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Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art

Karen Azoulay, The Astronomer’s Mime (2011), video still: Constellation Leo.

Shuvinai Ashoona, Karen Azoulay, Shary Boyle, Spring Hurlbut, and Pamela Norrish

25 November 2016 – 4 February 2017
Opening Reception: Friday 25 November at 7PM

Astral Bodies brings together works that imagine spaces beyond the physical – emotional, mythological, cosmological – tracing efforts to understand the nature of divinity and how we fit into the universe. Featured practices connect to ideas of being, animism, and the power of making the imagination take form. In works that span drawing, sculpture, and video, these artists court intoxicating historical visions that haunt modern imagination in our perpetual quest for knowledge and enlightenment. Here, the night sky recreated with candle flame, hypnotic swirls of human ash, and daydreams on eternity evoke personal positions in relation to the vastness of the world. They also offer fantastical reflections on the juncture between reason and dreams, existing at the meeting point of perception, awareness and philosophy. In the context of Astral Bodies, this assembly of viewpoints results in an exploration of contemporary Western pathologies, contradictions, and anxieties about what lies beyond our immediate reality.

Curated by York Lethbridge

Shuvinai Ashoona was born in Cape Dorset in 1961, the daughter of artists Kiawak Ashoona and Sorosilutu. She began drawing in 1996, and was first included in the Cape Dorset annual print collection in 1997. Ashoona’s work has appeared in exhibitions including: Three Women, Three Generations, McMichael Canadian Collection in 1999; Toronto’s Nuit Blanche in 2008; Justina Barnicke Gallery, Toronto in 2009; The 18th Biennale of Sydney; Sakahans, National Gallery of Canada in 2013, and SITElines 2014: Unsettled Landscapes, Sante Fe, New Mexico.

Karen Azoulay is a multi-disciplinary artist working between sculpture, performance and photography. Her solo exhibitions include: CUE Art Foundation, New York curated by Glenn Ligon; Four Gallery, Dublin; Mercer Union, Toronto; Primetime, Brooklyn; and Dose Projects, Brooklyn. Recent group exhibitions include: Palffyho Palace, Bratislava, Slovakia; The Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY; Stichting, Eindhoven, Netherlands; Lamp Gallery, Tokyo; Art & Idea, Mexico City; Galerie Kunstbuero, Vienna and White Columns, New York among others. Upcoming projects include a solo exhibition at Drew University, Madison, NJ and a commission for The Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery. Azoulay is a Canadian artist currently based in Brooklyn.

Shary Boyle works across diverse media, including sculpture, painting, installation and performance. In 2013, she represented Canada at the 55th Venice Biennale with her project Music for Silence. In 2015 Boyle performed at Toronto's Luminato Festival and the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, as well as creating a commissioned sculpture for the Musee des Beaux Art Montreal. In 2016 she was awarded a public art commission for the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, and participated in Ceramix, Ceramics and art from Rodin to Schutte, at Cite de la ceramique Sevres, and la Maison Rouge, Paris, France. In 2017, Boyle will premiere the touring exhibition Earthlings at the Esker Foundation in Calgary, as well as presenting new work at the Gyeongchung-daero International Ceramic Biannual in Korea, and the Suzanne Biederberg Gallery of Amsterdam. Boyle lives in Toronto.

Born in Toronto in 1952, Spring Hurlbut studied at the Ontario College of Art and the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. Since her installation, A Wall on Location, at P.S.1. Long Island City, New York in 1981, Hurlburt’s work has been included in National and International exhibitions including: The Power Plant, Toronto; Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto; Musee des Beaux-Arts de Montreal; Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver; Manchester Museum, Manchester, UK; Wurttembergischer Kunstverein, Stuttgart, Germany; The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, USA; Creative Time Inc./The Municipal Art Society, New York, USA; and MOCA, Cleveland, USA and most recently The New Orleans Museum of Art, USA. Hurlburt’s work is represented in the collections of numerous institutions including the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, USA; the National Gallery of Canada; the Art Gallery of Ontario; and, the Musee d’art Contemporain de Montreal.

Pamela Norrish studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design, the New York Studio Program at Parsons The New School, New York City, and the Ontario College of Art and Design, Toronto. She has also attended artist residencies at The Banff Centre for the Arts, the Ledge Gallery, Calgary; Mentoring Artist’s for Women’s Art (MAWA), Winnipeg; and Artscape Gibraltar Point, Toronto.

Upcoming Programming:

SPACE: Deborah Edmeades
25 November 2016 – 25 March 2017

The next artist to create a commissioned work for SPACE, Mercer Union’s billboard project, will be Deborah Edmeades.

Edmeades’ work, which ranges loosely between the lens, object-making and drawing, has been focused through a practice of performance that has continued at times outside of an artistic or academic context and into therapeutic and esoteric experiments.

Recent group exhibitions include: The Accursed Share at Artspeak in Vancouver (2016); Performing Franklin Furnace at Participant Inc. and Pratt Manhattan Gallery in New York (2015); and Martha Wilson “Staging the Self” at University of Utah Fine Arts Museum, Nichols Art Gallery at the Pitzer College of Art in Los Angeles, and the Institute of Visual Arts at the University of Wisconsin (2013). She completed an MFA at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver in 2014 and was visiting artist and guest lecturer of performance art at the University of Texas at Austin in 2000.

SPACE is a series of commissioned works for the billboard space on the side of Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art. The series began in the spring of 2014, previous contributing artists include: Liz Knox (CA), Giles Round (UK), Walter Scott (CA), Olivia Plender (UK/SE), Maggie Groat (CA), Carlos Motta (Colombia/USA) and Garrett Phelan (IRL).


For further information about upcoming programming, tours and events or to add your name to our email list please visit our website.

Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art
1286 Bloor Street West
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6H 1N9

Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 11am–6pm
Admission is FREE and all are welcome

Introductory tours every Saturday at 2pm

Mercer Union, a centre for contemporary art, acknowledges the support of its members and volunteers, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Arts Council and the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council.