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Contemporary Art Gallery

555 Nelson Street
Vancouver, Canada
Admission always free

Today's hours
12 pm - 6 pm
24 Mar 90until21 Apr 90

Georgiana Chappell


555 Hamilton St

A painting depicting various faces painted in bright colours and windows into different landscapes showing mountains and water. The background is painted pink with a brush stroke texture.

Georgiana Chappell's art is an art of multi-coloured floating signifiers. It is also an art of symbolistic nihilism, couched in Baroque terms. In this exhibition she has developed a system of cross-­referential indeterminacies that revolve around her central thematic concern of navigating as a metaphor for life, art and death. There is, as is clear from the strategies discussed in the following interview, an unresolved quality to this work, and a desire to create an art that is open-ended in the extreme. The colouration that is the hallmark of her work is analogous to the multicolour effects of urban street lighting, but in an extremely modulated form, as if it were the view of a submarine flaneur. Chappell's colours are mood-generating and symbolic, reminiscent of the mood effects in Huysmans. The navigating of her title is only one reference among many to sea­changes, sea-drifts, the problems of finding one's way, as well as remembering where we are. It is an art that calmly reveals its irony, doubt and politic. She raises issues of life and death through a binary set of references; one coming from the history of European humanist systems of picturing the world through representations of the plight of the individual, the other derived from her own experience of the onslaught of mass-culture images.

Her notion that a navigation of sorts is required to make your way through her work is not presented as a novel approach, but rather as a formalization of what she sees as the via quotidianus —we're doing it all the time but we don't always want to think about it. Her imagery is also meant as a reminder of the fact that there is too much pain in the world. It is in this regard that her work seems to share the concerns and iconographic program of much of the best German art from the past fifteen years. The pain and tragedy in the work of Anselm Kiefer, Astrid Klein, Klaus Mettig, and Katherina Sieverding, is the pain and tragedy of Navigating—as the meaning of personal tragedy is revealed in art to be the intimate form of collective tragedy. The moon of C.O. Paeffgen's neo-romanticism is here a “post-romantic” moon, a moon for women, and a moon from what Chappell calls the “over the couch art” of her childhood. Her splash in the surface of a painted sea and the equally enigmatic splash in the sea of Sigmar Polke both speak of suicide and the hazards of mis-navigation and lost opportunity. So a triangulation may be proposed here with Chappell's work at one point, the symbolist works of Munch, Kupka, Hadler, and the pre-Raphaelites at another, and these recent German works at the third.

The transience to which Chappell refers finds its double in the transience of the works themselves. Vancouver does not have a Dia Art Foundation to offer a (semi) permanent home to works that exist as an organic whole only for the time of their exhibition. The need for such spaces is obvious, but the fact that Vancouver lacks one makes it even more meaningful that we have been able to exhibit Georgiana Chappell's work here at the CAG three times since 1984 — three shows that have been of import to this space, and three opportunities to collaborate in what I like to think of as Chappell's shadow music.

  • Bill Jeffries, excerpt from “Introduction,” in Georgiana Chappell: Navigating, 1990