Mesmerising lines of brilliant orange, deep burgundy, and sunny pastel yellows and greens creates an abstracted vision of a sun setting over a landscape in this oil on canvas titled Popsicle Toes, by contemporary artist Nancy Duff. The work offers a contemporary adaptation of the legacy of abstract expressionism, a movement which emphasised gesture and colour. This work is a part of her recent series After the Flood. The work’s title is a playful nod to the absurdity of life, and how optimism and hope can be found in the everyday, even in the midst of contemporary events from the pandemic, when scientific fact was replaced by uninformed opinion with the rise of fake news.
Contemporary artist Nancy Duff investigates intersections of geography, landscape, and feminism through abstract paintings which explore and examine the relationship of paint and colour. Much of her work invokes a critique of the landscape tradition and how “looking” is a form of ownership over women and other marginalised subjects. Duff works across the disciplines of painting, drawing, digital media, photography, sculpture, video, and installation.
In her recent series, After the Flood, Duff created abstract paintings that explore how hope and imagination change over the course of our lives. As Duff remarks, “we imagine ourselves to have come through something, because we remember before, and we wish now to be over.” These works stand as a counter to recent events in which “uninformed opinions were deemed to be equal to scientific facts” and “fake news, deep fakes, and reality became indistinguishable.” Relentlessly optimistic, the tongue-in-cheek humour of Duff is revealed in her titles, inspired by the song “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” from Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Born in Calgary, Alberta, the multidisciplinary artist studied science and education in the 1970s, architecture in the 1980s, and fine arts in the 1990s. Nancy Duff holds a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from the University of California, Irvine. Duff taught painting, drawing, upper year studio, special topics, cultural studies for 20 years and led field schools abroad at Emily Carr University, Simon Fraser University, and Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Recently, Duff co-created a video documentary installation, Aperture Aporia Afterimage, about her father, an RCAF WWII aerial photographer and reluctant soldier.
Duff has exhibited her work nationally and internationally at the Kwantlen Art Gallery in Surrey, YYZ in Toronto, Artcite in Windsor, The Floating Gallery in Winnipeg, and Stride Gallery in Calgary. She has shown in numerous two person and group shows at the Surrey Arts Centre, Kenderdine Art Gallery in Saskatoon, Saddleback College Art Gallery in Mission Viejo, CA, Open Space in Victoria and Presentation House in North Vancouver. Duff is the recipient of numerous grants from the University of California, the Canada Council for the Arts, and the BC Arts Council.
Duff currently lives and works on the unceded Indigenous territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations (Vancouver BC).