Atmospheric River

Wil Aballe Art Projects, Vancouver

November - December 2022

Figurative Care (for Kate Metten)

By Emma Walter

 

I’m going for a walk. The bracing air is appreciated after a time of being inside, the cycle of daily routine carefully shrunken to a few small rooms, a few small blocks. What do we change when we lose a sense of self in relation to the whole? 

Horoscopes. Retail therapy. 

 

I’ve lost focus. I start walking again to reset. The vastness of the park, forms of sun and shadows, begins to feel more real: the way a photograph is real, scored by the even drone of city lawn mower. 

White noise machine. Aromatherapy. Mandalas.

 

Later, I search for recordings of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper.” I choose someone speaking a soft Queen’s English. When I first read the story a few weeks ago, the narrator’s voice in my mind rang clearly Mid-Western. I recalled vividly the broken necks and bulbous eyes staring out from “smouldering unclean yellow,” but was surprised to meet for the first time the mysterious shadow women moving up and down the lane.

Audiobooks. Podcasts. Drag Race. Omega3s. 

 

We each entered states of lockdown—the narrator imprisoned in the yellow room; some of us in homes, apartments; others: studios. Residencies, shows, fairs on indeterminate hiatus. The body of work in Kate Metten’s Atmospheric River reflects this period. A series of paintings are linked as self-determined questions about colour, line, form, motion. They join reference with internal desire and narrative. The parallel selection of ceramic forms are a return to essentials. The wheel, the slab: processes around which mastery of the medium is concentrated. Glaze formula experiments for psychedelic effects. Practices of control and of letting go. 

Daily Affirmations. Sports bras. Personal massager. Yoga mat. Weed. 

 

All of this is underpinned by a changed understanding of reality. Definitions and sensations of time and purpose have changed. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the diaristic segments have a wacky sense of time. The narrative continually halts and restarts through moments of fixation or clarity. Indeed, writing brings the narrator focus and criticality beyond the external restrictions put on her. The ritual of practice is a centring factor to days without form. Practice comes to form one’s time. Kate told me that for her, a painting is a recording of decisions. I see now those decisions are not a task list waiting to be ticked off. Decisions of intuition become layered glazes. Travelling between conscious and subconscious: inquiry. Meditation.