Four paintings by Alison Yip are flying under the radar at Monte Clark Gallery. The gallery’s press release explains that her exhibition’s title, Hagazussa, comes from the ancient High German word for “fence rider,” which later evolved to refer to witches. Further etymological investigation leads to meanings such as hag, hex, witches, or magic spells. A fence rider, described as “a figure who moves fluidly between the realms of nature and civilization,” resonates less damningly and more intrepidly than “witch.”
In three new smaller works, the artist employs a latticed fence pattern to imply a threshold between the viewer and a world in the depths of the picture plane. This same motif was the foundation for her site-specific installation in the Vancouver Art Gallery’s rotunda for last winter’s large group exhibition Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures. There, she made portals out of the architecture. Here, her works resonate like clandestine trap doors. Untitled (trellis glow study) formally privileges the fence with its marble-like rendering of the wood grain. Through its thin strips, it surpasses the supernatural botanicals strewn around it. The picture plane is much deeper in the cloak-and-dagger evoking Recipe, where a pale blue hand extends (judging by the scale and colour) a post-it note to our side of the fence. Here the fence, though its texture is equally considered, provokes the eye towards the floral elements. Even when they gaze from behind the diamond-shaped gaps, they stand as sentinels.
Witches are a much caricaturized figure who have managed to transcend folklore and successfully enter popular consciousness, especially in the nineties. Yip’s The Craft from 2016 refers to the 1996 cult classic wherein a group of high school girls start practicing witchcraft. This painting also features the lattice fence, but here it is done quickly and painterly. It emerges less as a structure and more like a pattern that seems to give shape to a figure’s head, neck, shoulders, and bust. Yip draws lines towards two diamonds of negative space and forms a simple bra worn by a figure with a pink bob and severe mid-part. Perhaps it’s a portrait of a young aspiring fence rider, newly subscribed to the cult of the film.
Monte Clark Gallery: http://bit.ly/2st7TUc
Alison Yip: Hagazussa continues until July 1.
Steffanie Ling’s essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao
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