Insights is about the limits of vision. It is about the expansion of the periphery of vision--that view which we almost perceive out of the very corner of the eye. It is also about the exploration of the limits of media--and about pushing these limits in the pursuit of that which may, or may not be, below the surface of things.
Sandra Hawkins and Vivien Tytor are two Ottawa artists whose works emerge from a preoccupation with the need to release the unseen in that which is seen. In essence, each of these artists is engaged in an independent, ongoing search to perceive the imperceptible.
Both artists engage in this inquiry through a thoughtful exploration of the sensory possibilities of a wide variety of media in an effort to reveal what lies beneath their surfaces: of paint, of tissue, of wax, of earth of wood, of the aural and visual entrapments of video, the sensual evocations of music. Yet even as they engage in this apparently limitless investigation, Hawkins and Tytor also allude to the possibility there may, in fact, be limits to perception. The examples of Hawkins' unexpectedly shallow boxes in her installation, River's Residue, and of Tytor's conspicuously reflective compact disc irises, in the oversize portrait, Seeing You, suggest the artists are, at some level, acknowledging their awareness of the apparent folly of their dedication to continue pushing the limits of their knowledge. Are these two artists therefore engaged in a quixotic pursuit? Perhaps yes, and most emphatically no, because it is this impulse that drives the creative process--the persistent and stubborn insistence on not giving in to the possibility of limits--which sanctions the commitment to the quest of revealing that which is barely discerned out of the corner of an eye.
Hawkins and Tytor's immersion in this process leads one to consider that the way to expanded wisdom and understanding, indeed to vision, may be through this systematic exploration of a chosen media. Insights is thus activated, becoming the act of "insighting"--a process of gaining insights. In the end, Insights is not an end in itself, it is the journey toward an end. This understanding is reinforced through both artists' incorporation of the concept of the passage of time, which is implied in Tytor's Seeing You, where the compact discs represent not only eyes but also visual memory, and more overt in Hawkin's physical manipulations of speed and sequence in the video installation, Out of Time. Hawkins and Tytor, are therefore engaged in an endless and continual reaching beyond the parameters of vision--both internal and external--in an effort to stretch the visible to encompass that which was so recently invisible.
The subtlety of meaning in the works included in Insights can be summarized through the consideration of what the word itself reveals, in this pluralized form. The essential offerings of Insights are not in a promise of eternal wisdom through a single, sudden explosion of illumination. They are more akin to one's experience of life--that wisdom is accumulated slowly, gradually, and in infinitely small, incremental slices. Ultimately, Insights yields a continuous series of tiny epiphanies.
Ottawa, September 2003
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