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Lindsay Sorell
Handpic'd 2018 at Viviane Art Gallery
July 26, 2018

Handpic’d 2018 is the fifth annual invitational exhibition of emerging and newly graduated artists at Viviane Art Gallery. This iteration features three award-winning artists capsizing ancient or craft-based artmaking techniques: bronze, woodwork, intaglio, chine-collé, silkscreen, and graphite. Drawing the three artists together seems to be the desire to make tactile some virtual reality sensibility. Envisioning absurdist fictions with traditional artmaking techniques, each rigorous work is a means for understanding loss – loss of tradition, of experience, of material.

Sean Taal, Sun Blisters, 2018, graphite, pencil crayon, paracord, paper

Sean Taal’s intricately drawn graphite drawings of cave-like hairy tents and cloaks – both comforting and haunting, awe-inspiring and horrifying – are pierced and hung with paracords and chains, and secured with zip-ties. Sighting at Horne Lake is a graphite drawing of a cave or rock-structure with a speech bubble coming out of it, inside of which is another cave. The drawing hangs from a camo carabiner clipped to an O-ring screwed into the wall – an O-shape that persists throughout his work. An avocado-shaped hole is cut in Troglophile, a drawing on black paper mounted perpendicular to the wall like a flag, with a white drawing of the hole next to it. A rock also hangs from the frame from a string, as if the key to the yawning hole. Taal plays with absence and presence as the key to each another. The practical and ornamental meet in his strange collaborations between romance and Home Depot – both inviting and apprehensive, intimate and penitentiary.

Megan Feniak, Self as Large Hadron Collider, 2018, silkscreen on paper

Megan Feniak’s staggering multi-disciplinary practice of silkscreen and handmade sculptural works showcases a playful and complex investigation of the metaphysical. Drawing from Shaker ideology and carpentry, her hand-carved cherry wood daggers lay side-by-side next to her Metaphysical Gloves, a pair of green gloves made of raw canvas and painted with pigmented silicon, and Clasps, a bronze sculpture of pliers, its jaws replaced by a pointer finger and thumb. Several silkscreens of mythical roles such as Self as Large Hadron Collider or Dust Walker are also scattered around the room, one of them printed on the fir planks of what appears to be broken pieces of an old toboggan. Goggles carved of redwood with lenses made of rough cut fluorite rest on a small wooden shelf with gloves so the viewer can look through them. Her work feels like literal and figurative graspings, consciously futile attempts at holding onto the invisible, as if in pursuit of that feeling of impossibility.

Kellen Spencer, Disassembling an Illegal Suite, 2018, intaglio, chine-collé

Kellen Spencer’s thematically strong black and white intaglio and chine-collé prints similarly render the absurd narrative, but with a further introspective and almost surrealist sleight. One print titled Disassembling an Illegal Suite depicts the frame of a house in a treed landscape stripped of all drywall, roof, and furniture, save for an outlet and one clock on the wall that reads 11:47. A sofa sits out on the grass and a door lays on the floor. I’m surprised the clock is not melting. In another print, Six Foot Basement and a Pile of Dirt, a pile of dirt and garbage spills down over the unfinished foundations of a building that has not yet been built. A dotted outline of the planned building can be seen faintly in the background, as if drawn with computer-aided drawing design software. A desolate prairie scene, the landscape is completely flat behind the foundation, punctuated by a flat fence on the horizon. “Home” is something desolate, dreams yet unmet, a maquette of projected lives in space.

For each of these emerging artists, craftsmanship, whimsy, and an undercurrent of aloof aggression plays a role. Using absurdist and mythical narratives as a lens, they explore the familiar and abject with alarming but energizing uses of new craftsmanship.

Handpic’d 2018 continues until July 28.
Viviane Art Gallery:
The gallery is accessible.

Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer who recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly. She is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram.



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