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Gallery of Artists

Karen Trask

My creative process has developed as a series of poetic investigations exploring human experience through language. It is the ephemeral and transitory nature of words and language which interests me specifically. The desire to embody a presence of "absence" is the impetus behind much of my work. The resulting works in installation, video, print media and artists' books propose an intimate relationship investigating time and space. In my work with artists' books, space is often presented as a physical environment to be entered.

One of my primary materials is paper. In my attempt to embody absence, paper, normally the ignored support material dominates. Physically dimensionless words become tactile paper objects through printmaking, casting, weaving or spinning. Exploring ways the materiality of paper influences our relationship to words and the connections between language as texts and the textile arts is an essential part of my work process.

That the viewer senses his or her own body in its environment, through movement and touch is a significant consideration in my work.

I want to touch words.

—Karen Trask

One does not read Karen Trask's work. One enters into a relationship with it. From their first contact, the spectator and the profoundly autobiographical creation share a close connection. Hands and flora, the analogy between the verticality of the human body and that of the tree these are just some of the recurring visual and symbolic images that insinuate themselves in her work. Made of fibre-based materials—primarily paper or prints made on paper carefully selected for its lightness and tactile qualities—these works are a reminder, in both plants and words, of the very origins of the book: from the caudex, the bulge at the base of certain tree trunks (the material used to make paper) to the codex, the contemporary technique of grouping pages into signatures to form a book.

For a multidisciplinary artist like Trask, the artist's book is only one multi-faceted way to explore books and textuality. Her most recent exhibitions, Touch Wood (2000) and L'une fait lire l'autre (1996) employ light and space to dramatically deepen our understanding of the creations. The works of Karen Trask, one-of-a-kind creations for the most part, are found in many collections across the country and internationally.

Light grey page with a collage of handwritten black text. Black title is printed in the centre. At the bottom right of the page is black print. A faint photograph of a naked woman's torso is printed in the background.

Intersections conjunctions


Trask grew up in rural Ontario and studied visual arts at the University of Waterloo (1978). She received a master's degree in visual arts from Concordia University (1999) in Montréal. Her interest in printmaking, particularly lithography, drew her to papermaking and working with fibres. Trask studied at a variety of specialized workshops, including Open-Studio in Toronto, and Dieu Donné and the Center for Book Arts in New York. She also participated in artists' residencies in Finland and India. While in the City of Québec, she was an active member of the Engramme artists' centre.

Karen Trask's creations offer an examination of historical, material and future issues represented in the book as object. Poetic and dreamlike, her books reveal that by documenting personal history in a book, one carries on a universal quest to find, in this very object, the right space for inscribing meaningful symbols.