THE ARTIST REVEALS THE RELATIONSHIP WITH HER MEDIUM
Story by Kate Fane
Laurie Kang is a gatherer. To create her unique compositions, she combines found materials such as product catalogues and scrap paper with her own photography. The end result is a seamless yet surreal object that seems to float between two and three dimensions. Kang’s pieces, which merge sculpture, collage, photography, and installation, push the accepted boundaries of each method and form their own artistic language. After studying in Montréal and completing a residency in Berlin, she has now established herself as a unique voice in the Toronto art scene.
Plaid caught up with Laurie to talk about her new work, her unconventional process, and how she learned to brace failure.
Flag for an Imagined Land I
You’ve spoken before about your tumultuous relationship with photography, discussing both its limitations and its “farcical” associations. Has adding collage into the mix eased some of your anxiety about the medium?
I guess I should explain further what I mean by tumultuous. It’s an accepted, embraced, even pleasurable tumultuousness. Adding collage to it has been a natural progression in negotiating the challenges of photography. I’ve always approached making images with a collage-like mentality even though it wasn’t (literally) apparent, constructing and layering the subject matter of the photographs.
Previous photo series like My father and I hinted at a narrative, a shared past between the two of you. Do you imagine any narrative or themes in your current, more abstract work?
I’ve moved away from direct, personal narratives, though this wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision. My earlier work involved a lot of telling my story; I think it’s easiest to look inwards when you’re trying to figure your way around art-making. It’s much more subjective than the still-very-subjective other approaches to art, and for me was the wealthiest source from which I could create a new code and language, which I think art is in many ways.
My current practice doesn’t start from a personal narrative, but it still comes from a personal place. It reflects my mental process and my interests and fascinations.
Battle for Emotional Detatchment
What was your art school experience like? Would you recommend it for prospective artists?
I did my undergrad in fine arts at Concordia University in Montreal. It was good, and overall, good for me. I think different people need different environments. Learning about “how to make art” in an institution while simultaneously figuring out who you are and what all that means is definitely an interesting mix, so I see my art school experience as a period where I was privy to channeling all that craziness into making art. I probably should have paid more attention to art history, taken more risks, and been less afraid. Sometimes I think, “If only I’d embraced failure during undergrad!”
How does your collage process come about? Do you envisage a finished product before you assemble the images, or does it come about organically through the materials?
It’s a mix of both. I like to limit myself to a type of resource, whether it’s to use imagery from one source only (in “Böhm, Resonating” I used one vintage organ catalogue), or to create my own resource material through taking photographs. It’s the idea that is concrete more than the physical images, which are highly dependent on intuition.
As you’ve completed a residency in Berlin, how would you compare the city’s art scene to that of Toronto? Do you feel that our city does enough to encourage young artists?
In the environment I engaged with in Berlin, everyone was an artist of some sorts, and I find that Torontonians are also very creative-minded (whether they are artists, curators, artisans/craftspeople, musicians, designers etc.). I think it’s a reflection on the state of the current day where anyone is able to pursue the “artist’s” career because of the Internet, technology and globalization. From my perspective it seems that there’s plenty of art in Toronto, both young and established; I think what is important is learning how to navigate and digest it in a critical way.
With The Gatherer, your current group show at Erin Stump Projects, your work is displayed alongside three other local artists who work with collage. Has the experience revealed anything to you about your own work in relation to others with similar sensibilities?
I’m very happy with the group and work Erin curated and “gathered” for the show. It’s nice to be able to sense a shared mentality through different, varied outputs. It highlighted, for me, the architectural play in my work and interest in both sculpting and flattening at the same time.
What’s next for you in the coming months?
I’m going to continue playing with turning my images into 3-dimensional objects in their final installation. I have a show for the Contact Festival in May and I’ll be taking over the 3rd floor of The Gladstone Hotel. The space has elaborate rugs and light fixtures and wall mouldings, so it will definitely be interesting. I’m in the midst of making the work now. Though my work is becoming less photography-centric, Contact is a good opportunity to address the medium, so the project involves using actual photographic paper treated in various ways as the subject of the series. It’s been a lot of experimentation and play in the studio. I hope to make it to Kassel, Germany for Documenta 13 in the summer, and I have a residency at Vermont Studio Center in the fall. I love being busy so hopefully other projects will keep popping up.
Laurie’s work is currently on display as part of “The Gatherer” group show at Erin Stump Projects at 1086 ½ Queen St. W, Toronto.