This exhibition premieres two new media works by Vancouver artist Isabelle Pauwels, showcasing her highly innovative approach to video installation. Pauwels draws attention to spectatorship as a process, implicating the viewer in a negotiation with psychologically complex spaces, reinforced by spatial alterations. Her engaging footage is typically a dense weaving of multiple, layered narratives.
B—–+—–+—–+—–E (2008) was shot in a decaying porn theatre – the Fox Cinema on Main Street in Vancouver. A static camera records two simultaneous activities – a porn film of the nurse genre projected on the screen and people entering and exiting the theatre. Taking its cue from porn films, there is no clear plot or character development. The only clear action seems to be changes in light. The artist draws on experimental cinema – especially structuralist film – making the viewer aware of lighting, camera angles and juxtaposition, as well as their own perceptual processes. Sounds from producing the footage and the artist giving instructions reinforce this effect.
Similarly, B&E (2009) thwarts narrative expectations. It is shot in the rural house of the artist’s grandparents in West Flanders as the estate is being split up, registering the end of the domestic world of the last generation of colonial Belgians. Pauwels’ camera – often hand-held and usually in motion – viscerally records her changing relationships to family members, objects and spaces. The house and domestic routines become a staging ground for an intimate encounter with the familial situation. A sense of the complexity of the circumstances is reinforced by the fragmented dialogue, collaged elements and references to the process of shooting the video.
In these two installations, the artist draws out the evocative meanings suggested by the exhibition title, B and E. This exhibition highlights Isabelle Pauwels concern with exploring the intersections of documentary realism and the artifice of staging and storytelling.
A forthcoming PHG publication will provide an overview of Isabelle Pauwels’ art practice.
Isabelle Pauwels has been exhibiting since 2001. Born in Belgium, she is a graduate of Emily Carr Institute and has an MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. She has had solo exhibitions at Artspeak, Contemporary Art Gallery, Or Gallery and Catriona Jeffries Gallery in Vancouver and at Blackwood Gallery in Toronto. She has been in group exhibitions at Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver; Alberta Art Gallery, Edmonton; and Signal, Malmo, Sweden. She is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery in Vancouver.