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It is Hard to Tape a Fish

Emily Hill


September 15th to September 24th, 2017


Cut a wedge from a head of cabbage, and the marbled ridges arch like a bridge. Pretend this bridge is a model to rethink the gap between anticipation and understanding. The top layer is for crossing, and the spilt juice from this morning is a river flowing the opposite way. Peel the layers beneath the surface of the cabbage and there is a core. Pry out the core and there is a tunnel. On top of the bridge, vision cannot see this tunnel.


Last year artist Emily Hill was living in Montreal. The cabbage materialized in response to the knowledge that Champlain Bridge, previously known as Nuns Bridge, is falling down. In 1962 the bridge opened and has continued to be a major thoroughfare connecting land separated by the Saint Lawrence River. Recently when cracks were sighted in a critical part of the structure, the city merely closed a small portion and allowed traffic to continue around it. More cracks appeared and more cars were rerouted. The poor conditions and unquantifiable risks involved with its continued use were met with little solace. To fill the gap from one language to another Hill was teaching ESL to students at a development corporation, who happened to be bidding for the new Champlain Bridge. The students drove across the bridge each day, to reach their workplace at SNC Lavalin despite their close knowledge of the state of disrepair. One day the class received news SNC won the bid, setting in motion one of North America’s biggest work sites. The new Champlain Bridge is slated to be completed at the end of next year.


The bridge that is forever with us is called the arch of the foot. Between the ball and the heel of the foot, or between our bodies and the ground, the arch supports our balance or imbalance. High arches can be hard on the body. Determined by bone or shoe, the reach of one's arches can cause pain. In a video of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass,” Debbie Harry’s gold high heels glint as brightly as the metallic instruments bobbing in her shadow. Underneath her pointy heels the glass top of the stage looks thin and fragile, while the exposed steel beams that support it have the same shape as a bridge truss face down. For the exhibition It is Hard to Tape a Fish Hill has scored one song to the tune of another, through adapting the nursery rhyme “London Bridge is Falling Down” with “Nun’s Bridge,” (i.e. Champlain Bridge) to the melodies of “Heart of Glass.” Spaced out, Blondie’s persona seems in line with the derogatory term cabbage-head. She sings about heartbreak, then walks away intact when love gets shitty. Hills melodious pairing of tunes takes us through a material process that keeps butting into failure although to an upbeat disco rhythm.


It is Hard to Tape a Fish also includes Emily Hill’s most recent rug paintings hung overlapping rented velvet backdrops. Through pouring and smudging liquid dye, she seeps gestures into the plush fibers of wool shag-rugs. On horizontal planes she dribbles, streams, and smears compositions throughout. When permeated with rich amounts of pigment, the rugs are rinsed and washed until they are left to dry. After teasing out knots and ambitious combing, hairspray is intimately applied to the rugs, though in grotesque proportion to personal domestic rituals. Through this process, Hill leaves spacious room for chance to occur. How the temperature of a color will dry, if a mark will stick around, or if tones will flood the composition are coaxed surprises. If Hill describes painting as a bridge, or a structure that connects things that didn’t touch before, it seems her paintings occur to let go.