Erik Edson at Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Charlottetown

By Jon Claytor

The moment you walk up the Confederation Centre stairs and enter the cavernous, high ceilinged gallery that houses Sackville-based artist Erik Edson’s retrospective Other Stories, you are in another world. A world where shadows, shapes, reflections, diagrams, and icons offer clues and act as guides for survival. For almost two decades, he has planted these clues in prints and installations so we won’t get lost or overwhelmed in the strange lands of his creation.

Erik Edson, ruins, 2017, hand printed and found fabric on support (photo: Ben Kinder)

At the entrance is Edson’s immersive, large-scale installation ruins. Soft silhouettes in black on yellow of a whimsical and idealized Canadian landscape stretch from floor to ceiling. The trees, hills, and houses appear perfect and pure, but then we notice all is not well in this utopia. A ladder reaches upwards, hopefully, but without destination. Landmasses are disconnected. The trees have soft padded tongues. A door, or entrance, is cut into the landscape but leads to nowhere. On the other side of the room, Edson has placed a small platform or lookout from which the viewer can reflect on this iconic landscape, but it is blocked slightly by the placement of a rudimentary wall. We are invited to contemplate the forms, find the obscured beauty and hidden flaws, and perhaps realize that only by striving for perfection can we really discover the defects of our perception.

This introductory installation acts as a key to unlocking the rest of the exhibition. Included amongst the plethora of works are large prints of bears and other animals overlaid with diagrams, a soft green velvet basketball court, and fabric paintings with cutout recesses. Everywhere Edson plays with the iconic, the hidden, and the obscure to point us towards re-evaluating what we find around us. This strange and beautiful world he has created is simply a guide to discovering the equally strange and beautiful world we live in every day.

Erik Edson: Other Stories continues until May 5.
Confederation Centre Art Gallery: 
The gallery is accessible.

Jon Claytor is an artist living and working in Sackville, New Brunswick. He is the co-founder of Sappyfest and Thunder & Lightning Ideas Ltd.