You would never have suspected how much influence that political and religious rebel – Sister Corita Kent – has on young artists today. Sister Corita revolutionised graphic design, combing slogans and poetry that reflected her commitment to social justice. I will admit that Sister Corita’s enthusiasm for colour and language enticed me to return to the DCA on numerous occasions throughout the summer. The video installation titled We have no art (1965) is housed within an explosion of coloured cardboard boxes relaying Sister Corita’s rules. These rules are printed variously, emphasising their importance, while Sister Corita’s own voice softly repeats the vital things that a student must do. As a student of fine art, I often forget Sister Corita’s advice: “Nothing is a mistake, there are no fails. Don’t try to think and create at the same time”. It is refreshing to consider the artist’s advice that not every piece of work you do needs to be highly regarded. The second part of the advice is not difficult to follow. Have you ever tried to think and create at the same time? It is difficult and destroys the work at hand. Sister Corita reminds us of the simple joys of creating and the sheer bliss that is part of that experience. Rule number three says, “Be self-disciplined”. I respect Sister Corita enormously and it is the one rule I follow most religiously. It is heartening to see such vibrant work at the DCA. The exhibition is enriching, providing the audience with an insight into Sister Corita, her wisdom, work and spirituality, and her legacy.
Many of Sister Corita’s prints line the gallery walls. The work People like us yes, (1965) is a light hearted piece which focuses on typography and the artists’ obsession with contrasting colours. The work is laid bare and does exactly what it says on the tin. Life is difficult (1965) is similar but offered with wry humour:
Life is difficult isn’t it Charlie Brown.
Yes it is.
But I’ve developed a new philosophy.
I only dread one day at a time.
Reading these lines, I chuckled openly for the first time at an artist’s exhibition. This might contravene DCA gallery rules; if so, such code of conduct – unwritten as such – needs to be revised.
In response to Sister Corita’s work, and also exhibited at the DCA, is Peter Davies’s The redundancy of ideology, (2008) and Why is British art so crap?, (2006), which are both large-scale quirky paintings containing interesting anecdotes that are riddled with irony and sarcasm. Within the canvases, Peter Davies’s words form a tirade – a rant against artists and their practices that offend him. It is a controversial piece but follows the same honesty of tone that flows throughout the exhibition as a whole. This has to be one of the best exhibitions I have seen in the past four years in Dundee. Sister Corita is humble and her passion for life shines through.