Flood and Fiction
March 17 - May 6, 2012
Using found objects such as vintage illustrations, photos, post cards, scientific glassware, and life jackets, as well as water from our local Styx River, Paul Roorda's exhibition Flood and Fiction examines and creates flood narratives of both personal and apocalyptic proportions.
Roorda's background in psychology and sociology are evident in the world myth, Christian, and contemporary climatology themes expressed in his new collection of work. Roorda sees the artist as "prophet, survivor, scientist, historian and rescuer." His subject matter, motifs, materials and media are thoughtfully and precisely enmeshed in layers of meaning that reflect his preoccupation with the relationship between religion, science and environmentalism. In particular, Roorda's work demonstrates his interest in the nature of cultural narratives, specifically those of disaster and apocalypse. His subtle and deceptively simple images and objects comment on the construction of these narratives, with their attendant emotional reactions of anxiety, guilt, and hope.
Among the many intriguing things to contemplate in Roorda's work is his use of what might be called "the elements." This term denotes a broad spectrum of references: chemistry's periodic table of elements (iron/gold); the elements as in weather (climate change, flooding); objects reduced to their constituent components (watch parts, book pages); and elemental or archetypal symbols and themes which have resonance across cultures and eras (blood, ash, flood, glass, stone, paradise and the underworld). Thus, a single artwork might intersect with all these different notions of the elements. Iron is a chemical element present in both rust and blood, and gold is a chemical element which is found in both watches and illuminated religious manuscripts.
Water is another primary element which inhabits Roorda's work, particularly in this exhibition. It is featured here as subject, object and medium (in its natural rain state). The water Roorda collected and used for Flood and Fiction has particular relevance for local residents and visitors to the area. His source is the Styx River, a Saugeen River tributary which rises just southeast of Dornoch, runs west through Crawford, and then turns south to empty into the Saugeen near Hanover. Here again the narrative links to end-of-world scenarios are apparent, for in Greek mythology the Styx is the underworld river across which the souls of the dead are ferried.
Roorda situates his pieces between carefully and deliberately constructing their physical and metaphorical properties, and on the other hand relinquishing his control and allowing outdoor environments to oxidize, discolour and transform them. This inherent tension lies also at the heart of his examination of cultural constructions and the forces which work within, against and upon them. Part cultural theory, part aesthetics, part psychological analysis, this is an exhibition to challenge both mind and heart.