Craig Francis Power on Audrey Hurd’s Exhibit, Until it Remembers You

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audrey_cement_pillarThe day before going to see Audrey Hurd’s show, Until It Remembers You, which runs from January 17-April 26 at the Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, I had a long conversation with my mother in the parking lot of Dominion down by Quidi Vidi Lake about how I should prolly see a shrink.

There’s really no good reason to mention that, at least, not in a piece of writing that’s supposed to be about art, yet it somehow seems appropriate, especially given Hurd’s sculptural works that address the tension between intimacy and trauma.

To quote the artist, “A hug can go in so many directions; it can be gentle, sweet, or aggressive. You reveal yourself in a hug, in a gesture, even as you can’t see the face of the person you’re hugging.”

Three columns of precisely the artist’s height sit in the gallery space. Concrete, plasticine, memory foam. Materials selected by the artist for their familiarity. You wrap your arms around one of those suckers, and what do you feel — a little uncomfortable, like you’re doing something wrong, first of all, but also, counter-intuitively (given the sturdiness of the materials), like you might break something. That’s because touching the art in a gallery setting is usually a no-no, but also because, PDAs (even ones shared with sculptural works) make you vulnerable.

Oooh that memory foam, my fave. You let go, and that spongy (and ironically named) material just bounces right back. It’s as though you hadn’t touched it. I know a lot of people like that. In fact, I may be one of them myself. The plasticine: it looks so good, so interesting, there’s the impression of Hurd’s hand dragging a line around its circumference, yet it’s clammy and sticky and weird: something about it makes me feel like I should be in a lab-coat (there’s actually a smock on the wall for you to wear). Then the concrete: bent into its form through the artist’s hugging it while still in its semi-solid state, and then left to dry, this one’s as you’d expect: rough, cold, strong, unforgiving. You’d best not f*ck with the concrete one.

On an opposing wall, a grid of shiny ceramic squares called Grabbing Tiles. Fingers have made various holes, gashes and wounds in the material (Hey Mom, what would Freud have to say, here?), and the lesson (if you’re the sort, unlike me, that thinks that there are lessons to be learned through art) is this: to see is to desire is to touch is to destroy, or as curator Mireille Eagan says in her essay, before one has assessed, one has touched … one becomes implicated in a violence that has already occurred, or, even, because I’m old and the following cultural reference is readily at hand (as it were): Jane’s Addiction: SEX IS VIOLENT.

Damn straight.

And anyway, maybe it’s pointless to see a shrink. The material, whether traumatized or not, is what it is, after all, if you know what I mean. No amount of hugging is going to change that.

Article by Craig Francis Power

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Craig Francis Power

Craig is an author, musician, visual artist, and critic living in St. John's.