Leala Hewak: LOCH NESS

Leala Hewak: LOCH NESS

Opening Reception: June 15, 2022, 7 PM
Italic Press East, Saint John International Airport

LOCH NESS, a public art installation by Toronto-based artist Leala Hewak, transforms an industrial building at Saint John International Airport into a 5000-square foot sculpture, greeting passengers taking off and landing in New Brunswick. The artist gratefully acknowledges project support by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Hewak identifies as a MAD artist, living with attention deficit disorder. Her practise includes digital collage and painting, unconventional architectural documentation and public art installation. Hewak has exhibited internationally and receives funding awards from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.

LOCH NESS will be created by using an ultra large-scale vinyl print to wrap a 5000-square production facility which is the East Coast home of Italic Press Inc. Italic Press is a Toronto-based visual communications company founded by Dan Thompson, who hails from New Brunswick. During the pandemic, Dan decided to relocate his family to his hometown of Saint John and commute by air to Italic’s Toronto facility. As travel became more difficult, Thompson changed gears and opened a second production office in Saint John (the host site for this project) to expand his business and support the local economy.

Hewak and Thompson have worked together on other public art projects, and Thompson became aware of Hewak’s colourful digital painting series Plaids on his first trip from Saint John to Toronto in 2021. He felt a public installation of this type of work would be a vibrant addition to the rugged landscape often associated with Saint John and wanted to help facilitate an outdoor, pandemic-safe installation. Ultimately, Thompson offered his new facility as a host site, excited about the project being visible not only from four elevations but also from the air, greeting passengers as they take off and land in Saint John.

Hewak began working on Plaids in 2020. This series was borne of acute boredom and frustration brought on by the pandemic, further exacerbated by ADD.

LOCH NESS, Leala Hewak, 2022

In early 2020, feeling isolated and hopeless, I found it more difficult than ever to focus on a screen-based practice. Eventually I was reduced to amusing myself by mechanically drawing grid-like patterns in Photoshop in bright colour. These experiments gave birth to Plaids, a series of vivid digital images with layered transparency, reminiscent of madras and tartans. Creating these deterministic, ecstatic grids intersecting with electric colour was uplifting. The works reflect a vision of differently-abled minds, alluding to MRI brain scans. They speak of the potential embedded in challenge.

As I considered Dan’s offer to host a large-scale Plaid I revisited the idea of plaid/tartan as a proud signifier of community and identity. In researching Saint John, I discovered its tartan was anything but drab—a cheerful blue speaking of the sea. I began experimenting with this image, digitally enhancing and manipulating it. Wrapping a building in digital art creates psychedelic magic; the traditional pattern, skewed thin like oil reflected on water, divulged new patterns. During digital hyper-enlargement, a mysterious friendly beast, embedded in warp and weave, emerged.

LOCH NESS embodies my attitude toward disability art. As an artist with ADD, I channel my frustration with technical tasks and lack of focus using self-acceptance, innovation and collaboration. Adjacent to several Lochs that supply the city with its water, LOCH NESS is named in after its location in the Loch Lomond neighbourhood of Saint John, and is a reference to the mythical Loch Ness monster.

This project integrates smoothly with several themes in my practice including creation/destruction, luxury/scarcity, joy and mortality. My work reflects a perpetual teetering on thin edges between documentary and art, light and dark, intellect and magic. Ideas around chance, creation/destruction, and commodification/politicization of art are informed by disability arts theory in my process and content.

I strive to create works which are beautiful, thought-provoking, open to interpretation, and ultimately optimistic—traits I value specifically in public art. LOCH NESS will create visual excitement by playfully disrupting an otherwise industrial/pastoral landscape while celebrating diversity and, specifically, neurodiversity. The project will be an innovative, cheerful work, the kind I think is especially welcome at this time.

– Leala Hewak

All are welcome to an opening celebration with bagpipers June 15, 2022, at 7 pm.
Italic Press East, 4180 Loch Lomond Road / 49 Aviation Way
Saint John International Airport

About Leala Hewak:
Leala Hewak is a Toronto-based photographer, digital artist, and the recipient of numerous Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts awards. She identifies as a Disabled artist, living with attention deficit disorder. Her work has been exhibited internationally and featured in Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival. Her practice, which includes public art and construction hoarding, is informed by modernism and celebrates happenstance, joy and neurodiversity.

For more information contact:
lealaronahewak@gmail.com or 416 949-8584
Instagram @lealahewak