When he was a younger artist, Wally Dion was once asked by an Elder, “Who gave you permission to use the colours you are using?” As a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation who was raised apart from the traditional teachings of his Saulteaux community, Dion has kept this question in mind throughout his evolving practice. He first established himself as a painter before turning to discarded computer circuit boards as a medium through which to explore environmental concerns, cultural identity, and technological impulses. Two of his iconic circuit board collages are included in his solo exhibition at Urban Shaman, but the central focus of Colour Wheel is an intriguing mash up of kinetic sculpture, automatic painting, and performance art.
Wally Dion, Custom Made-More Than Visible
Three glass jugs of blue, pink, and yellow pigment are suspended from the ceiling and rigged up to a pumping system activated by a spinning bike tire installed on the gallery floor. While the Duchampian tire can also be turned by hand, the artist used a piece of heavy-duty wire as a jump rope during his artist talk, snagging and rotating the pegs attached to the tire as he skipped like a jingle dancer. Paint moved drop by drop through clear rubber tubing until it accumulated in a small container that he then poured onto a wooden structure recalling the Roman Colosseum or a Powwow Dance Arbor. In the centre of the circular construction was a mechanized drum tapping out a steady beat as the paint dripped separately in some areas and blended together in others to create tones of orange, purple, and green.
This publicly personal ceremony of colour procurement is visually dizzying in its razzle-dazzle, but there is a deeper inquiry set in motion by Dion’s Rube Goldberg machine – one highlighting the complex dynamics of authority and authorship within the structures of contemporary art and cultural protocol.
Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art: http://urbanshaman.org/
Wally Dion: Colour Wheel continues until March 11.
Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.
Comments (newest first) +click to add comment