For more than a decade, Allison Katz (b. 1980, Montreal, Canada) has been exploring painting's relationship to questions of identity and expression, selfhood and voice. Animated by a restless sense of curiosity and humour, her works articulate a tricksy language of recurring forms – roosters, monkeys and cabbages, among other things – that are by turns familiar and enigmatic, and through which the artist’s sustained and critical pursuit of ‘genuine ambiguity’ takes shape.
Here, in the gallery at Canada House, Katz has created an abundant installation drawn from her extensive archive of announcement posters that she has been creating in relation to her exhibitions over the last decade. Works in their own right, the same references that appear in Katz’s paintings spill off and into the posters, circulating in and feeding-back from the familiar tropes of advertising and graphic design. For Katz, the construction of images as posters operates within an expanded practice, a way of playfully approaching protocols and procedures of typography, language and graphics; as much for their own sake as for asking questions around consumption, desire and the construction of memory. She will often quote site-specific details from the architecture, season, or iconography of the exhibition’s location, grounding the posters in the time and place where they are first shown, before developing their potential context within her own imagery. She reflects: ‘It involves a circulation where I’m copying myself and appropriating my own work to expand it from the inside. It leaves the specific surface of painting, but it’s still drawn from a painting sensibility.’
This presentation extends beyond the gallery at the Canadian High Commission to a concurrent exhibition of paintings titled Artery at Camden Art Centre in Hampstead, North London. It also follows an earlier version of this exhibition at Nottingham Contemporary, where a series of posters were installed in the City of Caves, a cave network open to the public below the museum.
For this new work the artist is preoccupied by the concept of networks and channels, by the spaces between inside and outside, and how these are connected. Across the four sites of these exhibitions, Katz’s exhibition unfolds through a series of biographical anecdotes and moments of synchronicity and chance, including her Canadian nationality, the post–war meeting of her exiled maternal grandparents in Nottingham, and Katz’s childhood home, which was on Finchley Road, Hampstead, Quebec, mirroring that of Camden Art Centre’s address on Finchley Road, Hampstead, London.
The exhibition at Canada House combines archival posters alongside the new series of those made for Artery. The installation disregards chronology in favour of visual affinities and chance pairings. She has also taken over the signage outside Canada House, designing the exterior banner and posters. Katz’s banner comes as a response to the classical design of the diplomatic mission’s standard - combining the iconic red colour with a surrogate for the traditional maple leaf: a cabbage. This motif has had an enduring presence in Katz’s practice since 2013 (in over 30 portrait-sized paintings) and with this humorous gesture the artist reflects on both personal, and national, mythologies. The humble cabbage, with its head and heart, has a complex system of arterial veins that run through its leaves, bringing its form to life and connecting it to the title of the exhibition: Artery.
The exhibition is curated by Martin Clark, Director of Camden Art Centre.