text / film

A Material World
Sophie Pilipczuk
Visual Arts News



In his book Sculpture: A journey to the circumference of the earth, Peck proposes colour as, "… an allegorical landscape, aspiring to the sublime...the material object strewn as fragmented light in a zone between vision and corporeality. ... work is rendered vast not by the size or weight of the material but by color. If there is a signature material here, it is color..."

The back-space at eyelevel is taken over by lime green thanks to Michelle Allard. White walls glow pale yellow in response. The sculpture itself defies immediate definition... there are no readymade names for this. Brain races, trying to pin point what the eyes perceive, picking things apart, looking at the shapes. There are many of them repeated.
At different heights and extending out of the wall to different lengths into the room, pipes feed into organ like shapes. Hand railing-type pipes made of office paper and clear packing tape which makes them glisten. "Glisten" translates into "slimy" as the eye glides down to the attached "organ" mass.

What is it ? The green is not natural. In fact it’s several steps removed from nature. Man made. Toxic pops to mind. I half expect a super hero villain to appear. Is there some strange operation behind the wall? What is being circulated through the pipes? It’s beautiful and repulsive and I’m backing away. That’s when my Spidey senses start tingling-actually I've just barely brushed one of the hundred threads Kate has strung across the space. This stuff was called symmography when it was a popular folk craft back in the 1970's. She’s updated it. By taking it off it’s backing and giving it a full 3-D range she plays on that edge between art and craft while referencing minimalism and string artists.  

Look up. The effect is delicate and makes me long for sound and touch. (I imagine it as a harp!) Bright orange threads map out the space in a way that parallels, defines, corrects, duplicates, mimics, represents, follows the curvilinear architectural features and connect the two rooms. The orange colour is sheer in places and where threads overlap the colour becomes progressively more solid. It’s a beautiful contrast to the constant intensity of lime green. Peacock blue thread completes the colour triad. "Primaries warped by materiality,” commented Peck.
Terry and Allard met in Grad school at Guelph University in 2001. James Carl (Allard) and Laurel Woodcock (Terry) were among their advisors.  Both their installation work is hands-on-purchasing materials and making the work on the spot. The two women worked every day for the week leading up to the opening, about the average time for installation work, says Eryn Foster director of the artist-run center. A mini artist in residency-"Perfect for people with outside work commitments" laughs Terry.

"We really make the space ours this way,” says Allard "and I feel strongly about being a part of the process of setting up the exhibit."  There is also the concern of shipping and storage and the associated costs. Terry can literally fit her sculpture materials -thread and strait pins- in her pocket. Nomadic existence of the post grad artist has its place in determining choice of materials. Doesn’t necessarily dictate but certainly influences.
Allard who is very interested in systems of circulation (plumbing or ventilation) within stable structures (buildings) worked with real pipes for a while but felt she couldn’t get past the material.  "To continue exploring the theme I needed to completely change the materials." What’s wonderful is in so doing she frees the imagination of the viewer. The more I thought of the systems of circulation the more I felt that artist in residencies and week-long installations were in a way just that: a way to circulate creativity over the large expanse that is Canada, allowing for cross pollination of ideas in non commercial environment. Terry who lives in London England marvels over what available here in Canada; "still no retirement or health plan for artists like in some of the northern countries but you do have a pretty incredible network of artist run centers".

Artist-run centers are also able to accommodate the ephemeral nature of this type of work. There seems to be a shift in the expectation of exhibition duration- be it installation or media-based.
The work in this exhibit will exist in this state for the duration of the show. After October 21 it will disappear. I try to picture how a gallery conservator would respond... fluorescence faded and dust piled on threads... It’s not meant to last that way. We speak of documentation, its importance, the piling up of copies and formats and the inevitable layer of removal.  Michelle speaks of the want for the work to be generous. I tell her my imagination has been activated and the thousand of poetic variants that weave stories in my mind make for a very fine take home gift indeed.


Sophie Pilipczuk, 2006


This review of the two person exhibition 'More and Less' by Kate Terry and Michelle Allard was published in Visual Arts News, Volume 28, Number 3, Winter 2007, p. 31-2. 'More and Less' was exhibited at Eyelevel Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 9 September - 21 October 2006.