Moyra Davey's Reconnection of the Present with the Past in the Murray Guy Gallery
A simple design makes up the interior of the Murray Guy gallery, which currently houses Moyra Davey: 7 Albums by the Canadian artist of that name. The room is rectangular with ordinary white walls, banal wooden floors, and normal fluorescent lights. But the art affixed on the walls holds the key to intrigue. Upon entering, one might notice the peculiar photo arrangements, with some paired together or put into groups of 4, and they are all created into 7 separate but neat groups, which refers back to the title of the show. Then there are the multitude of photographs of all shapes and sizes. Upon closer observation, there are certain similarities between each photo which creates an eeriness as one goes from one photo to the next, tying back to the larger theme of the past being an inspiration for new thought.
The photographs are all spaced out to suggest the passage of time, from the past to the present. For example, Dust, Amp, Trees and Four Trees have similar themes, with the trees, neon tape, and differently colored filters, and this work suggests the different points of view from the window of a prison cell, which is related to the Oozing Wall photographs. But they are placed on different sides of the wall, and this separation suggests the overall developmental changes of time. Another way in which the passage of time is exemplified are the photos with different filters, but have neon tape affixed to sides of the picture, in the shape of a circle. For example, Dust, Amp, Trees; Four Trees; and Newspaper, Coffee are all works that have crease marks suggesting of a past where it used to be folded into the shape of a letter, with stamps that are postmarked to the gallery’s address, as if these photos had originally been in the form of letters sent to the gallery. For instance, Dust, Amp, Trees consists of 4 photos of different colors that are put together to make a large square picture. A black and white photo of an amplifier, a black and white photo of trees outside of an apartment, and a red filtered photo of the same trees are visible. Four Trees also contains photos of trees in different colors, and Newspaper, Coffee are all the names of items on old receipts. As the artist puts it, the process of mailing the photographs transforms them into objects that can be treated casually. In this way, the photograph becomes a fun process for her, in which she can imagine a time when the letter is transformed, from a folded letter, to an artistic masterpiece hung in a gallery. This shows the passage of time, because her past actions of folding and mailing photographs helped create a present photographic artwork hung in a gallery.
Davey’s Oozing Wall photographs are all very similar, with the same large photo of a prison, but between each photo, there are minor differences. For example, Oozing Wall (Toes) and Oozing Wall (Wings) are paired together to make one “album,” and although they show the prison, Oozing Wall (Toes) contains smaller photos of a person’s deformed toes at the bottom of the prison photo, while Oozing Wall (Wings) contains photos of a man’s eyes taped on the prison photo with neon pink tape. To the side is a faded image of a young female with wings. The prison is reminiscent of the time author Jean Genet was writing Our Lady of the Flowers in a prison cell. Overall, these smaller photos that are taped onto the prison photo seem to suggest a past that continues to exist in the present, because it suggest that there was a time that occurred later on where the photos were affixed on top of the prison photo, and also when the photo was taken. However, the differences between these two photos tell a story by itself. While the first photo with the toes seem to have a negative connotation of life, the second photo seems to have a theme of hope and fun for the future, and also seems to have a religious significance attached to it.
A separate room houses Davey’s film Notes on Blue (2015), depicting the artist walking back and forth in front of the film camera, talking as she holds her phone to her mouth. Her film closely resembles the 1993 film by Derek Jarman called Blue, with Jarman talking hypnotically about his experience with near blindness after being diagnosed with AIDs over a vibrant blue background. In the same way, Davey also talks about how she copes with blindness after she is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, just as the videos flit to different scene settings. There is also the color blue in almost every scene, as if in tribute to the blueness in Jarman’s film, whether it is the blue egg in the small nest, the blue bedroom, blue ink, or the blue tarp used for construction work. Again, there is a recurring theme in Davey's works where the past influences the present, and in this case, Jarman's film style seems to influence the creation of Davey's film. Davey shows that through photography, writing, and film, nothing remains constant, but always changes and is affected by past influences.