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During her print research residency at Malaspina in February of 2013, Holly Ward learned how to produce multicolored silkscreen prints. These techniques have been used to create a new body of artworks related to her ongoing interest in the utopian imaginary.
Before working at Malaspina, Ward had minimal experience in printmaking. During her participation in a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts in 2010, she produced a diptych of two silkscreen prints that state “HOW IS YOUR MIND?” The statement references a 1970s book of the same title on Gestalt therapy. The bold futuristic font, which is reminiscent of the original Star Trek television series, is the same color as the background and thus only visible from the shadowed recession that it creates. On one of the prints in Ward’s diptych, the statement is mirrored and the colors are reversed. The binary opposition of the diptych’s composition combined with this question, suggests that subliminal forces and recessed thoughts affect the way one views the world and how one therefore views the condition of their mind.
The artwork in this exhibition is a continuation of Ward’s interest in how the imaginings of one’s psychosocial state combined with systems of knowing create meaning in our environment. The four works in this exhibition, Anarres, Urras, The Scientist’s Wife, and The Ansible, are loosely tied to a science-fiction novel called The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin. The story takes place on the fictional planet Urras and its moon Anarres. Since Anarres is massive enough to hold an atmosphere, this is often described as a double planet system. One of the planets is inhabited by a society of anarchists, while the other is inhabited by capitalists. The two planets are interrelated but have opposing political and social societies and their own imaginings of utopia. The novel revolves around the invention of the ansible, which is a fictitious machine capable of instantaneous or superluminal communication.
Anarres and Urras are two prints of our moon, one on a white background and the other on a black background. The images of the two moons were taken on the fourteenth and seventeenth days of the lunar cycle, just before and after the full moon. One is printed positive and the other is in reverse, as a reflection of the other. These images were captured by three amateur astronomers through a small telescope on low speed celluloid film (Chong, Lim, Ang, Photographic Atlas of the Moon, Cambridge University Press, Edinburgh, 2002).
The Scientist’s Wife depicts a person’s face from five different perspectives and is meant to illustrate how, due to the moon’s orbit around the earth, we only ever see 59% of the moon’s surface. Below the images of the faces is an image from the dark side of the moon. This image was taken by the Kaguya Satellite, which was sent to orbit the moon in 2007 to “resolve the mysteries of the moon’s origin and evolution and to obtain information for the development of technology for future lunar exploration” (Shirao, Wood, The Kayuga Lunar Atlas, Springer Media, New York, 2011). The images were captured from the first HDTV sent into orbit.
The Ansible is a sculptural realization of how the artist has imagined the object of the same name in The Dispossessed. It is a stand in for a fictional object in a fictional book that is meant to bring together people over vast distances. The object looks mysterious or otherworldly and is a reflective model for something that doesn’t exist. It seems like a machine or tool but the viewer is left to imagine how it might be used. Its open-ended and formal qualities encourage the viewer to speculate about how we can develop, in an aesthetic sense, a certain set of symbolic signifiers to describe our ideals.
The human face, used as a stand in for the moon, personifies this mysterious and distant object that we never fully see nor understand. The shadow of the moon becomes a metaphor for that which is unknown about the other. The binary opposition of positive and negative space along with the titles that reference The Dispossessed, are assembled to prompt thought and discussion about the self and otherness. As with the novel, this body of work functions as a device to create a critique of contemporary social situations without describing what the ideal is. Rather, it reflects the artist’s fascination with how we develop and create fictional worlds to represent how we understand ourselves and others.
This exhibition has provided a grounding or starting point for future work around these ideas. Ward has been reflecting on The Dispossessed as a subject for new work for quite some time. This print research residency at Malaspina allowed her to begin to explore these ideas through print media with the anticipation that more work in other mediums will follow. This is an exhibition in progress and therefore untitled leading the artist to further discoveries and experiments in her work.
Curated by Justin Muir, Executive Director, Malaspina Printmakers
Special thanks to Brian Messini of Proper Design for his collaboration in the production of this work.
Holly Ward is a Vancouver/Berlin-based interdisciplinary artist working with sculpture, multimedia installation, architecture, video and drawing as a means to examine the role of aesthetics in the formation of new social realities. Based on research of various visionary practices such as utopian philosophy, science fiction literature, Visionary Architecture, countercultural practices and urban planning, her work investigates the arbitrary nature of symbolic designation and the use-value of form in a social context. Inherent in this is a desire to activate various forms of speculative thinking and collective engagement.
Recent projects include Persistence of Vision, a solo exhibition at Artspeak Artist-Run Centre and News of the Whole World, a commission by the City of Vancouver Heritage Foundation, which could be seen on the Hamilton Street side of the CBC building in downtown Vancouver from Feb 2011 to Feb 2012. For her 2009-2010 Langara College Artist in Residence project in Vancouver, Ward constructed a 22’ diameter geodesic dome to act as catalyst for a series of exhibitions, readings, workshops and experimental performances. This project is currently being reconstructed as a permanent facility on a rural property in Heffley Creek, BC.
Ward received a BFA in English Literature from the University of New Brunswick (1995), a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1999) and an MFA from the University of Guelph (2006).
Ward has produced solo shows exhibitions across Canada at Artspeak, the Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, the Or Gallery (all Vancouver), YYZ Gallery (Toronto), Volta 6 (Basel), and others. She has participated in group exhibitions in Canada, England, Mexico, the US, Norway and South Korea.
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