Paralleling the unveiling of their new public artwork, Aeolian Aviary, Denton Fredrickson and Catherine Ross’ exhibition Between Material and Imagination is an opportunity to add context to their commission. The exhibition will include a selection of work from their individual practices revealing the overlaps and distinctions negotiated in their collaboration. Though not regular collaborators, the two Lethbridge-based artists have been colleagues for more than a decade and have long recognized their shared affinity for material and form combined with a proclivity for process-driven art. Alumni of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, they were immersed in a heavily conceptual tradition, yet both are compelled to extend that convention to reintroduce formal, cultural, emotional and even absurdist concerns.
Science fiction and its accompanying technologies are fields that Fredrickson routinely mines. The seductive lure of new fangled inventions, fantastic discoveries and absurd theories with their promise of salvation is familiar territory for Fredrickson and he has long been absorbed by their histories and representations in popular culture. He frequently riffs on a sci-fi aesthetic associated with cult classic B-movies replete with out-of-date special effects and corny plotlines. In Dreaming in Science Fiction (2009), he considers his own fixation and complicity with the construction of scientific legitimacy and authority. With colorful probes attached to his head, Fredrickson monitors his movements while sleeping after having watched one of a selection of sci-fi movies released in the year of his birth, 1977. Each movement is captured through a software program that digitally manipulates the form of a virtual pillow and then translates the virtual form into a physical sculpture using plastic lumber and a CNC router. The final pieces are elegant white objects loaded with pseudoscientific and pataphysical absurdity (yet stringently adhering to a logical machine-assisted process) countered with an arbitrary if highly personal subjectivity.
Dreaming in Science Fiction demonstrates a notable convergence of being ‘at rest’ and ‘in motion.’ Consider the ‘stillness’ of sleep with the activity of our dreams, or the inanimate pillow and the duration of its shape-shifting condensed into a static and abstracted physical form. The investigation of these states, the transition between them, and the procedural translation into other materials offers a connection between Fredrickson’s work and that of Catherine Ross.
In Ross’ work Pansies, hundreds of small clay sculptures are informally piled upon the floor. Shaped intimately by hand, they are uninhibited abstractions – forms caught between bird and flower, rest and motion. Each sculpture is unique, reflecting her propensity for approaching form intuitively. She does not suppress the variances that occur, a gesture to the flawed condition of being human, which, paradoxically, becomes all the more evident in its serial production. Her fiveheaded rocking horse, Carousel, yields a similar tension – a static object charged with motion, yet in this case complicated by the realization that if used to its full capacity, five individuals would have to work collaboratively in an entirely unorthodox manner to allow the horse to rock, or perhaps more accurately, wobble. The rocking horses and cast birds elicit a sense of nostalgia invoking childhood playthings and innocent pleasures that Ross disrupts through repetition and multiplicity. As much as Fredrickson attempts to reify the sci-fi dreams of his youth, for Ross each individual bird/form is an action that could imply a fleeting moment, a memory, a hope, a feeling. Collectively the flock is the summation of experiences that make up a life with all parts inextricably linked. As she revisits these subjects first investigated at the onset of her practice decades ago, there is an unstable sense of past, present and future; like her rocking horse, Ross is pulled in many directions.
In Between Material and Imagination, Ross and Fredrickson present works that employ strict rational and methodical strategies perforated with the fluid notions of memory and subjectivity. Conventional materials are often used in unconventional ways evoking the imaginary with a renewed appreciation for the world around us, be it mediated or held within our hands.
Denton Fredrickson completed a multi-disciplinary B.F.A. from the University of Lethbridge (2001), an M.F.A. from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (2003) and he currently teaches in the Art Department of the University of Lethbridge. He has exhibited throughout Canada, in the U.S., The Netherlands, France and Japan.
Catherine Ross completed an MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and currently works at the University of Lethbridge. Her work is in numerous private and public collections including the Glenbow Museum’s Art Collection. She has exhibited extensively in Canada including an important solo exhibition at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery of her seminal work Stella Mere (2000).