Imaging Conflict

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Parade Series (Float II)
drawing, charcoal, paper complexity,complex, series of drawings, chaos, human chaos, carnival, fair, airplane, grounded,struts,ladders, construction site, artist direction, fantasy, excess, dread, the unexpected, society, catastrophy, loss of life, terrorism, politics, conflict, chaos, disturbance, destruction, fear, flaws of society, dread, the unexpected
description

Norlen is well known for her complex drawings, in which she often includes painstaking levels of detail. Her drawings picture a world of excess, fantasy, dread and the unexpected. And yet we can’t help but feel that they are somehow familiar reminders of our own social, flawed, and human tendencies.

Through the titling of her works, like Parade Series (Float II) seen here, Norlen is providing us with a direction. She could be telling us specifically what kind of human-initiated chaos she wants us to look at, that of the fair, the carnival, the parade, or the festival. We can see this also in the drawing, as an airplane, which is normally a flying vehicle, is being pulled along on struts, ladders, and support beams. Opened from the belly, it can’t fly, and so it gets pushed or dragged amid a landscape of construction sites.

When we look at the title of the work, we are, in fact, nudged toward this reading of the drawing. However, if we look at the date of the work’s production (2002), we might also realize that this work was completed not long after the September 11th, 2001 attacks in the United States. A plane being destroyed, ripped apart, and caught on building structures has a different connotation post-9/11 than it would have before. Now it might suggest political instability, catastrophic loss of life, or terrorism.

Either way, Norlen’s  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  shows us how conflict can distort a normally festive occasion into a grotesque, chaotic, or disturbing vision.

additional resources Things to Think About
  • Do you think Norlen is intentionally referencing 9/11 with this work? Why or why not?
  • Can you think of and describe an occasion that made you feel as though you were watching everything break apart? Was it a social occasion as Norlen suggests, or something more private?
Online Activity
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Use the Zoom tool to view the abundant detail in Norlen’s drawing.

The space is very congested however notice that different values are used for the foreground, middleground and background. This helps to organise the crowded  picture planeThe surface of a drawing or painting.  so it is not overly confusing.

 

Studio Activity

Traditionally we think of  two-dimensionalHaving height and width, but no depth; flat. (Artlex.com)  artworks, either through the  frameSomething made to enclose a picture or a mirror; or an enclosure composed of parts and joined together; or to make such things. (Artlex.com)  or the picture plane, as presenting a “window” into an illusionary or invented space. This association with the window is completely removed with mural-sized drawings such as Parade Series (Float II). Note that this drawing is 228.6 cm x 609.6 cm (or around 7 feet x 22 feet), and in order to take in the whole drawing the viewer must stand back from it. The detail in the drawing then pulls the viewer back toward the mural-sized  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (Artlex.com)  to make close inspections.

Create a  muralA large design or picture, most commonly created on the wall of a public building, sometimes using the fresco technique. (artlex.com)  of a scene with lots of details.  Some examples of some scenes to help you get started are a building site, a fantasy world, a football or soccer arena, a futuristic cityscape, a shopping mall, fairgrounds, a hairdressing salon, a hockey stadium, a theme park, etc.

  • Roll out some large drawing paper and fix it to the wall.
  • Trace over the projected lines onto the paper with a pencil.
  • Enhance the spatial qualities with various kinds of lines and marks.
References

Eastern Edge Gallery. Carnevale Sublime. Exhibition write-up, Eastern Edge Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 2003.

Fine Arts Network. Announcement of a talk by Alison Norlen at the School of Art, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, January 20, 2006. Retrieved from the Internet on February 14, 2008 at: http://fineartnetwork.proboards61.com/index.cgi?board=visitingartists&action=display&thread=1137769181&page=1

MacKay, Allan. Shannon Reynolds and Alison Norlen at KW/AG. Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario, .February 14, 2007. Retrieved from the Internet on February 14, 2008 at: http://web.mac.com/cafka1/iWeb/CAFKA.TV/Podcast/CC0C014F-7BD8-4F6C-B2C8-9410AB24D76F.html

Robbins, Rhea Cote. Intangible Evidence.  Group ExhibitionA public showing of artwork by more than one artist.  write-up. The Rooms Gallery, St. John’s, Newfoundland, 2006. Retrieved from the Internet on February 14, 2008 at: http://fawtai.blogspot.com/2006/07/intangible-evidence.html

University of Lethbridge. Alison Norlen lecture announcement, University of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta, September 29, 2003.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning