Montreal metamorphisis

Jing Yuan Huang and Jerry Ropson move west with Wind From the East

Jian Yuan Huang and Jerry Ropson explore and deconstruct what it means to come from “the East”—China and Newfoundland respectively—in their art.
Jian Yuan Huang and Jerry Ropson explore and deconstruct what it means to come from “the East”—China and Newfoundland respectively—in their art.
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Artist Huang’s created a paper hallway dividing the space in the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre.
Artist Huang’s created a paper hallway dividing the space in the Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre.
Photo: 

Montreal-based artists Jing Yuan Huang and Jerry Ropson are blowing a crisp new breeze through the walls of Modern Fuel with their latest exhibition, Wind from the East. As enticing and enveloping as the wind itself, the show highlights varying interpretations on what it means to come from the East, and explores the ways in which geographical direction affects art production and practice.

Both Ropson and Huang clearly licence much influence and inspiration from the space they create in, though they express their exploration of space through sketching and drawing in different ways. Huang, who immigrated to Canada from China, incorporates both Eastern and Western traditions in her work. Ropson moved to Montreal from Newfoundland, and he identifies his growing up on the East Coast as having a major influence on his work.

As I shuffled up the stairs of local gallery, I was taken aback to discover that before reaching the top of the staircase I was already enveloped in the studio’s latest exhibition. The usual entrance of concrete, bulletin boards, flyers and a guest book has been accentuated with what I initially perceived to be mural-sized rice paper wall hangings.

Huang’s work is created through a series of experiences and metamorphic processes. She takes prints of her original drawings to produce photograms, silvery prints, which are then scanned into the computer and copied. She said a major component of her artistic production is the significance of the differences between her drawing and her final product.

“My final works are not drawings on paper, nor are they the representations of drawing. I use the darkroom to mediate the original drawings,” she said. “The tension between the content of the image and the presentation of the image is my way of considering limits and excesses in assimilation.”

Wrapping and transforming the gallery’s doorway, the almost indecipherable Xeroxed grey scale paper images whisk and guide the viewer through a newly created paper hallway dividing the studio from ceiling to floor. The calming, eerily lit passage drapes the space in a shadowy glow, inviting the viewer to make out the muted images on the paper; barely recognizable yet illuminated faces with long wispy eyelashes and delicate features. Huang describes the figures of the pieces and their intended impact on the viewer.

“The images are diffuse, low-information, and low-impact. It is no longer that there is a spectator who may or may not want to look; now there is a visitor that is required to look,” she said.

The stunning images appear as though they were captured under water, as they flow and eventually break up nearing the newly created entrance into a more recognizable version of the Modern Fuel I know and love.

Moving into the new space there is an entirely different tone to the work. While themes of identity, space and production are still evident, the room at a glance, and maybe even after closer inspection, is endlessly puzzling and intriguing. A cascading black river of painted tape frames a collage of colourful drawings boasting animal prints and creepily cute characters darkly staring and exclaiming from their place on the wall.

Paint dripping up the wall, mini ladders, tiny mountains made of tape, mouths, scissors, toothpaste and dot-to-dot silhouettes are only a handful of the bizarre and complex two and three-dimensional images the viewer encounters.

Ropson’s pieces employ various media ranging from wood to metal, from fibre to cardboard-encased rope, to explore and visualize his goals of artistic production.

“I use drawing and narrative to build installations that are site-specific and place with the visual codes that I employ in both the concept and the rendering of images. Every last material has been treated in some way; touched, molded, inscribed, marked, fixed and or mauled by my overindulgent hands,” he said.

Perhaps the most curious of the collection of drawings are the collection of long lists with seemingly unrelated, and somewhat incoherent sentences numbered to create a pseudo-narrative. Attempting to read through the lists, some of them more than 200 sentences deep was a daunting task. To help the viewer decipher the images, Ropson included with the exhibit a description of the meaning behind his lists.

“I try not to rely on overt storytelling, but rather usually establish several corresponding sub-narratives. The abundance of information is meant not only to structure loose narratives, but in the end to reconstruct and invert with an overload of information,” he explained.

The artistic director of Modern Fuel, Michael Davidge, took the time to explain the ways in which the confusing aspects of Huang and Ropson’s artwork to expand contemporary production of drawing.

“This exhibition is loosely-defined as a ‘drawing’ exhibition. … They have a pretty expanded view of drawing, which the exhibition captures.” He added, “This show is remarkable for both its openness and the responsiveness of the artists to the gallery space.”

The creator behind the name of the show, Davidge explained how he incorporated the goals of the artists involved in coming up with the title Wind from the East.

“It was meant to activate a kind of disorientation in an individual’s relation to global perspective. …The title is also meant to be a reference to the Jean-Luc Godard film, Vent d’est, which is intended to add even another layer. …In that film, Godard’s intent was to smash the bourgeois concept of representation,” he said.

In selecting the exhibition for display, Davidge nodded to the gallery’s forward thinking nature, and desire to continuously push the envelope in the art world.

“At Modern Fuel we try to stretch things as far as we can.”

With a successful interpretation and take-over of Modern Fuel under their belts, I can’t wait to see where Huang and Ropson’s wind blows next.

Wind From The East will be at the Modern Fuel Artist-run Centre until April 11.

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