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Allyson Clay: Imaginary Standard Distance

September 11, 2004 - September 11, 2004

Allyson Clay?s Imaginary Standard Distance incorporates several bodies of work by this Vancouver based artist and includes a range of media from painting to video. The artworks explore the experience of a woman in the city and related issues of gender, identity, the politics of the gaze, lived architecture, and the boundaries between public and private space.

Clay started out as a painter and this exhibition takes off from the point in the late 1980s at which she moved away from painting and into more narrative and text-based works, a strategy to interject everyday experience into the heroic art tradition. Though Clay?s interests have gravitated towards photography and video, painting has continued to inform her practice.

The works in the exhibition are intended to act as a dialogue over time, revealing concerns that have remained consistent in the artist?s work. The title

Imaginary Standard Distance is taken from a phrase in E.H. Gombrich?s book Art and Illusion, from a section dealing with formal perspective and the tendency to see the world according to what we know. It is used here for its poetic associations and potential to encourage the imagination in relation to standard assumptions about meaning, particularly as they relate to social space, gender, and the history of imaging. The strategy is to create open narratives that make room for idiosyncrasies and encourage personal associations.

Clay negotiates the margins between seduction and intervention, curiosity and voyeurism, avoiding sensation while focussing on the subjective gaze, implicating the viewer within the view. Elements of the work can be seen in the context of the current acceptance and ever-popularization of surveillance culture in relation to private space.

While these works address issues pertinent to the times, they do not propose simple answers. Their intent is to maintain the discursive potential of interpersonal exchange as part of their aesthetic.

Allyson Clay lives and works in Vancouver where she is Associate Professor of Visual Art at Simon Fraser University. She graduated from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and received her MFA from the University of British Columbia in 1985. She has been exhibiting since that time. Her work has been shown in exhibitions in Canada, the United States, Europe, and Taiwan.

Karen Henry
Exhibition Curator

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