Julie Oakes - Swounds


Embed or link this publication


Julie Oakes - Swounds exhibition catalogue for the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, April 10-June 26th, 2011.

Popular Pages

p. 1

s nd ou w s julie oakes canadian clay and glass gallery


p. 2


p. 3

sw ds un o april 10 june 26 2011 canadian clay and glass gallery


p. 4

swounds julie oakes catalogue of an exhibition held at the canadian clay and glass gallery waterloo ontario canada from april 10 2010 to june 26 2011 © 2011 canadian clay and glass gallery 25 caroline street north waterloo ontario n2l 2y5 www.canadianclayandglass.ca all rights reserved julie oakes 1948christian bernard singer 1962isbn 978-0-9784886-7-3 i julie oakes ii christian bernard singer ii alfred engerer iii berango studios iv neema bickersteth v philip bast vi sculpture vii glass viii ceramic ix installation art curator photography christian bernard singer jennifer bedford pages 3,7 ,13,15,18,19,21,23-25,27 ,29,31,33,36-39,43-51,56-67,75-79 richard fogarty pages 9,12,17,22,26,28,30,32,34,35,40-42,52,54,55,67-74,81-89 karl griffiths-fulton pages 53,80 raffaella navarretta page 11 stanzie tooth page 86 richard fogarty rich fog micro publishing canadian clay and glass gallery graphic design printed by publisher the canadian clay and glass gallery gratefully acknowledges project support for this exhibition from the musagetes fund at the kitchener and waterloo community foundation the canadian clay and glass gallery gratefully acknowledges ongoing operational and programming support from the canada council for the arts the ontario arts council the waterloo regional arts fund the kitchener and waterloo community foundation the city of waterloo and our donors sponsors and members outside cover image of swounds exhiibition photograph by jennifer bedford inside cover image photograph by karl griffiths-fulton


p. 5

julie oakes ds un wo s curated by christian bernard singer canadian clay and glass gallery


p. 6



p. 7

foreward it is with great pleasure that the canadian clay and glass gallery presents julie oakes swounds an exhibition about the fragility and individuality of life comprising seven installations in glass and ceramic and complemented by additional sculptures and works on paper swounds took three years to make and the results are absolutely spectacular dramatic poignant beautiful and affirming an impassioned message to really live life swounds really delivers julie oakes first brought this project to my attention in 2008 and i was immediately hooked through a series of twists and turns setbacks turning into opportunities and the enrolment of incredible collaborators such as the lonsdale gallery berango studios from murano italy alfred engerer david montpetit philip bast richard fogarty and a host of supporters and sponsors the exhibition evolved into the tour de force that is documented in this catalogue realizing an exhibition of such magnitude requires massive support i particularly wish to thank julie oakes dealer the lonsdale gallery who generously provided financial and organizational support to the project several members of the canadian clay and glass gallery including board directors holde gerlach and thomas mennill purchased birds created by berango studios under a sponsorship program that was designed to increase the remaining flock of glass birds as well i am extremely grateful to our exhibition sponsor the musagetes fund at the kitchener and waterloo community foundation and for operational support from the canada council for the arts the ontario arts council the city of waterloo and numerous sponsors and donors most of all i wish to thank julie her fabulousness-ness-ness incredible energy ingenious resourcefulness and unwavering resolve to seeing all aspects of the exhibition through has been truly inspiring and it has been an honour to work with her christian bernard singer curator 05


p. 8



p. 9


p. 10



p. 11

julie oakes swounds when an elephant dies its family members engage in intense mourning and burial rituals conducting week-long vigils over the body carefully covering it with earth and brush revisiting the bones for years afterward caressing the bones with their trunks often taking turns rubbing their trunks along the teeth of a skull s lower jaw the way living elephants do in greeting 1 ­ charles siebert the awareness of life death mourning and grieving are hardly germane to the human species but as far as we know humans are the only species who ask such questions as why we live and die these questions remain in the realm of the unknowable yet continue to define the human experience and have been a common thread in our art and stories since our earliest beginnings julie oakes is pre-eminently a storyteller who uses mythology sexuality and erotica as a vehicle for expressing contemporary issues whether working with feminist humanist or spiritual themes her work flirts with autobiographical elements since 2005 julie oakes has been using spiritual narratives derived from eastern iconography in her recent series the buddha composed continuing with the spiritual but turning her attention to biblical themes swounds an exhibition that was three years in the making consists of a series of seven installations complemented by additional sculptures and works on paper that address the fragility and individuality of each life opening the exhibition is the weeping monkey that lies on its back in a glass bowl like a prologue that foretells of things to come the monkey has remarkable anthropomorphic resemblances to a human baby as it lies in a pool of his own tears 09 13


p. 12

cradled in a pose that oscillates between vulnerable innocence and mischievousness he cries gently and knowingly acknowledging that suffering is part of life at the heart of the exhibition is sparrow swounds a flock of nearly 120 glass sparrows suspended from the ceiling which seem to fly in formation through the keith and winifred shantz gallery the canadian clay and glass gallery s main space the installation of the flock of birds makes full use of the room s stunni ng archite cture design ed by vancouver architects john and patricia patkau over the course of the exhibition some 40 birds smash to the floor below while a pile of broken glass grows beneath the remaining flock a recording of the hymn god sees the little sparrows fall sung by opera soprano neema bickersteth precedes the fall if god so loves the little birds you know he loves you too is the pivotal prompt before the death at the sound of shattering glass we are more than simply startled because we not only react to the misfortune of irreplaceable loss but are intensely aware of the danger posed by the unpredictable sca tte rin g of raz or sha rp sha rds eve n the anticipation of this sound can have us freeze in our tracks all the while cringing in high alert the deaths were scheduled for specific times during the exhibition prompting gatherings of people to witness the falls although anticipating that something was about to happen when a bird actually crashed to the floor visitors reactions ranged from surprise shock and awe to being moved to tears some came just to witness the thrill of a good smash immediately following the fall gallery staff performed a ritualistic sweeping of the broken glass using a simple straw broom with a lavender-coloured handle following the loss of three close friends to cancer 10 oakes contemplated the seeming unfairness of death and her anxiety of losing others close to her the work acknowledges that we are all vulnerable to untimely death the shattering affect that death has on the living and that each person is unique and irreplaceable another defining work to this exhibition is ark a painting of an immense ship animals are painted onto lines that follow the ship s wooden architecture stronger animals at the bottom supporting the lighter from an oval portal around which a snake is coiled an inclined lavender plane descends as a graceful arc to the floor on which 28 animals emerge winding in single file represented only by their feet the feet are almost jewel-like in the way that they are individually sculpted hand-painted and highlighted with gold leaf meanwhile the number 28 alludes to the lunar cycle of menstruation and asserts a decidedly feminist slant on the traditional patriarchal story of noah s ark a small female human black foot paired with a larger male white foot form the transition from ark to plane and the animals proceed on a ramp to arrive on the gallery floo r one canno t escap e the eco-c onsci ous message in the biblical narrative in which man was given responsibility to protect the animal kingdom it becomes particularly pertinent to our time given humankind s disastrous impact to the planet in what scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction where the rate of loss is possibly greater now than at any time in the history of the earth oakes reinterprets another traditional religious icon in sparrow christi a white porcelain bird splayed on a polished wooden cross wings outstretched directly referencing the religious iconography of the crucifixion of the christ yet this work is not a portrait of sacrificial selflessness and agonized suffering instead the crucifix might be viewed as an altar rather than an engine of torture as the bird


p. 13

seems to commune with his maker as if in a state of acquiescent ­ or possiblysexual ­ ecstasy hanging next to sparrow christi is white raven inspired by a first nations creation story from the haida people of puget sound with its right wing outstretched and left wing folded across it s breast the life-sized porcelain raven holds a stone in its beak the haida narrative states that the white raven originally lived in the land of the spirits but growing bored he flew away carrying a stone in his beak he eventually grew tired and dropped the stone in the ocean where it expanded and created the firmament on which humans now live unlucky bunny located in the bierstock circular gallery evokes images taken from dutch bounty-ofthe-hunt still-life paintings which celebrated prosperity and abundance interestingly these paintings might just as easily capture the lusciousness of dew drops on a grape as they could also serve as a reminder of the transience of life by depicting wilting flowers or fruits well past their prime still-life paintings often depicted rabbits as hanging downwards pathetic creatures with their feet trussed and lifeless eyes open glistening wet as if they have wept for their own demise like shakespeare s ophelia 2 however in this work the hanging bunny appears as a spirit or ghostly image that hovers above a bunny with hauntingly human physical attributes that lies in a trickling pool of blood below suggesting a fresh kill traces of dripping blood from the nose of the bunny s spirit still remain as if it has not yet completely passed into the next world its over-sized breasts suggest that a litter of kits might find themselves suddenly orphaned the curator s dinner is an installation of twodimensional glass birds that flutter above and through a suspended triangular table-like portal 11 canadian clay and glass gallery prior to installation of swounds


p. 14

julie oakes presents an emotional range of life and death experiences with a delicate hand as if in a state of meditative observation in which the impulsive act of judging is absent swounds make us face the tragedy of death share in the ecstasy of beauty and the beauty of ecstasy in ways that acknowledge loss and beauty against the backdrop of a larger unknowable picture most of all this exhibition offers the opportunity to evoke a profound gratefulness and acknowledgement for the precious gift of life christian bernard singer julie oakes alfred engerer below which there is a mound of birdseed on the floor the work winks at judy chicago s most famous work the dinner party here artists curators writers art dealers and collectors come together to feed on art and beauty in the form of bird seed and to share ideas with a flurry of agitation and excitement the remaining porcelain bird sculptures and installations depict birds courting sleeping and dying in die liebenden fliegen the lovers fly birds playfully cavort and flirt with each other in les oiseaux dorment aussi birds sleep too birds sleep in human poses on their backs sides stomachs sometimes gently cradling their significant others ­ vulnerable and innocent in a sleep that seems busy with dreams finally in bits of beauty birds again suffer untimely deaths as they smash into windows unaware of the glass barrier that prevents their passage through strange portals in our concrete jungle constructions oakes accesses the very moment of impact ­ awkward and tragic with shapes that are poignantly anguished and contorted yet in what she calls the death of beautiful presence there is beautiful presence in death christian bernard singer curator 1 siebert charles an elephant crackup the new york times magazine october 8 2006 2 oakes julie artist statement 2011 12


p. 15

julie oakes ds un wo s when an elephant dies its family members engage in intense mourning and burial rituals conducting week-long vigils over the body carefully covering it with earth and brush revisiting the bones for years afterward caressing the bones with their trunks often taking turns rubbing their trunks along the teeth of a skull s lower jaw the way living elephants do in greeting ­ charles siebert



no comments yet