Edmonton artist Jill Ho-You’s practice is delicate and meticulous. In her drawings and prints she shows an unwavering devotion to detail and penchant for balanced compositions. An avid reader and library enthusiast, Ho-You’s love of aged paper and historical texts is reflected in her line quality and the subdued colour pallet of gray scale and cream. Her technical skills allow her to draw the viewer in close to contemplate and explore her imagined subjects.
In the print series, Natural History and Adhesion, there is clear influence of historical and contemporary medical illustrations. In both series’ Ho-You creates compelling hybrids of land and flesh. As a viewer you are not so consumed by the details, the function or the articulation of each part, but rather that somehow this unlikely fusion seems natural. In the works Adhesion I and III there are areas of fluidity – sections that look like ink diffusing in water, which give a particular amount of depth – an effect unique to this series of work.
Ho-You is also very interested in physical anthropology and recent research which links emotional and mental traumas to physical changes in the individual experiencing them. She sees a correlation between this notion and the strata variations in a landmass, which records the experiences of that location in the layers of stone. This influence can be seen in her recent graphite series Below the Mantle and Drift. The work in both these series call to attention that which lies beneath our skin – to the reality that our internal body is a concealed space, only accessible to us through sensations and imagination.
Although visually similar in technique and subject, Paper Bodies is a departure from Ho-You’s other work. She calls it a ‘word-image collaborative project’ with poet Richard Cole. The book is displayed page by page on the wall in a text, image sequence. The viewer draws close to examine the small, delicate lines of the written and print pages. Ho-You illustrates intimate and physical components of events leading up to the death of philosopher Walter Benjamin, in 1940 as imagined through the eyes and voice of his friend, Lisa Fittko. Ho-You’s images are almost clinical, they lead the viewer to imagine the interior of their own body. Local art critic, Agnieszka Matejko states, ‘this depiction is so personal that it doesn’t merely recount the story of his flight: it allows the viewer to relive it’.
Jill Ho-You’s work has a quiet composure that provides the viewer with contemplative space. Below the Mantle exemplifies Ho-You’s methodical approach to printmaking and drawing. Her system for developing composition, and the precision of her mark making, imbues her subjects with subtle personality. Her images do not feel laboured or tense; rather, they are captured with delicate precision. Viewers can connect to these works on both a visceral and imaginative level.
I encourage the readers to visit Below the Mantle, on the third floor of Harcourt House, Monday to Friday between the hours of 10am and 5pm, or Saturday between 12 and 4pm, until January 17, 2014