I would also like to play with scale in this work, as well the choice of relief, which will be rather unexpected, but the tactile and rich quality of relief will translate well in the work. Further, I plan to use several layers and colours of red to create a lusciousness and depth to the work similar to the pomegranate series by Vamvakas Lay.
Finally, to complete this work, an artist book/advertisement will be made that will consolidate the above mentioned prints into one fold out booklet. The idea of this piece is the thread that holds this work together as the brochure formed the basis of my inspiration. The artist book initially reads as the "Easy Open" grocery store brochure that was the original print source; however, while the cover and size reflects the conventions of the original brochure, the artist book contains miniature prints of the works just mentioned. In my art I feel the need to consolidate and make the work a self contained idea through the artist book, as it serves to bring all of the disparate prints into a coherent whole, even if it is simply a folded piece of paper. This brochure will still satisfy the conventions of the original "Easy Open" print brochure, it will be easy to open and will provide strategies on how to open a pomegranate; however this information will all be presented visually rather than textually.
This artist book will eventually be installed along with the original pomegranate brochures in a grocery store, once they come back into season. The strategy of inserting artists work and print work specifically back into an everyday scenario is an appealing concept. Artists, such as Ken Lum with his imitation shop sign installations (2000) and Jack Pierson's signs, are successful in the way they use the public realm of signage to convey private thoughts and feelings . In the same way, this artist book is intended to integrate seamlessly into the public (non-art realm) and interact on a personal level, a relationship that is critical to artists books. Print is such a successful and interesting medium because of its capability to produce rich material and visual qualities as well as simple linear statements. It is this duality of print that I hope to explore with all of these works.
Within this body of work I am looking at the medium of print, and the ubiquitous nature that print has on everyday life through the subject matter of pomegranates. My reason for making this series began in part in the imported fruit section of the grocery store, in combination with my feeble attempts at explaining to non-art minded people exactly what print is and exactly what I do with it as an artist it came down to telling people that print is something between painting, drawing and advertising. So in this project I am doing just that: exploring print in relation to those more readily recognizable mediums. Print is ubiquitous in that it permeates much of our everyday life and fine art. Print seems to occupy a middle ground in relation other media in art; from the ways in which other media can integrate with print as well as the way other media is represented by print (such as reproductions in art history texts and articles - in fact, print is the vehicle in which a great deal of art works are experienced). In this work, I am camouflaging and highlighting the qualities of print by making pieces that don't necessarily read as print media and yet have a printed quality unlike any other. In the end I hope to contribute to the discourse of print media by showing other capabilities of print and hopefully enrich a bit of the everyday.