I first stumbled on the work of Faith La Rocque and Morley Shayuk five years ago when they were sharing the two sides of Katharine Mulherin’s old secondary space. Her algae fountain and hanging plants threw me for a loop and his Construction Site Conceptualism (as I dubbed it) intrigued and confused me in equal measures. What united them – aside from their concurrent displays – was a well-developed personal iconography with roots in an art history that lead back significantly farther than the last five minutes. Both artists have continued to show around town and, while they aren’t shoulder-to-shoulder this time around, they once again have simultaneous exhibitions that provide some indication of how far they’ve come. I’m no longer dumbstruck by their originality, but I still find myself pleasantly perturbed by their particular practices.
Faith La Rocque, chisel to carve light thoughts, 2014, Georgian marble, feather, motor, metal tube
The most striking thing about La Rocque’s exhibition at De Luca Fine Art (in the gallery hinterlands of Avenue Road north of Dupont) is the classical quality of the material she uses in her sculptural installations. She mines an elemental yet august ore that is uncommon amongst the standard downtown artists tropes tied to urban beachcombing, a modest budget, and blinders set on pop culture. Her use of obsidian, brass, marble, and bronze might be tied – as the gallery statement suggests – to alternative health therapies, but it could just as well reflect the resilience of base matter as well as its incorporation in human attempts to achieve immortality by mooching off the minerals’ easy access to eternity. However, when they are combined with organic components like hemp, feathers, or bear bile (or treated like flesh as with the endless electric massage trigger in Conduit) a more complex alchemy emerges. What it all adds up to is beyond me at present, but the feather that mechanically and endlessly brushes a hunk of raw marble in the titular piece chisel to carve light thoughts is a good guide to how persistent one must be both in creating timeless art and in coming to grips with it.
Morley Shayuk, Four Seasons, 2014, acrylic on pine
Shayuk hews to a singular path in his exhibition at Paul Petro. He has spent the last couple years teasing out variations of abstraction that retained something of the Canadian landscape as it appears in paintings of the past as well as the built environment, which – whether you like it or not – defines our home and native land. This means stucco and plastic window frames. It means the kind of geometric patterns that decorate the concrete dividers paralleling the highways from which we too often limit our views of the land around us. It means a smattering of coloured glass and gravel embedded in his gritty surfaces like sparse mosaics of the night sky. And it means these “paintings” are hard to love – which is more of an objective description than a subjective judgement. As such they draw one in to figure out their logic just as much as they probably repel. In the end, I’m won over by the pale colours that highlight the straight lines zipping across some of these large (as in imposing) works, along with the delicate patterns curving around the sole off-the-wall sculpture Four Seasons. Shayuk makes do with media that have fallen from nature, but do what they can to approximate that lost grace. It’s an unsettling place to be and one I’d be happy to revisit time and again.
De Luca Fine Art: http://www.delucafineart.com/
Faith La Rocque: chisel to carve light thoughts continues until October 11.
Paul Petro Contemporary Art: http://www.paulpetro.com/
Morley Shayuk: Lotus continues until October 4.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.
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