Nicole Mary at Marion Nicoll Gallery, Calgary
By Maeve Hanna
Calgary-based installation artist Nicole Mary instills a mystical sense of the occult with her exhibition between contact and perception. She breaks away from established epistemological rules to work in a space between the realm of the tangible and the imagination.
Mary uses arm-knitting to create large-scale sculptural works that take on the weight and presence of the body. One piece hangs from the ceiling, its shape reconfigured by the gravitational pull of the moon. The work is derived from the artist’s own language of sigils and symbols drawn from occultist traditions, specifically chaos magick. She maps these personalized sigils into knitting patterns in drawings resembling Agnes Martin’s delicate and dedicated studies of the grid. The drawings hang on the gallery walls with shadows from her knitted reinterpretation cast across them, mixing the solidity of charcoal with the soft absence of light. The viewer is welcome to move through the work, brushing by its tendrils, breathing with its movement. As her body is evoked in the art, ours bring life to its presence.
There is a serene mythos that emanates from the installation. I could feel the power of her mystical language breaking tradition, code, and logic in an overtly feminist gesture. The softness of the material and the recollection of Martin in the lines of her graph drawings all bring the exhibition into a realm of rigorous thought. Mary frees her magickal intuition into the world, arresting it in a way to create an access point for the viewer between contact and perception, then she offers space to move and sway us, tracing a path of belief.
Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine, and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @maeve_hanna.