Preview: Afterword

April 12, 2013 § Leave a comment

Emily Butko


The graduating class of University of Toronto’s Visual Studies program holds a group exhibition each year. This year’s exhibition titled Afterword, seeks to express twenty unique perspectives that have been molded over the course of the three to four years in the Visual Studies Program. The goal of the show is to portray the heterogeneous nature of the program in a unified and collected manner. As a participant in the upcoming show, I had the opportunity to interview a few of the artists involved, to give a better understanding of the variety of works that will be displayed in  Afterword.

Regina Efendieva is one of 20 students involved in the planning and execution of the show. As for every student in the graduating class, the show will feature art that has been created by Regina throughout the course of the past two semesters. Regina’s work deals with the way in which slight alterations can transform something beautiful into something grotesque. Through her drawings, she strives to find points of tension in the way we view the body.

EB: Regina, many of your drawings and paintings feature malevolent themes and specifically mutated females. Can you describe the inspiration for this reoccurring content in your work?


Regina Efendieva. Oxymoron, 2012. 15″ x 20″. Oil on Canvas.

RE: I deal with the female shape because it is more familiar to me as a woman, and also because I have an aesthetic appreciation for the prettiness of the feminine shape. In my art I like to focus on the way in which the human body can be modified, taken apart and put back together, or mixed with elements that are foreign to it. Because of these changes, my work takes on a dark tone, since the end result almost always looks mutated, or uncomfortable. For me, inspiration comes from the pretty universal desire of changing one’s own physical shape. In my daily life I am tempted to alter aspects of myself, and I think this same drive is what pushes me to focus on morphing the female shape in my art.

EB: Can you talk about your experience as part of the Thesis class?

RE: The thesis class has been extremely beneficial because it has forced me to understand all that needs to come together in order to create an art show. Up to this point, all I’ve thought about when it comes to galleries and exhibitions is the work and the curating process. By being a part of the Thesis class, I now understand all the other elements that make the whole show come together.

Student artist, Stu Monck is the curator of Afterword and has been working painstakingly to prepare the spaces for the upcoming show. Stu’s work focuses on engagements with visual culture and materiality. His primary mediums are photography, video, and installation and his work investigates the possibilities of media and process.

EB: Stu, I have had many classes with you and I have noticed that much of your work, especially your video installation, has an ambient and almost hypnotic quality. Are you trying to  mesmerize your audience?


Stu Monck. Untitled, 2013. 30″ x 40″. Cyanotype and enamel on linen.

SM: You’re right. Looking back over my work from the past few years, there is a kind of hypnotic nature. Enveloping the audience is something I think through with every project, whether time-based or otherwise. For the viewer to slow down and engage with an artwork, to experience it, is very important to me. In fact, I feel my work is poor without this experience, and has little personal importance without it.

EB: You are curating Afterword. Will this be the first show that you have curated? How has the experience been for you?

SM: I have curated before, but not on this scale. Grouping the works of twenty young artists, with varying ability and aesthetic, has been a frustrating and fascinating process. Working with each artist, finding affinity between the works, and finally seeing the show come into being has been an exceptional experience.

Finally, Polina Teif, who exhibits in Toronto primarily as a member of XXXX Collective will be installing a variety of photographs at Afterword. Polina explores images, which are clearly constructed. She challenges herself to use only the most essential means necessary to convey ideas through photographs. Her photographs of these contemporary cultural artifacts are used as tools to investigate societal issues.

EB: Polina, What is your process of finding the specific items that you choose to photograph and study?

PT: I try to find mass produced manufactured products readily available in the consumer market. I am interested in exploring the underlying economic and cultural conditions that allow us to see these items as common and everyday. I try to select items most people use and carry in their households but do not give them much thought beyond their inherent function.

EB: You are a practicing artist with XXXX collective. How has your experience with the Thesis class been different from working with the collective?


Polina Teif. Sandwich Bag (Selection brand).2013. Photograph. 4’x4′.

PT: Working with 3 other individuals in XXXX Collective is different than working with 17 artists simply due to the number of people involved. With thesis we share the workload while with the collective we all bear more responsibilities each. Thesis is a collective of students who wanted to sign up for that course. Xxxx is brought together by a shared aesthetic and thus it is easier to make a cohesive show centered around a single theme, something which is impossible to do in thesis, apples and oranges. Both are tasty but they are hard to compare.

To find out more about XXXX Collective, visit the groups website at

Afterword’s Opening Reception will take place on Friday April 19th from 7 – 10 pm and is located at 563 Spadina Crescent, Toronto in the North Borden Building. The show will also be open to the public from April 20th – 21st from 11am – 5pm.

For more information about Afterword and the artists involved, visit or follow Afterword on Twitter: @Afterword2013

Luminescence: The Silver of Peru @ UTAC

April 10, 2013 § Leave a comment

Olivia Tang

It seems that all that glitters is not gold, but silver at the University of Toronto Art Centre!


Pomander, silver, Huanuco, XIX Century, Barbosa-Stern Collection, Peru.

Last month, Luminescence: the silver of Peru made its debut here at University of Toronto after its successful run in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia’s Museum of Anthropology. Curated by Dr. Anthony Shelton (Director of the MoA), the exhibit brings together over 140 works that span 2,500 years from the pre-Columbian period all the way to contemporary times in Peru. These works, borrowed from both public and private collections, are considered national treasures and some have never been seen outside of Peru.


Pre-Columbian Body Ornament, Larco Museum, Peru.

This dazzling exhibit traces the history and significance of silver in Peruvian culture. Jewelry, crowns, masks, paintings, art pieces and various utilitarian objects chronicle the story of a civilization that never lost its identity despite a colonial Catholic takeover by the Spanish in the sixteenth century. Each object displays amazing artistry and craftsmanship with awe-inspiring intricacy that retains the spirit of Peru through the ages!


Silver Dance Crown, Vivian and Jaime Liébana Collection, Lima, Peru.

Following various exhibits featuring Peruvian gold, Luminescence reinforces the Inca belief that silver is not only just as beautiful and brilliant as gold, but also equal to gold in importance. Both metals were revered for their spiritual significance rather than monetary value, and each represented an important part of a sacred duality (namely that of the Sun and Moon deities and other relative dualities such as male and female).  Precious metals were also used to represent the elite because of their radiant qualities, which associated them with the sacred. The exhibit glows vibrantly and can be seen even before one enters the main gallery of UTAC – making it terribly difficult to deny the magic emitting from the radiant objects! The subtle yet meticulously planned lighting in the gallery beautifully highlights the theme of luminescence and the reflective qualities of silver.



Richard Mamani, Hugo Champi, Madre spondylus, 2002, Patronato Plata del Peru Collection, Peru.

Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition: 2013

April 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Emily Butko

Last week, following the last lecture of my undergraduate career at the University of Toronto, I had the utmost pleasure of joining my classmates, instructors and fellow art lovers at the Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition, which took place in UTAC’s art lounge and Delta Gamma Gallery. Curated by Anne Ahrens-Embleton. Andrea Dixon, Meaghan Eldridge and Danielle Megaffin, The Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition (formerly the Chancellor’s Student Art Exhibit) features forty works created by thirty-one student-artists in the Visual Studies Programs across the three University of Toronto campuses. These artists use their work to explore themes that are relevant to all of our everyday lives.

Like many student-assembled art exhibitions, the show featured an extensive variety of aesthetics, themes and mediums. The work is chosen by the instructors of the Visual Studies Program throughout the year from various projects and assignments. The works are  then judged and selected for the show by the curators, who this year are students in the Master of Museum Studies Program, organizing the installation as a core part of their academic program.  This year the curators selected work that highlighted each student artist’s expression of his or her personal story through art using relatable themes. 


Evan Fischer. WoodRot, 2013. Video Installation, 1 min. 11 sec. on loop.

Perhaps because of my affinity for video art, I was immediately drawn to a piece by student-artist, Evan Fischer. Inspired by found footage, Evan’s video installation, WoodRot, takes the seemingly innocuous form of an informational PSA. Through a subtle and fleeting transition between text from the original instructional video (on solving the problems of wood rot) and Evan’s own politically charged text, the artist successfully creates an eerie and uneasy tone in this piece. The subtly of the transition between texts makes you watch over and over again, becoming increasingly engaged with each loop. The 1 minute and eleven second, looped video is a comment on the government’s response to political protest. WoodRot, playfully offers a manual to suppress civil unrest but offers neither solutions to the problems or preventative measures. The piece, displayed on a small CRT TV, is a critique on how the world treats and acknowledges citizens who challenge their governments. 


Evan Fischer. WoodRot, 2013.

WoodRot won 3rd place in the Shelley Peterson Student Art Exhibition. Evan is in his final year at the University of Toronto, studying both Visual and Film Studies. He says he doesn’t know what is next for him, but that he will continue to develop his artwork. 

The Good, The Bad, and The Untapped

April 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

A review of The Artist Project: Juried Contemporary Art Fair

By Emily Butko


On February 22nd I had the pleasure of attending The Artist Project, a contemporary art fair at Toronto’s Exhibition Place. Featuring more than 250 carefully juried independent contemporary artists, The Artist Project provides the opportunity to explore and support Canadian and international artist from various disciplines. With very minimal information on the event, I had no idea what I was getting myself into! The large number of artworks displayed at this fair showed great variety of expression. I could have easily spent the entire weekend meandering up and down the endless aisles engaging with  the good, the bad and the downright ugly, but alas, I needed to find something worth writing about. In the end it was the Untapped Emerging Artist booths that caught (and kept) my attention.  As a strategy to support budding artists, The Artist Project’s organizers select 14 of the country’s best up-and-coming artists from hundreds of applications and  showcase their work in the art fair, free of charge (booths at the fair can cost anywhere from $1000 – 4000 for the weekend). For me, it was this outnumbered group that produced some of the most interesting and engaging works displayed at the event. I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview one of the featured up-and-coming artists, Rachel Vanderzwet. A recent graduate of the University of Guelph (BAH honors in Studio Art) Rachel is an emerging artist living and working in Guelph, Ontario. Subtly hinting at the recognizable, Rachel’s paintings whimsically drift between abstraction and representation. Eye-popping colour and dynamic brushstrokes successfully instill a sense of energy and motion in the viewer. Her work not only engaged me, but also kept me intrigued, searching for a referent and ultimately leaving me with a mystery, igniting my imagination.  The following is an interview with the artist:


EB: How did you hear about The Artist Project? Could you describe your experience in the Untapped Emerging Artist Competition?

RV: I heard about The Artist Project through a friend that was in the Emerging Artists section last year. She really enjoyed her experience so I thought I would try it out for myself. The Artist Project was a great weekend for meeting and getting to know other artists, inviting discussion of my current work and getting my name out to a wider audience.


EB: Looking at your older work, I can see the progression from representation to abstraction. Why the transition?

RV: I made the translation into abstraction fairly naturally. I still paint from realistic sources and sketches that I think offer a certain sense of recognizabilty in the work. I found that personally, however, there was a lot more I could play with as things became less distinct. There was a freedom and sense of fun and exploration that I had found somewhat limited within representation. It also gives me greater opportunity to explore colour, gesture and the materiality.


EB: Do you have any upcoming scheduled shows or gallery Exhibitions? What’s next for you?

RV: Currently I am back to the studio! I hope to focus more on showing in the public gallery system in the months to come but welcome opportunities to exhibit on many fronts.


Rachel Vanderzwet. Belted Lace, 2012. Oil on Panel. 11″ x 14″.


EB: Do you have any advice for newly emerging artists and recent grads?

RV: I would say the most important thing to do as an emerging artist and/or recent grad is to keep working. Find a way to practice your art and be aware of opportunities to show. You never know what may pan out and there are lots of experiences and opportunities available, specifically for artists new to the scene.

Rachel’s work can be viewed at her website,

To learn more about The Artist Project visit 

Human Rights Human Wrongs at the Ryerson Image Centre

April 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

By Emily Butko

Recently I had the privilege of visiting the Ryerson Image Centre (RIC) to see the HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS exhibition by guest curator Mark Sealy, located in the centre’s main gallery. 

In 2010, The RIC invited Curator Mark Sealy, to Toronto to research the school’s prestigious Black Star Collection of approximately 292,000 photojournalistic prints.  

Featuring more than 300 original prints from the Black Star Collection, HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS begins in 1945 and includes photographs of iconic U.S. civil-rights events, independence movements throughout Africa, Nobel Peace Prize-winners, political protests in South America and the war in Vietnam and Rwanda.

By providing bite-sized postcards for each year following the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Sealy offers an in-depth historical background for the photographs. The postcards provide information on significant historical events that were simultaneously taking place throughout the world, highlighting important links between events that are frequently discussed in isolation.

Sealy’s accompanying essay, HUMAN RIGHTS AND WRONGS 1945 – 1994: THE END OF WAITING (Mining the Black Star Collection at Ryerson University) provides the viewer with a contextual framework from which to critically engage with the photos that are presented. He describes the events leading up to the establishment of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and explores the colonized subjects’ contradictory experiences of World War II, fighting against the European Axis powers’ tyranny while being subjected to European Allied forces’ racism. He describes how these conflicting positions influenced an epistemic shift away from European ideology and towards a new sense of self and political purpose, which in effect shaped the direction of independence and de-colonialist movements across the world. Sealy provides a brief but useful background on the history of photojournalism and its role in these political and racial struggles. A summary of the essay, located on the east wall of the gallery, also provides a contextual framework, from which the viewer can critically engage with the exhibit without having to read the essay that is provided in the catalogue (available to read in the gallery and for sale).

As Sealy’s essay suggests, the photographs provide a look into the 20th century that forces the viewer to consider how so much wrong has been enacted on the human body within the climate of change. The curator’s subtle reference to the 6th article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Right to Recognition as a Person before the Law” reminds the viewer to consider whether these images of political struggle, suffering and victims of violence work for or against humanitarian objectives. The sculptural cache of every copy of the photojournalism magazine, LIFE, from 1963 – 1972, reminds us of the cultural position and disproportionate power of the Western media, and specifically, of the Western photographer.

HUMAN RIGHTS HUMAN WRONGS is on view at the Ryerson Image Centre, located at 33 Gould Street, from January 23 to April 14, 2013. 

To find out more about the Ryerson Image Centre and the Black Star Collection, visit

Eyeball @ 1 Spadina Crescent

December 13, 2012 § 2 Comments

Eyeball @ 1 Spadina Crescent


1 Spadina Crescent, Toronto, Ontario. Source:

Last Friday marked the last Eyeball show at 1 Spadina Crescent (otherwise known as the creepy old building in the middle of Spadina Avenue shared by the University of Toronto’s Visual Studies and Architecture students). As the building will be undergoing extensive renovations starting in the new year, both departments are relocating and likely won’t be back for at least 3 years, if at all.

Eyeball is the annual University of Toronto undergraduate art show that features projects from both VIS and Architecture students. The name of the show pays homage to the history of the building, which operated as the Ontario division of the Eye Bank of Canada until just a few years ago. (Consequently, the student art show may have to undergo a name change in following years!)

As a VIS student myself, it is always rewarding to see all the blood, sweat and tears of my classmates and I coming together in the days leading up to the night of Eyeball. It is even more special to be able to share it with friends and family. It is a chance to interact outside of the classroom and see what has been going on in other classes – I often find myself in awe and inspired by the talent and dedication I find as I wander through the halls. Slowly the barren walls of the old, run-down building become covered with paintings, illustrations, prints and photographs, while various rooms are filled with sculptures, scale models, installations and performance pieces; the building is transformed into a museum playhouse of sorts! The variety of media reflects the variety of ideas and creativity contained within the building.


Artist with work. Hannah Watson, 16 Portraits of Strange Strangers, watercolour on paper, 2012. Taken by author with permission of artist.

While our Visual Studies program is frustratingly small, we are lucky to be offered the opportunity to try out many different artistic mediums and practices (many of us are actually forced to try things out of our comfort zone in order to fulfill our program requirements!). Additionally, the wonderful thing about studying art at U of T is that we are often involved in other areas of study and can integrate our academic experiences with our artistic expression – and it shows! Many of the works presented at Eyeball showcased artistic talent, but also plenty of underlying research, knowledge, concepts and theories from other fields that inform the work.

It is interesting to see the evolution of works displayed each year at Eyeball. With so many students, there is always something new and unexpected, yet there are often common themes or threads of ideas that may change or evolve through each generation of students. (For example, in recent years, internet trends or memes have become a very popular subject of focus in student works.) One can sometimes even trace the evolution of an artist as he or she matures. Regardless of how familiar or unfamiliar you are with the works produced by VIS or architecture students, there is always a rich variety of artistry to capture your attention.


Vivian Kong, Fortune Lanterns, two views (lights off and lights on) paper lantern installation, 2012. Courtesy of artist.

In addition to giving students an opportunity to relax and show off all the hard work that they have done, shows such as Eyeball really provide a great opportunity to illustrate that a largely academic university such as U of T also has a very creative and artistic side (hopefully also reminding those in charge that a little program like ours need nurturing!). It is my hope that the appreciation of art at U of T will grow and inspire more people to get in touch with their creativity!

Unfortunately all the works were quickly removed after Eyeball as everyone prepares for the big move out of the building, but please make sure to keep an eye out for next year’s student exhibition!

—Olivia Tang


Olivia Tang, Epigraph (after James Nares), relief print, 2012.

“Tag, you’re it!” @ Queen Street West

December 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

The narrow streets around Queen Street West between Spadina Avenue and Bathurst Street are the homes to some of Toronto’s most colourful pieces of public artwork. Located at the heart of Toronto’s former Fashion District, it is here that you will find artworks starting from “tags” – the most basic calligraphy of an artist’s name, to large community murals. While the works of street artists differ from those hung in art galleries, street artists  still manage to capture a large audience with their aesthetic forms and messages. For some talented young artists in Toronto, the empty walls of buildings serve as their first canvases. While trying to creatively express their artistic abilities, these artists have turned the alleys connected to Queen Street West into a venue for art appreciation.

In a multicultural city such as Toronto, the images created by artists of different socio-economic and cultural backgrounds appeal to a wide variety of audience of different ethnicities and languages. With the continuous addition of new graffiti, the face of the street is always changing. In a way, the images on the walls are recording current affairs and pop culture as they happen. As much as personal expression, the graffiti is also a tool for education and a form of social expression in the way it highlights social and political issues. Furthermore, the artwork brightens up areas of space that would otherwise be left dull and dingy.

The TTC system makes these tags, graffiti and murals very accessible to the general public.  So stop by Queen Street West one day and soak in the colours of Toronto. My favorite piece of work in the area is a colourful mural painted by the Harbourfront Community Centre, located at the intersection of Vanauley Street and Queen Street West. What’s yours?

-Tanzila AhmedImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

The Clock by Christian Marclay @ The Power Plant

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

We have all experienced those moments where we stare at the clock and time seems to drag on and on and on… but have you ever found yourself enjoying it? Christian Marclay’s 24-hour ‘movie’ The Clock certainly had me mesmerized with each passing second.

Comprised of thousands of film and television clips, The Clock is a 24-hour video collage that examines how time, plot and duration are depicted in cinema. Marclay and his team meticulously weave together fragments of various stories to create a shattered narrative held together by the continuous flow of time. While each scene may originally be unrelated to the next or the one before, Marclay masterfully overlays and splices video and audio clips to create a loosely continuous narrative ushered along by the passing of time. The audience is bombarded with various storylines and we try to make sense of it all together until we finally realize that it is impossible because the ‘story’ isn’t about specific characters or events. While the pieces seem to build up something, we are never truly granted a climax or conclusion; scenes are never allowed to run long enough to develop into anything more than a passing moment. This is a representation of human life through a much larger scope than what we are accustomed to; we see life through various eyes driven by time rather than through the eyes of one protagonist, driven by plot.

The time in the video is synchronized with real time, making each viewer painfully aware of each minute as shots of clocks, watches, sundials and other time-telling devices grace the screen every minute or two (and even when there is no time displayed on the screen, you’ll find yourself checking your watch or cell phone to make sure it’s still on track). This connection with the real world only adds another layer to this remarkable work about life within time.


Still from Christian Marclay, The Clock, 2010, Single channel video, Duration: 24 hours. Purchased 2011 with the generous support of Jay Smith and Laura Rapp, and Carol and Morton Rapp, Toronto. Jointly owned by the National Gallery of Canada and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Courtesy the Artist, White Cube, London and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.

It is a strange experience – movies usually provide an escape from the real world and we often lose track of time as we immerse ourselves in the stories we are told, yet The Clock does quite the opposite! While still captivated by each unfolding scene (some sneakily spliced together to create a more continuous flow in the grand scheme of the work), you are constantly aware of the real world as you check the time and take a look around to see if the people sitting around you have left yet (as viewers are free to come and go as they please within gallery hours or during special 24-hour viewing periods).

The ‘narrative’ of The Clock evokes themes and atmospheres associated with each particular time – the lazy mornings after sleeping in until 11am, the hustle and bustle of the 5pm rush hour, or even the build up during the last few minutes before the hour turns. It is a testament to how much time affects our daily lives, yet we rarely realize it. We begin to notice what time means to us; we become aware of the tension and release that follows the ebb and flow of time. The Clock really is a stunning masterpiece in its intricate detailing and magnificent editing (three years in the making!).

Christian Marclay’s The Clock is playing at The Power Plant until November 25. The gallery operates on normal business hours during the week but will be open for a special extended viewing period during The Clock’s closing weekend (from 10am on November 23 to 5pm on November 25) so make sure to check it out! Will you be able to watch the work in its entirety?


Christian Marclay, The Clock, 2010, installation view

For more info, please visit

—Olivia Tang



SPLICE: At the Intersection of Art & Medicine @ UTAC

December 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

The University of Toronto Art Centre and Blackwood Gallery at the University of Toronto Mississauga co-present SPLICE: At the Intersection of Art and Medicine, a show that brings together works that explore ideas and representations of the human body from both artistic and scientific perspectives. This exhibit reminds us that disciplines and ideas that we normally separate need not be segregated from one another – they may actually be interdependent.

The exhibit showcases traditional anatomical illustrations that we often expect to see in textbooks or in doctors’ offices, but rarely under spotlights on the walls of a gallery. Curator Nina Czegledy brings to light these beautiful and masterfully rendered diagrams that not only required a thorough scientific understanding of the body to create, but also vast artistic skill. We often dismiss these works as mere educational diagrams and underestimate the time, talent and effort that went into their creation (especially when technological advances have provided us with the ability to render almost anything we desire with unimaginable accuracy). It is only under the context of a gallery setting that we as an audience come to realize and appreciate all the blood, sweat and tears that produced these meticulously detailed works; they deserve a closer look and a deeper appreciation for their fine craftsmanship.

SPLICE also touches on the history of Biomedical Communications (formerly the Department of Medical Art Service) at the University of Toronto, highlighting and recognizing the work of a group of women that were vital to the development of the program, as well as the creation of the first anatomical atlas produced and published in North America (initiated by Dr. J.C.B. Grant of the University of Toronto in 1941). Maria Wishart, Eila Hopper-Ross, Nancy Joy, Dorothy Foster Chubb, Elizabeth Blackstock and Marguerite Drummond were rarely credited in the various editions of Grant’s Atlas (which is still in print today). Yet together, they created works that represent an important legacy in the field.

Contemporary artworks are also featured in SPLICE, creating a complementary yet challenging dialogue with the traditionally formal illustrations. In these works, the body takes on immensely different meanings. As Czegledy notes in her introductory essay “The Body Revealed” in the brochure accompanying the exhibit, “Today the body is frequently politicized, symbolized, and even digitized in order to manipulate, to dissect and provoke.” Artists such as Orshi Drozdik, Catherine Richards, Piotr Wyrzkowski, Diana Burgoyne and many others push the body beyond the boundaries of medicine into various other territories where it takes on boundless connotations and associations. These works invite the viewer to think about what the body has become to us; they challenge us to re-evaluate preconceived notions and encourage us to think about the body in ways we have never considered.

SPLICE: At the Intersection of Art and Science runs until December 1, 2012. Go interact with a glass heart, find out what the mind is and appreciate some amazing artwork! Make sure to check out the SPLICE exhibit at the Blackwood Gallery of UTM as well, also running until December 1.

-Olivia Tang

03ChubbAnatomical Drawing

Left: Dorothy Foster Chubb, Head (Detail), carbon dust, 1942-1945.

A Question of Perception

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Toronto-based artist Evan Penny has been creating works for over twenty-five years, but only in the last decade has he really been pushing the boundaries of his own practice. The touring exhibition Re Figured, currently on display on the fourth floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario, is an examination of the various issues Penny explores through his creations.

The decision to include one early work, a less than life size nude male sculpture entitled Jim (1985) offers a point of reference for the viewers.  Jim demonstrates that Penny has been focusing on the human body since the 1980s,  and particularly issues related to the representation of the human body in the media, and also our perception of the body in three-dimensional space. Jim Revisited (2011) is also included in the exhibition as a means of examining the advancement of Penny’s practice since the 1980s. It is also relevant because of its play on perception – it is distorted in a way that forces the observers to question the viewpoint or angle from which they are observing the work.

Re Figured consists of two large open spaces, as well as five smaller rooms. Four of the smaller rooms contain works from various series, such as Backs (2004-2008), No One – In Particular Series 1 (2001-2005) and Series 2 (2004-2007), and Old Self, Young Self (2010-2011).  The fifth room is dedicated solely to the step-by-step process of the way Penny creates his silicone casts. There are posters in this room, a video, and samples of the materials he uses so patrons in the gallery can directly experience the way his sculptures might feel, without actually touching the finished products themselves. The artist is clearly interested in process and progress.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are confronted by Penny’s Stretch #1(2003) one of his silicone casts. While the skin looks extremely real, enough to make the viewer think that touching it would evoke the touch of human skin, the features of the abnormally large face are not proportionate. This is one way the artist articulates his thoughts on the influence of media and the way that the images we see affect the way we perceive ourselves. Penny is also referencing manipulations that can be made in programs such as Photoshop, and what would happen if such two-dimensional forms were projected into three-dimensional space.

It is interesting that related works are placed across from one another, and not beside each other. This underscores Penny’s intentions. The artist is constantly juxtaposing two separate ideas or concepts to demonstrate the way in which they influence or relate to one another. Ultimately the artist is interested in blurring   the boundary between abstraction and figuration.  By placing related works on opposite walls, a conversation is literally created in the physical space that separates the artworks.

People of all ages can relate to the issues that Penny’s work addresses because of the prevelance of our interaction with media in this day and age.

Re-figured, organized by the Kunsthalle, Tübingen, Germany in association with the Art Gallery of Ontario runs through January 6th, 2013 at the AGO.

Jolene McKillop

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