When she approaches a newsstand, Montreal-based artist Myriam Dion often buys 20 copies of that day’s paper — at times, even more than that. She then takes the stack to her studio, where she uses an X-Acto knife to cut away at the flimsy sheets, creating a mosaic of chopped-up texts and patterns centered on a photograph of the day she finds especially arresting. After two years of cutting, she has amassed a news archive of sorts that records through delicate designs some of the largest stories to make headlines around the world. Recently exhibited by Division Gallery at last month’s Art Toronto fair, her series of cutouts largely remain devoid of any legible text, honoring the original story through her patient handiwork. Created in the context of a media-saturated era with content built on fast-paced publishing and shareability, her works suggest approaching the news with patience and comprehensiveness.
“I am creating a new newspaper that can be interpreted, that encourages people to think more deeply about the news that we consume too easily,” Dion told Hyperallergic. “My intention is to slow down the look of the viewer. I worry that we are absent-mindedly skimming the surface of the things, and that we are getting lost in the rush.”
Literal everyday objects, rather than getting thrown away, thus transform into lace-like works depicting individual stories, and photographs, originally visual aids, become the main focus and the starting point to explore a news item. Dion’s painstaking treatment, however, separates works from the rapidly digestable, Instagram-style photo-as-story, with her elaborate geometric designs and novel arrangements instead capturing and arresting the eye.
One work commemorating the April 2014 South Korean ferry disaster, for instance, scales down a small, red lifeboat, surrounding it with wild swirls of blue and white, all bordered by ornate embellishments that evoke not only the chaos of the event but also the convoluted debates and conflicts that ensued about the government’s culpability in the incident. Another tells the story of refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh in Malaysia simply through a pair of hands clutching a chain-linked fence; the anonymous fists occupy a small, lower corner of the page, with the fence dissolving into dense black-and-white lines punctured by small holes, transformed into a web that recalls an overwhelming but fragmented network of the displaced. Most of Dion’s cut-outs center on such heavy-hitting topics; her recreations, evocative of mandalas and stained glass windows, encourage prolonged meditation on these events rather than a quick read of a story followed by the turn of a page.