Provisional Worlds

Art Gallery of Ontario


excerpt from the Provisional Worlds catalogue essay...


"Several of Kelly Richardson's earlier works originate from evenings spent in the bar and music scenes. Filling time while bartending, she amassed bottle caps, cork and foil paper from cigarette packages. The caps she refashioned as an ambitiously towering but fragile monument to repetitive boredom; corks became a fanciful fleet of tiny canoes; foil paper formed numerous pathetic but visually effective patches applied to broken cymbals. Choosing ordinary expendable materials, rather than those readily identified with art, Richardson made public the banality of her life and the material associations that marked its shape. Her work is based on seizing moments that represent the minor tragedies and epiphanies in the everyday flux of life. She chooses her medium according to the sensations she wishes to convey. Between her cork-restored drumsticks and her foil-repaired cymbals, we may imagine he sound of a shattering strike, or sense a shimmering vibration.

Restitution of the sublime from an ordinary or flawed moment recurs in her recent photographs. Dreamier and more lurid than standard landscapes, they are unreal, strangely flat and a little eerie. Richardson has watched hours of low-budget horror movies made for the home video market, pausing on and indulging in elusive scenes found within absurd, repetitive and impoverished storylines. She records these fleeting moments with a standard Polaroid camera, then scans and reproduces them many times larger on photographic paper. Several steps removed from anything natural or original, her degraded yet disturbingly familiar "landscapes" are re-fabrications of images cheaply created in popular entertainment industry studios. They toy with our notions of natural and unnatural and the fantasies culturally associated with both these states. In a similar manner her videos, Camp, 1998 and There's a lot There, 2001, present clichés of outdoor life: the full moon on a summer evening and a perfect sunset seen from the cottage screen door. But rising vapours distort the moon and a crackling fire; is soon recognized as the sound of corn popping. The wonder of the wilderness shrinks like a plastic wrapper too near the fire. Similarly, the menacing hum of mosquitoes gathering on the lake. The familiar invasive whine was not made by an insect however; it was electronically synthesized by the artist. Richardson's art plays gently with our expectations, humourously re-presenting the artificial and predictable, and optimistically finding something interesting when it appears nothing at all is happening."


Jessica Bradley, Curator of Contemporary Art
Art Gallery of Ontario


The video howthedevil was also included in Provisional Worlds but was not completed by the time the catalogue was printed.