Material Obsessions pairs the textile-based work of two artists from different generations: veteran Vancouver artist Evelyn Roth and Toronto artist Janet Morton. Though the works exhibited were created in disparate geographical locations and at different historical moments, they share similar sensibilities. Their work takes up popular craft techniques of knitting and crochet to create large scale sculpture. Each artist is concerned with collecting used materials and re-working them into new forms. Morton and Roth invite a critical look at issues of excess; both in terms of the amount of time and repetitive work involved in the process of knitting and crochet, and patterns of consumption in a society characterized by an endless surplus of goods, and consequently, of waste.
Evelyn Roth received national attention in the 1970s for her work that incorporated salvaged materials including mohair and nylon, and videotape to construct moveable sculpture meant to be activated by the body. Roth’s T.V. Trap (1973), crocheted of discarded CBC videotape and Environment for Living (1974), a 2.5 × 3 metre tent-like structure made from 110 recycled sweaters engages with notions of women’s work in the domestic sphere and how we construct our homes, while creating a space for social interaction. Similarly, Morton’s work transforms familiar objects by reconfiguring scale and materials, often imbuing them with an element of humour. This exhibition presents a selection of Morton’s work dating from the early 1990s to the present, including Memorial (Canadian Work Sock) (1992), a 16 foot long knitted sock that asks viewers to consider the nature of work and the types of labour society values. Morton is well known for her project Cozy (1999), a knitted cover for a house on Toronto’s Ward Island, a hand stitched patchwork made of more than 800 found sweaters. Material Obsessions will feature works such as Morton’s 20 foot Woollen Tree (2001), whose knitted branches call up the body as they morph into sleeves, mittens and socks. In an intriguing parallel to Roth’s crocheted video tape works from the 1970s, Morton has incorporated audio tape – another outmoded technology—into works such as Chain of Fools (2003) and Senses Spin (2003).
It was in Vancouver where Roth began her practice and worked for over two decades, establishing an international reputation. She was one of the founding members of Intermedia, a local collective of artists, musicians, filmmakers and dancers. Roth’s work is historically linked to Vancouver and its art scene of the 1960s-1980s. Roth now resides near Adelaide, Australia. Her work has not been shown in this city since the early 1990s.
Janet Morton is a Toronto-area artist who has exhibited widely in eastern Canada and abroad. This will be the first time Morton’s work is shown on the West Coast. After receiving her B.F.A. from York University in 1990, Morton has engaged in projects which often deal with our physical and psychic relationships; to the domestic, to nature and to work.
Both Evelyn Roth and Janet Morton will be in attendance at the opening of Material Obsessions on Friday, July 7, 2006, 8-10 pm at the Belkin Satellite.
Morton’s work is also featured in the concurrent exhibition Thrive By at the Richmond Art Gallery.
This exhibition is curated by Julie Bevan, a candidate to the Masters Degree in Critical and Curatorial Studies at The University of British Columbia.
We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, and the Faculty of Arts at The University of British Columbia, the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery Acquisitions and Exhibitions Fund, the Alvin Balkind Fund for Student Curatorial Initiatives and the Canada Council for the Arts.