Cheryl Sourkes et Marion Wagschal: The Promise of Reality

Works in the exhibition

Existence and reality can be said to relate to each other in much the same way as can life and art. 'Reality' seems to exist. In order to live within it we intuitively grope towards common forms of communication; human beings first have to understand what can be easily grasped in order to gain command of more challenging information, and in the end we need to know about simple things as well as complex. In art, human beings have always attempted to explain reality so as to make it, and ourselves, mutually comprehensible; and in contemporary art, many artists have engineered breakthroughs in personal and theoretical knowledge, keeping pace with the scientific and academic perspectives that surround us all. This exhibition, titled The Promise of Reality is in a sense both an experiment in juxtaposition and a showcase of individual excellence. Cheryl Sourkes and Marion Wagschal are two of the best artists of their generation in the country, whose researches have for a long time explored the depiction of reality through the eyes of the artist. They are both objective and subjective in their awareness and in delivery, and present two diametrically opposed, and yet deeply consonant bodies of work on the subject of art's implicit promise to present to us a viable explanation of reality.

Cheryl Sourkes is an artist whose work stands at the opposite extreme from the hands-on approach of her counterpart in The Promise of Reality. Her practice in photography relies exclusively on found imagery, culled from the internet during deliberate and exhaustive searches online, which are then substantially manipulated in appearance, but not in objective content. She uses images shot by webcams; her subject finally is reality itself: seen through the magic prism of her intervention, her images achieve a new reconciliation between abstraction and figuration, and are all the more moving in that they truly are registrations of our actual world. Dazzling, saturated color is an aspect of visual experience which Sourkes invokes with especial care and precision; she reminds us that the tradition with which we still to some extent live, in which strong color is alien to lived experience is false. Her work posits the world as a place lit by color; and identifies the notion that it is not there as a lie. Made to appear so life becomes both hauntingly familiar and appealingly strange. Sourkes demonstrates that meaning is both inherent in the fabric of reality, as well as something we put there through our subjective gaze. In the end she does not alter reality – she explains it.

Marion Wagschal's long standing reputation as one of Canada's best figurative painters has at times been seen to rest on the incisiveness and individuality of her technique. Her approach to drawing the figure features as accurate a line as possible – and yet seems to fall even so just a percent or two on the expressive side of the equation; while the tonal variations she finds, paints, and captures suggest a richly tragi-comic understanding of the human clay which constitutes her main subject. But interpreting objective visual data is by no means her only preoccupation as an artist; in her many different series, as here in the Pulchinellas for example, she layers information into multiple dramas, and confounds our expectations of colloquial reality with humor and compassion. The age-old tradition of masking is a fascination of Wagschal's; she reminds us that in hiding we can become all the more visible, and in attempting to escape, all the more trapped: by our own natures, as well as our mortality.

For more information on the artist