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East Coast
Lizzy Hill
Kristiina Lahde at Anna Leonowens Gallery
August 13, 2013

There is a certain clinical beauty in order. In his 1919 essay "The Study of Mathematics," Bertrand Russell describes the "supreme beauty" present in mathematics: "a beauty cold and austere, like that of sculpture, without appeal to any part of our weaker nature, without the gorgeous trappings of painting or music, yet sublimely pure, and capable of a stern perfection such as only the greatest art can show." Artist Kristiina Lahde uses measuring instruments to craft an aesthetic experience with much murkier underpinnings than those Russell praises, exploring the tension between utilitarian design, aesthetics, and obsolescence. She explores an aesthetic geometric beauty that lies, not in accuracy or functionality, but in ambiguity, chance, and illusion.

Kristiina Lahde, Metric System (blue and double white), 2013, altered measuring tapes

For her artist residency at Anna Leonowens Gallery, the Toronto artist returned to Halifax, where she completed her BFA at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, to create a site-specific work. "What I've done is used a surveyor's measuring tape that's used for measuring great distances, and I've used it here, creating this kind of squared off spiral formation," explains Lahde. She has hand-folded and nailed each corner into the wall, using the tape to create a continuous line that spirals into an intricate geometric pattern. "As the pattern becomes more and more established there's an optical illusion – I hope – that begins to happen," she says. Indeed, Lahde obscures the functionality of the measuring tape to create a pattern in which the distance between two points appears ambiguous to the viewer, prompting doubts as to the accuracy of the measuring units marked on the tape. The artist explains: "There's this reliance on measurement but then a distortion of measurement at the same time."

Lahde's work, unlike the measuring tape, doesn't purport to be universal in its ability to describe the points between objects in our world, but rather embraces its specificity. She created the piece to fit snugly into the gallery walls at Anna Leonowens. "I'm really happy to be back in Halifax," she says. "For me the highlight has been to work in the gallery and create this piece that's site dependent, that I made specifically for the space."

Anna Leonowens Gallery:
See website for current exhibitions.

Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog's Halifax correspondent and can be followed @LizzyFHill on Twitter.



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