Review: Necropolis and Spectral Landscapes at MOCCA.

February 17, 2012 § Leave a comment


Tasman Richardson’s multi-media display Necropolis and accompanying group exhibition Spectral Landscapes are on at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art (MOCCA). While these two shows are of very different theme and structure they are still complementary in their ability to transport the viewer to surreal and otherworldly spaces.


The extremely successful Necropolis consists of an interactive display that deals with the nature of video and its connections to death culture. Through this work Richardson attempts to illustrate the prevalence of death in our society. The maze like structure consists of six installations that signify the stages of erosion, narcissism, acceleration, idolatry, self-doubt, and oblivion.

Throughout the work the viewer experiences a sense of unease. The structure itself is a source of confusion; it immerses the viewer in darkness with the exception of the bright video installations. Both disorienting and confining, the space becomes reminiscent of a fun house with ramps that go up and down and a path that turns every which way. Each stage is a new sensory experience. The viewer is immediately asked to enter a precarious space; they must walk among rows of static filed televisions on a steeply sloped floor to move to the next stage. Walking through the next five stages, which carry a disturbing yet intriguing quality, the viewer encounters the different aspects of the video and death culture.


The final stage deposits one directly into Spectral Landscapes, where the contrasting two-dimensional works of Peter Doig, Sarah Anne Johnson and Tim Gardner are displayed. The works are ambiguous and hallucinatory visions of wilderness. While all carry elements of realism, the works are infused with aspects of the fantastical. Doig’s etchings from his series 100 Years Ago are a unique combination of the natural with the graphic and urban. “Big Sur,” which consists of a silhouetted forest upon a vibrant background composed of a rainbow gradient, is particularly striking. On the other hand, Johnson’s manipulated photographs have a science fiction quality. These powerful pieces, though whimsical, have disturbing undertones. In contrast, Gardner’s idealized works, which appear to be photographs from a distance, are hyper-realistic paintings of nature scenes. Spectral Landscapes uses the combination of the banal with the extraordinary and displays striking images that shift in our perceptions of the natural world. It is a well-designed conclusion to the intense experience of Richardson creates in Necropolis.

Both shows run until April 1st.

– Sophia Farmer

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