The paintings in Allyson Clay’s series "Some places in the world a woman could walk" combine abstraction, photo silkscreen, and text to describe the experiences of women in the city. The works call up Baudelaire’s idea of the flâneur; far from being detached observers, Clay’s flâneuses reflect on their relationship to others and to public spaces. In each diptych text divulges the experiences, predilections and desires of individual women as they navigate public and private spaces within the dispassionate setting of the city. For example, in “Routines” a woman is transformed by the fiction she is reading and this leads inexplicably to an ordinary work promotion. Clay’s texts often evoke the gaze, the awareness of being looked at, and the understanding that bodies are vulnerable. For example, in “Danger” the text suggests vulnerability, but it is complicated by a perverse irony: “I begin to enjoy the presence of danger.” While photography shows us people and places, it is nevertheless soft and even out of focus. This strategy appropriately expresses uncertainty about the exact locations and enriches the fragmentary and ludic quality of the narratives. Abstract painting is also used strategically to evoke psychological states commensurate with the narratives, although indefinable.
Exhibition: Costin and Klintworth, Toronto, Ontario, 1993; Edmonton Art Gallery, Some places in the world a woman could walk, Edmonton, Alberta, 1994.Material: acrylic and photo silkscreen on canvas.
24.5 x 48.75 inches
Copyright is held by the author(s).
Member of collection