MATTHEW
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Painting

Strange Bedfellows


Candice Hopkins, Truck Gallery, Calgary, AB, 2005

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Essay for exhibition (split show with Karina Kalavatis).

Strange Bedfellows
If you look to the Internet to find the meaning of “strange bedfellows”,
the first site that comes up is a flash page for an Australian TV show. It
features two burly middle-aged guys standing together, one looking a little
shocked or bemused (it’s hard to tell which), while the other, shorter more
stylish one is simply smiling. Next are articles about gay marriage. I didn’t
realize that this was really so strange. In considering strange bedfellows,
there does seem to be an element of the unexpected or unusual, but most
definitely of the incongruous.
Although they don’t contain many burly guys or depictions of gay
marriage, the drawings of The Lions and the sculptures by Karina Kalvaitis
could both individually be considered a little out of the ordinary, and certainly
emerge as incongruous when paired together. Reminiscent of the fictional
worlds, daydream wanderings, imaginary friends, and sometimes sinister
acts of childhood, their artwork is shared world where small stubby pastel
pink beasts are half submerged in a block of wood, and penguin-like clowns
(or are they penguins in clown suits?) waddle in arctic icescapes. Karina has
suggested for her work a kinship with circuses, with , the nursery and the
domestic sphere. If this is so, then the world of The Lions is more aligned
with teenage rebellion, with doodles in notebooks and fantasies of black
Camaros. What brings them together is their “pregnant pause,” to borrow
Karina’s words, their suspension of narrative, their unwillingness to let us in
on the punch-line, or perhaps more accurately, their willingness to let us
invent our own.
The Lions have been creating their own version of exquisite corpse
drawings for the past two years. Straying from the Surrealist idea that
collective creations are superior to the vision of a single artist,The Lions
aren’t afraid of failure. It is because of the sometimes clumsy scribbles and
deliberate awkwardness of their drawings that The Lions can create the often
poignant compositions and surprising juxtapositions that gives their work
resonance. It is through the control subsided (suspended?) when you pass a
drawing over to your friend for additions that two lanky, slightly skitterish
Extra-Terrestrials appear to tentatively peer at you over the appendages of a
big scribble, and a guilty looking duck-man raking a pile of leaves is
spawned.
I have read before that play creates a space where subjectivity and
objectivity overlap. It is in this in-between space of childhood memories that
we encounter Karina’s Sea Monkeys, plump yellow beings with coral for hair
and a molded rabbit hanging by its ruffled collar. The latter’s cuteness is
tempered with an undertone of menace. I have read further that play is not
reverting to a child-like state but is rather one of the first adult modes that a
child acquires.
1
- Candice Hopkins is a curator and writer based in Banff, Alberta.

1
D.W. Winnicot, Playing and Reality (London: Tavistock Publications, 1971), 95-109.