Wet snow appeared briefly in the backyard this morning and it seemed that winter was looming as I set out to see some galleries along Dundas Street West, between Dufferin and Ossington, on this cold, blustery, overcast afternoon.
I was surprised to see the work of Laura Kikauka (with Carl Hamfelt) at MKG127. For some reason I had some vague, preconceived notion about what was waiting along this particular stretch of Dundas and this wasn’t it.
The show, which is entitled What Box?, is in fact filled with unanticipated and engrossing work that, as the title suggests, defies categorization.
Stadium Moment $200
Laura Kikauda’s work is truly eccentric. She mines a rich vein of our consumer society’s debris to create numerous tiny, perfect worlds with her own uniquely disquieting sensibility. The show also contains video and various sculptures but it is the delicate, miniature dioramas which are the most fascinating aspect of this exhibition.
Installation view of dioramas by Laura Kikauda
Each of the boxes, about four or five inches square or a bit larger, is accompanied by a title and a price, hand written by the artist.
The Bright Underbelly of Subversion $300
Undoubtedly, the work is related to Joseph Cornell‘s boxes, through the form itself and the nod to
Surrealism, but whereas Cornell’s art evoked nostalgia and used fragments of desirable objects to create something referencing a lost reality, that is not the case with Laura Kikauka’s pieces. The materials she uses were never particularly precious or beautiful; instead she salvages that which was always more or less worthless. And the pieces she creates have a fragile, lyrical strangeness to them that is like the flotsam of another world. Its easy to become transfixed before any of these odd pieces as they appear to capture moments in some transitory and unsettling narrative.
Great Escape $280
One of the sculptural pieces uses black dominoes on which the artist has inscribed texts commonly found on tomb stones. These solid little rectangles are Minimalism’s opposite.
Wandering around the exhibition I realized I had visited this artist’s studio a few years ago in connection to the Electric Eclectic Festival, which is held near her home, known as The Funny Farm, in Medford, Ontario. There Laura Kikauka lives in a bizarre nest of thousands of found objects. With this exhibition she has shown an uncanny ability to edit a tiny fraction of those items into delicately evocative works of art.
The show at ESP (Erin Stump Projects) has the svelte, young, stylish look I thought I would find along Dundas West.
Kotama Bouabane, who is exhibiting photographs and an installation on the main floor of the gallery, has taken a step up from Home Depot and RONA and explores the wonderful new materials available in the trade shows and interior design display outlets of the world. Outdated, Updated, Renovated is the name of this subtlely sophisticated show.
A sculptural installation consists of an array of materials displayed to create a tableau of colour, texture and surface.
Kotama Bouabane also uses photography. The artist captures incidental moments in the display universe to create almost formalist, painterly images which subvert the literal function of the materials.
Upstairs at ESP is an exhibition called Painting with Fire. It contains a number of cermanic pieces and photographs of ceramic pieces produced by Naomi Yasui during a residency in Denmark. These bulbous, ungainly forms, lightly mottled and coloured in nuanced gold and red, have a powerful, slightly menacing presence, like a science experiment gone wrong.
According to the notes in the gallery, the process the artist used to make these works, known as “atmospheric firing” has a certain unpredictability. The aspect of chance in the process is an important element in the work. In that connection Naomi Yasui displayed a large box containing the process “rejects.”
Details of “reject” items from Naomi Yasui’s exhibition
I am a big fan of looking up close at unframed drawings. Technically the art pieces by Scott Waters, pinned nakedly to the wall at Le Gallery are paintings – he uses something called acrylic ink – but they have a deft freshness that feels drawing-like. The deep, seductive blacks and unerring compositions make these artpieces a pleasure to view.
The content is intense. From 1989 to 1992 Scott Waters served as an infantryman in the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Bravo “B” Company. Maybe that explains his focus on disaster and folly in the series. The unrelenting twisters, the charred cabin of a downed airliner, the collapsed span: all have a Warhol-style cold eye on tragedy and mayhem.
Some of the works have an emotional charge, like the depiction of the startled doe in headlights or the stoned chanteuse. We see the impending crisis and we want them to survive.