Thea Yabut's MFA exhibition Lines of Necessity at the McIntosh Gallery focuses on expanding both traditional and contemporary drawing vocabularies within a highly personal project. Through a process of sedimentation, pattern, and physical yet careful mark-making, Yabut's experience of drawing is made palpable. Color appears more like texture – Yabut favors tonal color via a wide spectrum of greys. Drawings of dense, armor-like waves of marks compete with small paper constructions more concerned with pared down gestures. In these smaller works, string, wire, and folded paper both fix and continue drawings without really leaving the intimate confines of the paper. A lone diamond-shaped drawing of a yellow pattern resembling snakeskin or fur is rendered upon the wall itself, shifting the traditional sense of paper's flatness into a zone that is deliberately haptic. Other drawings resemble digitally manipulated effects that feign melting, smearing, and stretching. Yabut created these in part with improvised drawing tools such as a graphite "comb". In the largest drawing, Yabut's repeated inclusion of unmarked areas of paper in between territories of heavily-attentive pattern appear as desert or bodies of water next to intricately mapped continents.
Thea Yabut, Links, 2013, string, ink, chalk pastel (photo: Brad Isaacs)
A second MFA exhibition, Giles Whitaker's Listening Space, is featured in the McIntosh's smaller gallery. His "soundscapes" – audio-recordings of London-based spaces – are linked to looped videos of running water, slanted weeds and insects, corroding metal, and assorted outdoor spaces. When the fluctuating sounds of weather and traffic match directly with corresponding outdoor shots, those spaces are made heavier, wetter, and colder, or seem dispersed like dust. Other audio recordings less tied to visual cues behave more like partial mind-maps of daily space. In markets, bars, restaurants, buses, and various buildings, distinct human voices float, serving as anchors and guides. Without the inherently instructional nature of visuals, these recordings are experienced drip-by-drip, allowing more room to think through previous spaces and layers of sound, and remain more conscious of the natural bracing and straining of the ear.
Structural Breakdown, an off-site series of works installed on a busy downtown area of London consist of metal boxes (carefully installed and designed to be innocuous) containing sound-synthesis software written by Whitaker. The boxes' sounds randomly shift in volume and tones meant to blend in while simultaneously insinuating themselves within the territorial routines of public space. On my visit, these sounds were barely discernible from the usual swarm of traffic, wind, and passing Londoners. Listening closer, I heard the boxes' oddly structured sounds become more independent, although still quite camouflaged. Perhaps they are better tested by those waiting for buses or sitting on nearby patios. My brief exposure was akin to listening to a slow, seething, low-toned mimicry of (or dry commentary on) the monotonous, reverberating fog of surrounding noise.
McIntosh Gallery: http://mcintoshgallery.ca/exhibitions/current.html
Thea Yabut: Lines of Necessity continues until September 14.
Giles Whitaker: Listening Space continues until September 14.
Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, including the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Stride Gallery, and Skew Gallery in Calgary. She has contributed writing to FFWD, shotgun-review.ca, Prairie Artsters, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Stride Gallery, Truck Gallery, and most recently Susan Hobbs Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.
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