Two Weeks/Two Works: Grier Edmundson
By Daniel J Glendening
The final episode of Fourteen30 Contemporary’s four-exhibition series, Two Weeks/Two Works, features the work of Grier Edmundson: an oil on canvas diptych, “Hans Blix and Pink Mittens,” from 2006, hung on a wall papered with screen printed newsprint, “Optimum Expansion (After Iain and Ingrid).” “Hans Blix and Pink Mittens” is just that: two paintings, one 48″ x 48″ depicting a pair of nearly red gloves on a white ground, hands crossed at the wrist right over left, the other a small 10.5″ x 7.5″ portrait of an aging man, presumably the titular Hans Blix, a Swedish politician. Both works evidence sketchy, rough brushwork which leaves the bulk of the canvas un-painted, but that focuses in on some detail: the rim of Hans’ glasses, or the line of his nose. The question of the significance of Blix as a subject is ultimately left unclear—he is a diplomat and politician, who has worked over the course of his life for responsible atomic energy and in 2003 served as a monitor of Iraqi nuclear technologies for the United Nations. This put him, ultimately, at odds with the US and British Governments, who he claimed were greatly exaggerating the threat of nuclear proliferation in Iraq. “Optimum Expansion (After Iain and Ingrid)” is titled (I think, after some cursory research) after Iain and Ingrid Baxter, founders of the 1967-78 Canadian art collective N.E. Thing; visually, the work is kaleidoscopic: an image of branching trees cropped into a diamond and repeated ad infinitum over the surface of the wall, the paper buckling here and there, the seams not quite aligned.
All of these little clues—one would expect them to add up to something, maybe, but they don’t—or, at least, whatever that thing is remains invisible. An unfinished painting isn’t really unfinished; it simply wants the viewer to think about unfinishedness. And a wallpaper of screen-prints on newsprint isn’t really wallpaper; it just wants the viewer to consider the possibility of wallpaper, of wallpaperness. People talk about provisional painting—painting that tosses aside craft and quote-unquote talent in favor of something rougher, cruder or less quote-unquote finished. If there is a provisional painting, and a painting is a body, is there a provisional body: a body that is half-formed or that exists in the interstices, that takes on a split or fragmented life across varied surfaces and spaces? The suggestion of a body and a space is enough to bring that body and space fully formed into the world—it’s an idea inscribed on its self. I’d say we’re all provisional bodies: we’re all forming and reforming all of the time as we experience new stimuli, as our cells age and reform, as we spread personae out over varied social and professional groups, web profiles and identities. We’re all becoming, all of the time.