MODEM, Debrecen: Contemporary Canadian Print Art

The New World. Contemporary Canadian Print Art

The End of Language. Derek Michael Besant exhibition

30 March – 23 June, 2013.


Derek Michael Besant: The End of Language (detail), 2011,  thermal UV ink transfer onto synthetic paper

MODEM’s large-scale selection of contemporary Canadian print art showcases more than fifty works. The twelve exhibiting artists live and work in various regions of Canada,but they all share a commitment to and enthusiasm for print art, be that traditional paper-ink or the latest digital technology. For this group introduction all the artists created new works, which – adding a further edge to the show’s uniqueness – all connect to a most current, shared topic. The expression New World – the name the country of the exhibiting artists was generally referred to in the 18th century – is often associated with the times and conditions of European colonialism, and still makes Canada an attractive destination for immigrants seeking adventure. It is in this context that the artists investigate questions concerning the identity of Canadians, the people that hosts all these different cultures. Their line of interest is twofold: on the one hand, they are interrogating themselves, what their country means for them, by what associations they may capture its unique essence; and on the other hand, they intend to answer the question whether the identity of a given country may become graspable through the self-definition of people living in far-away cities, concerned with typically contemporary problems, relying on the latest technologies and employing different approaches. Thus, the exhibition invites the visitor for a twofold adventure. While the artists are reflecting on the romantic notions of ordinary people, simultaneously they are also exploring the common roots of the personal ego and collective consciousness in their innermost selves.

At the exhibition entitled The New World eleven prominent Canadian artists exhibit their works. These artefacts scrutinize and re-evaluate national traditions, personal experiences, collective and individual values, employing the most recent and most progressive tools and modes of expression of contemporary art. The show is not a traditional print exhibition, but rather a display of print-integrated methods from installation to book art and digital projection; thus, with the help of contemporary ink technologies, the artists also redefine the medium of print.

Exhibiting artists: Karen Dugas, Mark Bovey, Guy Langevin, Tanya Harnett, Walter Jule, Davida Kidd, Sean Caulfield,  Bonnie Baxter, Alexandra Haeseker, Liz Ingram and Bernd Hildebrandt

The photo series of Derek Michael Besant, the curator of the show, is closely related to the other artists’ works: his series entitled The End of Language is shown in an exhibition-within-the-exhibition section. The series can be regarded as a reaction to the new need for images in our more and more globalized world: it explores the narrative and communicative features of the human face and gaze. On these photo-based, computer-generated pictures printed on textile one may discern blurred faces and sentences expressive of personal destiny and vision. Each human being has one’s own individual story that the faces inadvertently reveal. We can only see the pictures properly when we regard them from a distance, but we can only read the sentences aiding understanding only if we go close to them. Seen from a normal distance, depending on which segment of the picture we concentrate on, we can associate a third type of narrative with the faces. Which of these is true? To what extent are we influenced by the images and the captions? And what is that distance from which the real self and realistic perception of a human being is not influenced by the closeness of another person? These questions concerning the linguistic and formal aspects of the definition of identity also point out the limitations of visual reception and knowledge in general.

Text: N. Mészáros Júlia 

MODEM Centre for Modern and Contemporary Arts
H-4026 Debrecen, Baltazár Dezső tér 1.

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