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Rodney Konopaki and Rhonda Neufeld have been collaborating on art projects since 2007. Both artists have long histories in drawing and print media, as practitioners and instructors. Konopaki is on faculty at the Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Neufeld lives near Armstrong, BC, and has had sessional term teaching positions at various universities in western Canada.
Konopaki and Neufeld have shown in numerous cities in Canada including recently, Suggestions from Kamloops at the Kamloops Art Gallery (2014), Walking Lines / Saskatchewan at Art Gallery of Regina (2014), and Measured and Marked at Art Placement in Saskatoon (2017). Their collaborative work is in collections including Cenovus Energy, National Bank of Canada, Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre, Kamloops Art Gallery, and Saskatchewan Arts Board.
Since the start of their collaboration they have found that they work best when they meet at artist residencies in locales across the country: Newfoundland, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. An ongoing concern for them has been to move beyond any relational rules and compositional hierarchies they might have used in their individual art making. Through their collaboration they attempt to observe the world together in unfamiliar ways by allowing themselves to be guided by what is unknown. In making this explorative work, they have committed to employing traditional and durable media and always create together at the same time and place.
The work in this exhibition, titled Whereabouts, was made while the artists were traveling in multiple locations across Canada over ten years: Granville Island, Banff, Winnipeg, St John’s (Newfoundland), Chatham (Ontario), Big Muddy Badlands, Moose Jaw, and Buffalo Pound Lake (Saskatchewan). During their visits, the artists walked the particular routes they had in mind, and while negotiating these situations, they carried with them various surfaces, such as sheets of copper, blocks of wood, linoleum, mylar, and paper. Using battery powered rotary tools, etching needles, carving tools, or other mark-making devices, they attempted to record their mobile experience of the landscape. Most of the surfaces were then later used as matrices for making prints.
Konopaki and Neufeld describe their work as being moments of chance encounter. However, it is impossible to work entirely from chance, as outcomes are determined by the preexistence of certain conditions—Konopaki and Neufeld were limited to the media they chose to bring with them on their journey, and this is very much reflected in what we see. And in the case of the printed work, many decisions were made in a post-production setting.
The resulting body of work consists of layers of abstracted lines that chaotically begin to capture the essence of the sites that are identified in the titles. Upon close inspection, some lines appear to reveal a hint of observable representation. There is a tension in the work that frustrates our desire to grasp something recognizable. But the work is not meant to depict the land, rather it records a very intimate passage through the land. Engaging with the work forces us to either accept what is not there, fill in the missing gaps using our imagination, or appreciate the work for its relationship between material, process, and form. In the end, the work can be accessed from multiple perspectives, allowing the viewer to embark on their own journey set in motion by the artists.
This exhibition, which encompasses work made in six provinces, is presented by Malaspina Printmakers in recognition of Canada’s 150th anniversary.
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