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All images courtesy of Stirling Prentice.

Stirling Prentice is one talented hack

By Brenda Dunn on January 10, 2017

Lower Resolutions”, Stirling Prentice’s solo show at the Hintonburg Public House comes as something of a debut. After years making and selling clever t-shirts through his company Winged Beasts Outfitters, Prentice’s craft is moving off of our chests and onto our walls.

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With even larger works for no more than $140, Prentice is bringing the price point of an emerging artist, with the craftsmanship of one far more seasoned. No stranger to the industry of making, Prentice proclaims, “I have to make things or I’m not living”.

rsz_life_supprtThe show includes pieces from “Overlayed: A Hacked Art Show” that ran at Maker House Co. in 2016. “Hacked” refers to the practice of taking vintage paintings or prints, which the artist then paints over or modifies to insert their own, often subversive or humorous, additions.

Prentice’s handling of this technique is skillful and it serves his political undertones well. His immediately recognizable style features small phantom-like creatures that speckle a retro-landscape. Interspersed are large-scale digital prints that feature his small ghost sculptures staged across the country. The figures are placed in the foreground of landscapes made vast by their smallness and they are endearing and ambiguous – implying death but made cartoonish. The ghost sculptures have been an ongoing theme in Prentice’s practice, allowing weightier issues like death and mortality be addressed in a way that is gentle, even welcoming.

There are also several wood panel works, with pasted graffiti-esque drawings, a new approach for Prentice and one that mixes well with the range at his show. Prentice acknowledges the influence stating “I did go through a phase where I was like, ‘I’m gonna learn to be a graffiti guy but I just… I can’t stay up late. You can’t sneak into a subway at 2 in the afternoon,'” Prentice laughs.

He is well aware of the troubling political climate, environmental issues and capitalist trappings, but rather than simply “glowering” at these things, Prentice asks, “Is there another way to bring it out and get people to see it?”

It’s a goal that ensures the pieces are funny rather than preachy. A librarian by day, Prentice is exceptionally well read, and also unusually conscious of his privileged position. He inserts various socio-political messages into the pieces, but with a tongue in cheek tone that invites you in on the joke rather than hitting you over the head.

While the artist has given serious thought to the social issues that inform his works, he is not keen to assign meaning for the viewer and would prefer the audience regard the pieces as a conversation, rather than a manifesto. He specifies, “I don’t have a mission. Unless making things in a mission, then that’s the mission”.

“Sometimes I feel like the more conscious I am about asserting meaning into something, the less it looks like anything that anyone would like. The best art doesn’t try to smack you in the face with it: they let you sit down and try to think about it, they encourage or inspire people to think about what this could be about. I hope this will blow out into the ether and come back.”

The opening takes place Thursday the 12th from 7-10pm and the show is already available for viewing. Given the caliber of the work and the accessible price point, take note: if you’re going to look, take your time. If you’re keen to purchase, drop what you’re doing. Go now.

Lower Resolutions is up at the Hintonburg Public House from January 3rd to February 28th. The vernissage will be Thursday, January 12th, from 7 to 10pm. For more information, see the Facebook event.