Darcie Kennedy, Untitled (Moiré Pattern #1, Black Split)  and Untitled (Lice Comb #2, Red) 2014

DARCIE KENNEDY, MFA '14, TONE IT DOWN Group Exhibition at PDA Projects

Curated By Emilia Zembia

PDA Projects is pleased to present Tone It Down, an exhibition featuring the work of three emerging Toronto artists; Wallis Cheung, Darcie Kennedy, and Sarah Sands Phillips.

The artworks in Tone It Down express a dichotomy between their appearance as delicate and fragile, and their creation marked by tumult, vigour, and disorder. The artists have created works that at once suggest popular conceptions of femininity, yet bring into question whether competing contemporary visions are indeed replacing that of old. The works betray the inherent tension between intention and result, and the relationship between process and product. 

To tone down is to moderate or relax; to diminish or weaken the striking characteristics of; to soften. One is asked to tone down colours, music, emotions, and voice. It is an order requiring the coarse to cede to the delicate. Traditional femininity may evoke images of subtlety, gracefulness and modesty. The imperative statement Tone It Down encompasses the significance of this context for interpreting the artists and the works. The artists are working in an environment of physicality and emotion, and patient discipline and focus. Yet they have created works in which this struggle leaves no imprint.

The process of creating these works is laborious and physical. The artists use strength and force to scratch and scrape the surface, to make order of chaos and limitations. The final product emerges from sessions of pushing and pulling that are not evident at first glance.
Darcie Kennedy’s works on paper reveal a rigorous approach to routine. She strives to control every element of creation, regardless of the obstacles she puts in place. She employs the use of domestic tools traditionally in the hands of women, to carve out textures and patterns in the paint.  Kennedy challenges herself by using unconventional objects, such as a lice comb. The use of these objects reiterate a struggle to redefine the feminine, and continuously challenge embedded traditions of domestic life and the role of women.
Wallis Cheung’s works result from a series of accidents, which direct the development of her paintings. Her decisions are made based on situations she encounters; pieces of material fall in place in her studio and influence the structural and sculptural elements of her painting. Cheung’s Rigid Soft Tone series are playful arrangements in which paint exists on the frame rather than on the canvas. The colours in this series are based around the sunset and sunrise; she distills onto the frame traditional romantic notions of colour, moments and atmosphere. Cheung emphasizes the importance of the viewers’ ability to interpret her process in the studio. She focuses on the gaze and how viewers engage with the image. For example, Cheung often will hang a piece in a way that directs the gaze to an element she emphasized in the development of the painting. The works suggest how our understanding of the analytical tool of the gaze has developed from paintings of female nudes to female artists being conscious of how their work will be viewed.

Sarah Sands Phillips employs both control and happenstance, and compares her process to being in a lucid, dream-like state. The figures and shapes take form as if she were dreaming and moving through space intuitively. She is conscious of composition, movement, and colour theory. Her work relies on intuitive gestures that shape the medium within the boundaries of painterly rules. The Pouring of Cool People is a work on fabric that uses iron transfers. The iron is a historically domestic tool. Sands Phillips seeks to mask or obscure wherever the iron leaves a mark in an attempt to reject any association with domesticity. The physicality of her process is not readily apparent, and is in effect shrouded by the fragility of her works. Sands Phillips works on the floor, rips and tears materials, exposes them to high heat, and uses vigorous techniques towards delicate outcomes. The artist’s intention is to work outside the limits of traditional gender roles and to erase elements of the image which may serve to reinforce these constraints.
Process based art invites the viewer to look behind the image and understand its creation. Kennedy, Cheung and Sands Phillips demonstrate the importance of understanding the relationship between process and product, intention and result.