After 11 years of bringing you local reporting, the team behind the Vancouver Observer has moved on to Canada's National Observer. You can follow Vancouver culture reporting over there from now on. Thank you for all your support over the years!

Accessories Included

A modern twist on an ancient form of expression

Susan J. Falk always paints from the human inclination to reconcile her own nature to the ancient human urge to make a mark. It is how she is painterly in her painting. With Accessories Included she has taken a further step on behalf of our ancient ancestors by painting runway models into the likes of a Lascaux cave. Why?

Falk: “The purpose of Paleolithic cave paintings is not known, but as I look at them I sense the same instinct to paint that the early painters must have had, a sense that something visual must be identified and painted in order to be more involved in it myself.” For the viewer of these new Falk paintings, this can be an analogous encounter, like turning the ancient cave paintings “on,” for the first time viewer.

These models outrageously don 2010 Spring collections amidst the mysterious caves of Lascaux, France. What emerges is portrayals of possible Cro-Magnon shamans’ cave hang out wall images commingled with hip runway chicks in these seemingly natural paintings. “My portrayals of the contemporary fashion images in this context are probably driven by the similar instinct to cope with the fashion impulse to portray a self, rather than simply be oneself. To express oneself is to present, to put forward in a proactive manner.” Falk worked in the fashion industry for 18 years while supporting her early painting career. She was a fashion makeup artist and knows about how one’s visage can be a proactive presentation.

A distance of some 32,000 years is realized on these canvases making a kind of perplexing sense out of the idea of image and portrayal itself. Here the next season’s fashions, replete with their accessories and a lap dog, of all things, become accessories themselves to the models who are accessories to prehistoric bison.

Or are they?

The bison join starched female models with their treasured accessories and the best ingredients of that genre known only to the artist, Susan J. Falk, as “the implications of runway.”

From time to time we see something that allows us to enjoy sheer visual wit, and here we can also savor the juxtaposition of next Spring’s collections and ancient marks, but also the implications of image, making a mark, expressing visually. We are free here to revel in that and yet simultaneously grasp the contemporaneity of the historic, making the cave images almost a day to day experience, accompanied by Falk’s luscious painterly connotations.

This all comes together in Falk’s exquisite painterly management of the colour and texture of the paint itself. She began with the idea of next spring’s fashions and their accessories, in the form of separate small canvases suspended over the large base canvases by a thin silver thread, portrayed on Lascaux-like walls. For the viewer, and perhaps for the artist herself, stimulating questions persist: Which images are the accessories of the series’ title? And who accessorizes whom when we contemplate the ancient and next season simultaneously?

Or could this all be a series of accessories to image making itself? Falk, identifying the caves as part of her own past: “The cave paintings from our ancient past may be a mystery—as to their purpose. But their origin is human and so is the ever-human impulse to portray oneself and be inspired to enhance and connect with beauty.”

The Fort Gallery
9048 Glover Road
Fort Langley

More in Deeply Vocal

Bye-bye, wallet: how to avoid pickpockets in Vancouver

Have you ever been pick-pocketed? I was, just a couple days ago. Having just finished my Sunday class, I was making my way up Granville street towards the SkyTrain station, slowly weaving through the...

The Passion Project: Joan’s Story is in the Room

Reid Farrington’s The Passion Project is an electrifying work that compresses the entirety of Carl Dreyer’s classic silent film "The Passion Of Joan Of Arc" into a 30-minute concentration of movement,

Norma and Richard Bonynge Celebrate Vancouver Opera’s 50th

Two-timing tenor causes all the fuss as opera creates Norma manga, passes out memory sticks to the media, and blogs the night away.
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.