Saturday, 17 September 2011

Swimming Across the Page

Installation view, several fish in various media

Happy Fish, mixed media, Emma Maki

Trout, aquatint/etching, Lori Gilbert
Jackfish, pencil drawing, Lori Gilbert

Welcome to another fridge-opening reception at La Galerie Kenmore. As you can see, there are a number of fish involved. Generally, my daughter and I tend to have our fish swimming from left to right, and I think this is an expression of our nature(s) as extremely avid readers. I grew up with my nose in a book, and never thought I'd be telling my kid to "Put that book down! Stop reading!" Yet it happens all the time. So, the directional movement of most other activities will naturally follow the course of the left-to-right flow of our primary characteristic activity. Why swim against the current?

You'll note the trout gliding through a set of quotation marks. This was an ongoing theme of mine for several years; I just loved quotation marks, and explored that curvy shape in all its permutations as paisley, leaves, flames, snails, embryos, ripe fruit, and so on. The open-and-close quotes are in the correct position for reading left to right, but notice the fish appears to be moving in the wrong direction (for an embodiment of the physicality of reading). I was puzzled by this today, but then realized I didn't reverse my original drawing when transfering it to the etching plate. Printmaking is like that, you have to think backwards, like Alice through the looking glass.

The jackfish drawing is very simple, but I think I succeeded in capturing the fishy shape of its body as it curves toward the viewer on its way through the water. The jackfish, or pike as it is also known, is swimming cautiously into the picture plane from the left. The trout would have been just entering the image from the left as well, in the original drawing. This contrasts with the placement of my daughter Emma's fish, which has joyfully motored across the page without a care in the world, and is swimming eagerly toward the edge of the page. This compositional difference in the placement of fish in our artworks points to differences in our reading styles and in our motivation for reading. I enjoy a good page-turner as much as anyone, but I especially like a book I can wade into gradually, going over paragraphs several times to make sure I'm absorbing everything the author intends. My kid, on the other hand, likes to jump right in with a big splash, and zoom forward in a straight line toward whatever is going to happen next.

Please enjoy these pictures and words, and help yourself to some wine & cheese. It's on the house.