Tricia Middleton is a Vancouver artist, now in Montreal to pursue graduate study at Concordia University. Her exhibition project, entitled Ether Frolics, consists of a series of autonomous sculptural elements with a video component integrated into one of them. The objects will be made from classically styled garden furniture and decorative accessories. The body of work will make clear reference to art history and the ornamentation of classic gardens, as well as their architectural elements; for example, fountain and statuary motifs. The artist's choice to use “poor” materials contrasts with and undercuts the noble symbolism of the represented objects.
A daring game of tug-of-war between pleasure and nausea, the decorative and the abject, craft and mass production is played in Tricia Middleton's Ether Frolics. For this exhibition the artist recycles fragments of earlier work to create unsettling versions of Victorian garden furnishings; ornate fountains, columns, urns and patio chairs are held together with drywall compound and thinly surfaced with pastel-coloured paint. The objects, parodically echoing the nineteenth century's fascination with classical culture are, in stark contradiction, arrayed in disordered ranks. As the viewer walks among them he or she will stumble upon small, integrated video monitors in two of the works that present the image, greatly reduced, of the original pieces that went into making the objects in the gallery.
A critique of the hallucinatory pleasures and increasingly vain excesses of consumer culture emerges from this foregrounding of the works' recuperative processes, one that simultaneously reaches back to its earliest roots at the beginnings of industrialization and explores the emptiness of the mass-produced “goods” of our own day. It calls into question the evaporating meanings and values of the objects that make up our own lived environment.
Ether Frolics casts a jaundiced eye on our hunger to buy and to consume, one that pokes at the troubling roots of notions like “taste,” “luxury,” and “quality.” And it is a regard that testifies, in full recognition of the ironies of the exhibition's very title - referring as it does to the drug parties of the Victorian bourgeois class - to the dizzying, narcotizing effects of consumer culture.
Tricia Middleton received her MFA from Concordia University this year. She has presented her work at the Helen Pitt Gallery in Vancouver (with Joel Taylor) and at SKOL, Centre des arts actuel.