Jude Griebel and Tammy Salzl: Unfamiliar Selves
Curated by Rod Taylor
Since people began making art, the human form has been an enduring subject. In countless ways, it has served as a gateway for expressing how we feel and think about ourselves and others, and how we relate to the world around us. Unfamiliar Selves brings together two artists who work with this subject in different ways.
Playful but with a sense of melancholy, Jude Griebel’s sculptures are like personal allegories, or perhaps personifications brought to life. Although they may bring a smile at first glance, their underlying conceptual and technical rigour make them more than just visual one-liners.
Although informal in appearance, they are meticulously crafted and presented. Add to this the layering of possible narratives, ranging from the personal to the psychological or cultural, and there is much to sustain a longer look. Decay and impermanence are common themes, and the work seems to question how we shape our surroundings, or perhaps how we are being shaped by them.
Tammy Salzl’s intimate portraits, in contrast, are largely stripped of narrative. Freed from their original context (including their clothing for the most part), her figures often float on the paper, both protected and confined within the boundaries of paper and frame. Realistically representing the human body via the spare and somewhat unforgiving medium of watercolour make these very challenging pieces in a technical sense. However, while this can be an enjoyable aspect of the work, they’re done so well that it doesn’t necessarily call attention to itself. Instead, we are free to ponder the wider notion of the work, such as her subjects’ humanity and how she chooses to portray them.
Together, their contrasting approaches become complementary, enhancing their respective visions about what it means to be human, and our relationships with the people and things that surround us.
Jude Griebel received an MFA in sculpture and ceramics from Concordia University in 2014. His detailed dioramic sculptures explore boundaries between the body and the environment, often addressing themes of consumption and human disregard. His work has recently been presented at Galerie Sturm, Nuremberg, BRERART Contemporary Art Week, Milan, Parisian Laundry, Montreal, and in Future Station: The 2015 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Alberta. His upcoming projects include an exhibition at the Redpath Museum of Natural History in Montreal, exhibiting works in dialogue with museum’s historic collection. Griebel has recently been awarded grants by the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and is a 2014 and 2015 recipient of the Elizabeth Greenshields Foundation grant for international emerging artists.
My artwork is driven by themes of psychological unease and transformation. Depicting bodies in various states of composition, it examines how our imagination negotiates abstract notions such as growth, change and mortality through metaphorical and experiential avenues. The sculptural bodies, created from papier-mâché and epoxy resin, become sites of fusion, in which physical anatomy is merged with allegorical counterparts. These altered bodies are then rendered in oil paint. Their representational nature is reminiscent of museum dioramas, taxidermy and didactic science models, causing them to waiver between fact and a sense of disbelief and mystery. When exhibited together, the works produce an intertwining narrative of transition and longing.
The images and forms belong to a visual vocabulary developed through research into historical and mythological beliefs surrounding the body and its relationship to the natural world, art historical references and autobiographical experience of being raised on the Canadian Prairies. References are made to low-budget horror films from the 1970s and 80s, capitalizing on their and ability to incorporate foundational cultural mythologies and fears into a mainstream vernacular. The expression of my concepts through papier-mâché acknowledges the subversive and adaptable nature of the medium and its history of use in Halloween costumes, amateur theatre, ritual craft traditions and design.
Projecting states of growth and ruin, my bodies are informed by cross-referencing historical source material and contemporary existential experience. Through the process of their formation, I reflect on identity in relation to physical and metaphorical beginnings and endings.
Tammy Salzl is a Montreal based painter and recent MFA graduate from Concordia University who has exhibited in public and artist run centres across Canada as well as internationally. Recent exhibitions include two person shows at Latitude 53 in Edmonton and at the FOFA Gallery in Montreal, solo shows at the Union Gallery in Kingston, Ontario, AKA Gallery in Saskatoon, and a solo show with residency at the SlaM Gallery in Berlin, Germany. Salzl is a Tedeschi Scholarship recipient and has received grants and residencies from QALC, KIAC Centre in Dawson City Yukon, the Banff Centre, and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.
The simplest human gestures tell stories – Lucien Freud
We each carry our own personal mythologies with us. Some do it more casually than others. While no two internal landscapes look quite the same, I believe there exists a measure of the universal in each – a collective understanding of what it means to be human. My work attempts to tell these stories.
As a humanist I see my work contributing to an existential tradition of realism rooted in observations. Through body language and facial expression I explore the human psyche and experience. I treat the body as a metaphorical site/landscape, a place where the human condition is simultaneously staged and
performed. Within this ever-shifting terrain, I narrate histories – the real, the imagined, and the invoked. Gesture as subject, form as expression and paint surface as energy serve as platforms for self-evaluation and social critique. I am especially interested in gendered and embodied identities and their relationship
to individual and collective desires and fears.
The creatures I paint inhabit me. They reflect my way of seeing, my attempt at being as well as my struggle for self-discovery. My portraits are highly subjective and somewhat self-referential. While my subject choices may be intuitive, I am calculated in their direction. I am drawn to people’s stories and to the things they do. I am attracted to their otherness; to their singularities and particularities; to their individuality and humanity and specifically to the way they reflect or question norms. I see them as beings in motion and in the process of becoming. Constructions largely made and unmade by their environment, they remain deeply affected by their relationships with others.
What truths do we ascribe to the bodies we look upon? What scars do the gazes we bare leave? What stories exist within the depths of our eyes, the lines on our skin, and the simplest of human gestures?