Julia Dault, National Post
Published: Thursday, January 19, 2006
Equally inspired by Hootie and Hockney

(Ed: I am not a Hootie fan. My work has nothing to do with Hootie. Please don't listen to their music in hopes of finding meaning in my work.)

PRACTICAL ASSOCIATIONS
Daryl Vocat
Eastern Edge Gallery
To Feb. 25

ST.JOHN'S - It is hard not to like images like these, with their bright
colours, confident lines and wonderful combinations of words, subjects, and
objects.

Daryl Vocat, the artist responsible, is interested in big themes, such as
the influence of culture and the varying structures of human relationships.
With this series of screen prints, Vocat finds playful ways to tackle these
intimidating subjects with images and phrases from literature and popular
culture to build fun -- and smart -- narratives.

Take The Yellow Wall Paper, for example. On its own, it is a beautiful
composition: a bare-chested man stands with arms crossed on a bright yellow
patterned background; the image of a woman is barely visible behind the
man's head, with high heels and clawing hands extending beyond his thick
glasses.

Dig a little and find that the title is an allusion to a short story by the
late-nineteenth century writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a woman known for
writing fiction and non-fiction, focusing mostly on women's suffrage. The
story The Yellow Wall Paper was a disguised autobiography about her
feelings of societal rejection and ridicule, results of her free and
forward thinking. When the story was published 1892, it was considered
blasphemous and dismissed as the work of a woman gone insane.

Apply this historical context to Vocat's image and all of a sudden the
sitter's expression takes on more meaning and vulnerability by reading it
through Gilman's filter of struggle and isolation.

Other images are also anchored in allusion: Desperately Seeking Symbiosis is
a direct play on the 1985 cult hit Desperately Seeking Susan, while Looking
for the Spiritual Equivalent of Oxygen is a response to an obscure quote by
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker. The Lizard Man, David Hockney,
cub scouts, and space suits are all here in both obvious (glow-green lizard
flesh) and more subtle (obscure Hootie and the Blowfish lyrics) ways.

"Culture and ideologies inform us, while socialization affects the way we
understand ourselves," writes Vocat in the show's accompanying text. He
calls the series itself an act of translation.

And he's right. In all of their micronarratives these images translate a
frenetic, amalgam of disparate references in really beautiful form. In a
way, they convey the exact moment we live in, where leaping from suffrage
to, say, salamanders is welcome if not celebrated.
© National Post 2006