Diaz Contemporary is pleased to present its first showing of work by Toronto-based artist Paulette Phillips; Phillips has developed an international exhibition record with shows of her installation work. Often haunting, in Phillips’ pieces a leitmotif of humour can also be discerned, though even then it may well be black.
Phillips’ oeuvre is comprised of works built upon an idea discovered, an object reconsidered, a monument redone, or a history excavated. Shooting in 16mm and 35mm film which she presents as liminally elaborate installations, Phillips’ works are subtle but detailed investigations into the wanderings of human moral senses as evinced by subtle traces of various histories or perverse occurrences. At Diaz Contemporary, Paulette Phillips will be presenting her work Monster Tree (2006), commissioned by the London organisation Parabola for the exhibition Repatriating the Ark.
Monster Tree continues Phillips’ interest in revealing and exploiting overlooked or forgotten dramas, and unseen peculiarities. The piece grew from two discoveries: the first occurred while the artist was visiting Paris’ 18th century Musée Fragonard, and came across abnormal animal specimens presented as “monstres”. This allowed Philips to make the connection between the word ‘monster’ and ‘demonstrate’. Etymologically, the word ‘monster’ comes from the Latin monstrare, meaning ‘to show’ and monstrum meaning ‘portent’, ‘unnatural event’, or ‘monster’. These malformed specimens were therefore sites for the conflation of the two meanings of the root word—‘demonstrating’, and ‘monstrosity’. The second discovery involved the filmic capture and subsequent elaboration upon a unique arboreal malformation Phillips stumbled across in the tourist-laden and spectacle-oriented world of Niagara Falls. In Monster Tree —presented on a flat panel monitor in the gallery’s East exhibition space—Phillips focuses on an aberration overlooked in a location devoted to the spectacular.