Copyright © 1999. All Rights Reserved
by Mark Walton
Yuriko Iga - Pretty Please
Runs until Jan 30
The New Gallery
In her current installation, Pretty Please, at The New Gallery, Yuriko Iga continues to investigate the artistic potential of printing photographic images on ceramic tiles, this time presenting a trio of large pink-toned head shots of popular household pets.
But unlike her previous exhibit at Truck Gallery which featured brightly colored Chinese childrens flash cards laser-printed on white tile supports the new, soft, faint images dont just sit on the surface of the tiles, they appear to emanate from within the artworks. As the 28-year-old Calgary artist notes, "In a way its moving into that Oriental realm of the tile and the image becoming one."
For the most part, though, the Winnipeg-born Iga, whose parents emigrated from Japan, says shes not interested in producing Japanese-Canadian art.
"When people ask me about that," she quips, "I say, Why? Arent I Japanese-Canadian enough for you? Do I have to make art about it, too?"
Nevertheless, Iga believes that belonging to two cultures has had an impact on her artmaking. "I think the meshing of mediums has something to do with my background. Being in Japan I never feel Japanese, and being in Canada I never feel Canadian. So maybe thats why I just cant paint or explore one medium; it always fuses with something else."
Iga likes to use the slick, pristine, mass-produced tiles partly because she is attracted to their square shapes, but also because of their social context and the fact that sanitary, institutionalized building material can be seen in locations such as an office tower lobby or a psychiatric facility.
"Its a low maintenance art form," jokes Iga, who graduated from ACAD three years ago, "all you have to do is spray it with Windex once in awhile."
The notion of involving pets in her art came about after she watched the critically acclaimed Swedish film My Life As a Dog, which tells the tale of a boy who assumes the identity of a dog in order to escape from his family problems.
"When people buy pets it helps them escape their own reality, whether for a brief time while training the animal or because they gain complete control over the creature," she says.
Iga is quick to point out, however, shes not an animal activist and the show shouldnt be taken too seriously. Indeed, when I visited the artist in her studio I also met her pet, a big, puppyish 10-year-old dog.
"I cant help putting animals in my art. It makes everything appear softer than it is. They soothe me. It helps me escape."
Primarily, Iga explains, Pretty Please is intended as an ironic gesture mimicking people who glorify or attribute human characteristics to their pets. Its why she satirically juxtaposed the color pink on grandiose painting-sized supports.
The core of the exhibit consists of three portraits of household animals Iga thought would engage, seduce and draw in the viewer. They include a love bird, an Abyssinian cat, and a bichon frise dog, purposefully chosen for its kitschy pop countenance. This particular trio of pets was inspired by a Looney Toons cartoon Iga saw that featured a dog chasing a cat chasing a bird in a neverending frenzied circle.
"Theres a lot of manipulation going on in pet ownership, but its only reflective of so many other things in our society. For instance, the boss yells at the employee, the employee goes home and yells at his wife, the wife yells at the kid, the kid kicks the dog."
Along with her 46-inch by 64-inch wall-mounted portraits, Iga has positioned a white tiled cat scratcher, a bird cage with a tile bottom, and a tiled dog house on the main gallery floor. They round out the exhibit and underscore Igas subtle sense of humor.
Artworks of this nature are generally meant to be open-ended. Instead of promoting a specific agenda or point of view, they are usually aimed at testing the viewers reaction and response. As Iga observes, "I try to make these images so that humans will look at themselves more than looking at animals."
In The New Gallerys front space you will also find a small, toothy sculpture by Conroy Nachtigall titled "Thankyou," which is designed to coincide with Pretty Please. Nachtigall is a friend of Igas and one of the founding members of the controversial art collective United Congress.
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