Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Conversation with Yvonne Singer

Yvonne Singer's exhibition Gone Missing is currently showing at Loop Gallery. In our conversation, I attempted to define the essence of her current exhibit as well as find a little bit about her life as an artist.

Ingrid: What is it about neon that appeals to you?
Yvonne: I am attracted to the ephemereal nature of neon...it is there but not there. Like the video component of 'gone missing', the work is dependant on electrical currents and needs to be turned on to be activated.I also like the tension between the public/private aspect of neon text. It is familiar to us as signage and when displaced from its usual function, it has expressive powers, visually and conceptually.

Ingrid: Are there any special challenges to working with neon? 
Yvonne: Yes. Neon is neon gas in glass tubing and therefore fragile. It requires someone who is a higly skilled fabricator with special expertise in working with neon. I am fortunate to work with Orest Tatryn, who is an artist himself and understands the medium of neon as well as the artistic process. The other challenge with neon is the installation since it requires wires,electrodes, transformers which become part of the visual information that needs to be considered when neon is installed.

Ingrid: Clearly text is an important component of your work. How do you get to the essence of the message in order to create it in neon? 
Yvonne: Using text is like writing a play script and often the text I use is conversational and colloquial so I will speak the words either silently to myself or out loud or both.. Sometimes I will solicit other opinions. In the case of 'gone missing'. I wanted the sentences to suggest a narrative that was provocative; with specific details and yet open to interpretation. An important element with text is the viewer's complicity; in other words, the viewer takes on the text when they read it..it becomes theirs... they are saying it and internalizing it as they read it and hear it internally.

Ingrid: Can you explain your intention behind the juxtaposition of the video piece with the painting (which looks like a painting of Venice perhaps)?
Yvonne: The video is a quickly flashing, fast-paced sequence of images from my recent trip to Paris, Venice, Berlin, London. It was my art tour. The painting juxtaposes old and new ways of recording travel experiences. The 18th-19th century style painting of Venice references the kind of art tour people used to do and the way in which travelers recorded their experiences. I am contrasting the handmade with the digital; the public with the private again. There is no judgement here. I am simply presenting what is and suggesting that something is always lost or missing with our experience of  both old and new technologies and with the experience of travel and being a tourist. 
By way of background, in 1630 Venice experienced an unusually devastating outbreak of the plague. As a votive offering for the city's deliverance from the pestilence, the Republic of Venice vowed to build and dedicate a church to Our Lady of Health (or of Deliverance, Italian: Salute). The church was designed in the then fashionable Palladian style by Baldassare Longhena, a pupil of the Venetian architect Andrea Palladio, and construction began in 1631. Most of the objects of art housed in the church bear references to the Black Death.    The dome of the Salute was an important addition to the Venice skyline and soon became emblematic of the city, inspiring artists like Canaletto, J. M. W. Turner, John Singer Sargent and Francesco Guardi.

Ingrid: What is on the video?
Yvonne: The photos on the video are a chronological record of my trip to Paris for the Pompidou, Venice for the bieannle, Berlin for Holocaust monuments, London to the Frieze art fair and the Tate Modern. These are examples of only some of the sites on the video. They are presented as a rapidly flashing slide show. I used the camera as an extension of my looking. 

Ingrid: What do you want the viewer to feel when they see this work? 
Yvonne: The rapidly flashing images are hynotic and the rhythmic pulsing of the images hold the viewer's attention. For many, the images of the iconic city sites and museums are familiar. I want viewers to experience hectic pace of travel with the accompanying overload of information that occurs when we tour multilpe cities and I hope that it references their own memories of travel and resonates for them.

Ingrid: What drives you to succeed/create? 
Yvonne: It's about a way of seeing and thinking about the world around me...and maybe it is also just a habit of producing art but I get ideas which need to be realized in  material form. I get an idea for a work; feel it is stupid and embarassing but it niggles at me until I decide it is time to make the work...then I worry about how much it will cost and is it worth the expense but I go ahead anyway...this is the cycle that keep repeating before each installation. Of course, the excitement of installing the work in the gallery and watching my idea coming together as it is realized visually is addictive and also keeps me producing.

Ingrid: What artist living or dead would you most like to have a conversation with?  What question would you ask them? 
Yvonne: Louise Bourgeois..but she has already revealed so much in her work and writings. I would ask her about juggling family and the demands of a high profile career

Ingrid: Is there an artwork/artist that makes you really angry?
Yvonne: Marcel Duchamp, Etant donnés

Ingrid: Which are the most common words you use to describe (1) work you like and (2) work you dislike?
Yvonne: I can't say....there are works I like initially then forget them and there are works I dislike but stay with me...liking and disliking works of art is not static for me but changes...there are always works that continue to interest me and others that don't but emotions of like and dislike are quick impressions can change.

Ingrid: Who is your best critic? 
Yvonne: I am my own harshest critic.

Ingrid: What colours are you drawn to? 
Yvonne: black and grey

Ingrid: If you were not an artist, what would you do? 
Yvonne: Go crazy.

Ingrid: You feel happiest when? 
Yvonne: My domestic life and work life are in balance.

Ingrid: Do you have any regrets?
Yvonne: That I didn't go to art school in England in the 70s and that I didn't begin studying art when I was growing up.

Ingrid: How would you like to be remembered? 
Yvonne: I would like to be remembered as an artist and educator whose work and ideas influenced people.

Ingrid: How do you indulge yourself?
Yvonne: By cooking and going to interesting restaurants.

Ingrid: Fill in the blank - I wish I could.....
Yvonne: Live forever.

Ingrid: What book are you currently reading?
Yvonne: I just finished The Book of Negoes, a novel by Lawrence Hill( compelling fiction) and Enemies of the People by Kati Marton (memoir of her family).

Ingrid: What's next for you? 
Yvonne: Next is another neon work for the convenience gallery in Toronto in December 2010 and the end of my sabbatical.

Yvonne Singer's exhibition continues until Sunday, May 16th. Please join Yvonne this Saturday, May 8th at 3 pm for a Question and Answer session facilitated by William Huffman.