Artist Statement: Haiku
the work I hope to create
For me, making art is an act of hope.
Everyday, I try to be a conscious observer of my world, and approach this task with a great amount of curiosity and wonder. I hope that the things I make will be at once familiar and foreign. That through a process of distillation, the ideas or materials will intrinsically take on a new meaning. A shift in aesthetic value offers a shift in perspective, a slightly askew view that relates to our everyday.
Amanda was born in Barrie, Ontario, Canada and currently lives and works in Toronto, Ontario. She studied marine biology at Dalhousie University for a year before enrolling at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1995. In 1997, Schoppel participated in an exchange program at the Chelsea College of Art in London, England. She received a BFA from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in 1998, and an MFA degree at the University of California, Davis in 2006. She has taken part in several exhibitions held throughout Canada, Europe, and the United States. During the summer of 2001, Amanda represented Canada, in the sculpture competition, at the IV Jeux de la Francophonie. In 2005 she attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in Maine, USA and participated in a residency at Taliesin West; The Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture in 2006. The National and Provincial Art Collections of Canada have collected numerous works by Schoppel.
Obsession, Growth, and Dialectics
Written by Renato Vitic
Contrary to popular belief, the mother of all invention is not necessity. Rather, at the heart of all human invention lays obsession. Necessity is bounded by the parameters of need, and therefore finite. Obsession, on the other hand, persists beyond any single critical engagement, explicit problem solving, or specific need as an irrational compulsive state typically accompanied by feelings of anxiety. It is exactly this cycle of seduction and unrequited desire that refutes rationality; freeing what, art theorist, Joanna Fureh refers to as the manic sensualist.(1) Therefore, obsession as a heightened state of anxiety offers up another possibility, a limitless creative wellspring and critical force. This state of obsession in art exists at a time when the entire world is at hand for expression through contemporary art. Nature, history, emotion, and theory, are all part of the process of contemporary production, a constant motion of growth, transformation, and change that circumscribes the inner networks of human development. The cult of originality has been replaced by a myriad of variations on the theme or [obsessive] repetition, replaced by an empire of shimmering signs that circle back upon themselves to simulate rather than represent.(2) Desire reigns supreme in this world of art, and finds it’s release through obsession.
Within the context of an exhibition entitled Pink, featuring the works of an all female cast of national artists, the idea of obsession occupies a uniquely stereotypical place. Since the 1970s a superficial hypothesis persists (among others) regarding a “female sensibility, as obsessive and characterized by core or vaginal imagery, and comparisons of contrasting artist’s such as Eva Hesse’s visceral response to materials and Sol LeWitt’s ordered and systemic rationalizing of materials were used to support this stereotype.(3) It would be hard to claim in today’s art, that obsession can be limited to one sex or the other, and applying the above notions to contemporary production would seem anachronistic at best.
The works presented by Amanda Schoppel in Pink, defy the old stereotype of the feminine sensibility. These works seem crisp and rational, bearing more of a resemblance to LeWitt’s rationalizing of materials than the viscera of Hesse’s forms. At first glance one might conclude that Schoppel’s concerns are purely formal, but upon closer examination we see what the artist means when she states: combine a variety of means to explore simple, often poetic concepts. I have a strong interest in materials and process; and have been incorporating drawing, sculpture, installation, performance and photography, in what I have come to call my process of distillation, involving everyday or natural themes.(4)
Schoppel’s current works in the exhibition bear the mark of obsessive labour. About The Puzzle Series #1 (5). Schoppel states: I explore the idea of drawing the grid by hand, without measuring, or the use of any straight edges. By focusing on the individual, and not the whole, an intriguing relationship between the finished drawing and the individual characters develop. I was interested in the similarities and differences that occurred when drawing this grid and became interested in the proximal (if slightly wonky) horizontal and vertical lines that resulted as the puzzle pieces accumulated. Through the rational structure of the grid, individual character is reveled and something inherently human, or natural, is exposed.
The Puzzle Series invariably gave rise to the Plexiglas and blue ink work titled, ‘Untitled’. An ephemeral drawing composed of 12 layers of ink on translucent polyester; this suspended drawing creates the illusion of depth through transparency and rendered perspective. The meticulously arranged drawing of stacks might remind the viewer of the minimalist works of Donald Judd. Although unlike Judd’s stacks, Schoppel’s drawing forms a fading image of the crisp perfection of the Minimalist ideal, like an idea fading from memory.
The final work in this exhibition, which bears the namesake of Growth, consists of carefully arranged (dare I say obsessively) blue industrial towels impregnated with rye grass seeds. Of these works Schoppel says, poetically, I think, referring to life cycles and a contrast to human consumption. These seed works are fertile ground of investigation for me, however, up to this point, they have been sketches, lacking the time and scale to see this work grow through its cycle. For me, the overarching theme in this work is driven by an interest in slowing the viewer down to the speed of nature – by creating a long-term performance that evolves as it grows throughout the life cycle of the piece.(5) Literally these works take on a life of their own, throughout the lifespan of the exhibition, but formulate a critical engagement with the personal experience of the viewer, as they return to the gallery throughout the course of the exhibition to witness the physical growth, and resulting changes in this sculptural work.
Much could be said about the gendered elements within Amanda Schoppel’s current works. Are they identifiably feminine in their obsessive arrangement or are they an exception in their rational order? Is an emphasis on labour characteristic of the personal made political through feminist theory or a Marxist comment on alienation and material fetishism? Are the seed works indicative of a deeper connection to concerns about fertility or is the insertion of seeds into the gallery (a living artwork that historicizes nature) a sign that no longer represents but signifies the natural world, that no longer exists, except as simulacra of agricultural consumptive practices.(6) Each of these methods of analysis say more about the viewer of these works than they do about the works themselves. Perhaps the expressions, materials, meanings, and relationships in these works are none of these, but are rather the growth of a dialogue expressed by a manic sensualist.
(1) Joanna Frueh, this reference is to from a larger discussion on the language of feminist criticism and fostering a free relationship with (and not to) art. Towards a Feminist Theory of Art Criticism, Revisions: New Perspectives of Art Criticism, ed. Howard Smagula (New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1991) 64.
(2) Peter Halley, Nature and Culture, Revisions: New Perspectives of Art Criticism (New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1991) 119.
(3) Joanna Frueh, Towards a Feminist Theory of Art Criticism, Revisions: New Perspectives of Art Criticism ed. Howard Smagula (New Jersey, Prentice Hall, 1991) 53.
(4) Amanda Schoppel, Artist’s Statement.
(6) Jean Baudrillard, “Simulacra and Simulations, Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, ed. Mark Poster (Stanford; Stanford University Press, 1988), pp.166-184.
[Writing done for ‘Growth’ exhibition by Amanda Schoppel, as part of ‘PINK’, curated by Alexandra Keim. At the Art Gallery of Calgary March 30 – June 16, 2007.] Many thanks to Renato Vitic.