Scott Lyall
Arnaud Maggs
Liz Magor
Althea Thauberger

31 May to 18 August 2012


Althea Thauberger: Ecce Homo, 2011

Figurative representation conventionally makes a hard distinction between nude and naked. On one hand, the nude is construed as a classical, virtuous form of an aestheticized body, while on the other hand, a naked form is interpreted as a vulnerable and possibly vulgar subject. These photographic and digital works occupy neither extreme, and rather point to the notion of exposure by invoking a body, articulating its form or tracing its absence.

In the same vein as his Early Video works previously seen at the gallery, Scott Lyall’s two works entitled nude, 2011, are shifting, almost-luminous prints on canvas obtained by layering sheer gradients of digitally modelled colour. Each work is comprised of multiple colour deposits that make an ‘image’ without mediation by graphic figures on the screen. Though the nudes make little reference to paintings or photographs, their individual colours are a possible index of any image, whatever, in the digital sphere: they are impossibly empty while being paradoxically full.

Althea Thauberger’s Ecce Homo, 2011, is a contemporary re-staging of Jacques-Louis David’s painting The Death of Marat with the Canadian actor Nicholas Campbell as Marat. Lying supine on an autopsy table, Campbell looks at the camera with one hand raised languidly, a gesture that seems to supplant an address. Thauberger’s deliberate casting of Campbell, who is known for his leading role as Vancouver’s chief coroner on the television show Da Vinci’s Inquest, a show that highlighted civic issues particular to the city of Vancouver, conflates Marat’s radicalism with local concerns.

Arnaud Maggs’s l‘Origine du monde, 2006, also refers to a seminal example of French painting, Gustave Courbet’s work of the same name. Maggs’s photographic diptych is a direct depiction of nakedness with its two full-page illustrations of male and female genitalia from Gustave Jules Witkowski’s late 19th century book, Anatomie Iconoclastique.

Liz Magor’s digital print 1902-1986, 2010, which depicts a small memorial plaque mounted on the trunk of a tree, a subject that the artist has examined in previous works. Magor has enhanced the image so that the plaque appears in colour within the black and white photograph, a gesture that focuses our attention and forces a comparison between the lifespan of a human to a much older biological specimen. As Magor writes, “In effect an agreement has been made between the woman and the tree. The massive, peaceful body of the tree is assumed by the woman while the excitement of individual identity is taken on by the plant. Is this what Therese Veh looks like, or is this what the tree is called?”