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Sarah Todd
Roula Partheniou at Contemporary Calgary
February 25, 2016

Nearly every piece of writing I have read about Toronto-based artist Roula Partheniou’s practice makes reference to how disorienting a studio visit with the artist would be. What’s real? What’s fake?! I now understand the impulse. She is a progenitor of the hand-made readymade: everyday objects (think office supplies) carefully rendered by her own hand out of materials like wood, paint, and paper. The objects are then masterfully arranged in relation to each other and the exhibition space as a strangely familiar though disorienting installation.

Roula Partheniou

Despite the hook of studio material and mistaken identity, as I observed at Contemporary Calgary’s C2 space at City Hall, her objects are not exact replicas. They are more complex than simple props. These things somehow enter an object-oriented uncanny valley. The reproduction is what pulls you in initially, but, on closer inspection, it is just ever so slightly, almost imperceptibly, off – leading you to consider painters’ tape, for example, in an entirely new way.

It’s refreshing to see a solo survey exhibition of an artist dedicated to installation work, rather than the typical inclusion of this type of art into a group exhibition. Inventory is an interesting exhibition (originating from the University of Waterloo Art Gallery) in that it includes a number of different series from the last five years or so of Partheniou’s practice recapitulated within the C2 gallery. The smallish, oddly shaped space has a somewhat homogenizing effect on her various bodies of work, but the exhibition resonates most when it is in dialogue with the area it inhabits. The sheets of ubiquitous blue insulation foam installed on the mezzanine level create a detailed faux renovation scene, playing perfectly on the power of Partheniou’s conceptual mimicry, while winking at Contemporary Calgary’s ambitious plans for their new building.

Contemporary Calgary:
Roula Partheniou: Inventory continues until March 27.

Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.



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