Indepth Arts News:
"Here and Gone: Eric Walker"
2004-03-26 until 2004-05-30
Ottawa Art Gallery
Ottawa, ON, CA Canada
Ottawa artist Eric Walker is known for the graphic, painted, mixed-media constructions that he has produced over a career spanning some 20 years, depicting trains, ships, cityscapes, railway lands, telecommunication platforms and other icons of Canadian transport, telecommunications and industry.
Here and Gone highlights several features of Walker's paintings, including his critical engagement with the material culture and iconography of industrial modernism; a conceptual allegiance to, and dialogue with, artistic modernism; and an aesthetic vocabulary centered on collage, the material processes of making, and a documentary impulse allied with painting's illusionistic powers.
While his work depicts specific objects-in-the-world, his subject matter is more to be found in the political and social history of landscape and its uses, implied through his attention to signifiers of the economic forces that occupy and traverse space and place.
A further feature of his work is his articulation of spatial culture through specific histories. As critic and co-curator Aoife MacNamara observes, "Walker's work is structured around a refusal to engage with universal-or universalizing-practices of representation. The works in this exhibition, although referencing broad-reaching ideas about topography, industrialization and representation are, like all of his work, rooted in specific places and are informed by actual historical, intellectual and political histories. All work in this exhibition draws on the folklore, spatial organization, labour and cultural histories which have, together, shaped the physical and intellectual landscape of the Maritime provinces. The ambition of Walker's intellectual and creative programme is disciplined by the grounding of the works in the events, people, histories and geography of specific places."
Here and Gone features painted constructions depicting vehicles of transit and transport and the fixed sites such as ports and rail yards where they arrive, remain, connect, depart. These trains, freighters and rail yards convey, as MacNamare notes, "the transient links and exchanges that modes of transportation enable between communities, cultures and economies." The exhibition title not only references these aspects of transit and transaction between locales but also suggests the abiding presence in our culture and imagination of residual relics of the industrial modes of a previous century, relative to the virtual and information economies that prevail today.