Alison Yip: Soma Topika 
Alison Yip, What will cause me great embarrassment? (Somatic) (detail), 2022, oil, paper, laminate tile Photo: Rachel Topham Photography

Alison Yip: Soma Topika 

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC - To May 1

by Michael Turner

Known for her small, largely figurative drawings and paintings, Alison Yip turned heads in 2016-17 with her treatment of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s rotunda as part of the gallery’s Vancouver Special: Ambivalent Pleasures triennial. Not simply for the paintings she made in the rotunda’s shallow alcoves, but for her application of a stark, white-on-black diagonal lattice motif on the surrounding walls (like the machine-produced lattice sections found at big-box DIY stores). That some of these lattice sections had broken holes in them simulated the violence through which the city communicates with itself. 

For her current exhibition, Yip wrapped the walls of the CAG’s Alvin Balkind Gallery in renovation-protective plastic and provided a partially finished free-standing wall to suggest a transitional, if not liminal, environment. On these walls hang a series of small oil paintings made on a variety of surfaces (paper, laminate tile, steel, metal, aluminum, copper). Their titles are derived from questions Yip posed to a psychic and a “neo-shaman,” with the artist appearing as a poseable mannequin. 

The lone sculptural work, entitled The Body Says No (2021), consists of polyacrylic scarves, plastic, metal and hemp string and is intended as a “counterpoint” to the painting What will my relationship be with the gallerist? (Auratic) (2021). According to the exhibition pamphlet: “This painting depicts Yip’s dealer unboxing scarves made as gallery merchandise, following the prediction from her psychic that she may be pushed towards commercializing her work in new and uncomfortable ways. While Yip produced a set of scarves, they exist only as part of this sculpture, which her dealer has agreed will never be made available for sale.”

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