Catherine Telford-Keogh, The BaByliss Ultra Series institutionalized all forms of human function into low, flat intensities (detail), 2018, Plexiglas, Unico® Olives, 3D printed grapes, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, Hellmann’s® Light Mayonnaise, Pigmented FlexFoam-iT!® III, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Forbo Flooring System Rubber, Betty Crocker ® Cup, Froot Loops®, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, hot dog trays 8-pack, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, hair, cast ash tray and IKEA cereal bowl, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood. 26.4 x 94.6 x 94.6 cm.
Previous: S anaz Mazinani, Threshold (video still), 2015, 4:50 HD video, audio composition by Mani Mazinani, 6 channel surround sound, 8:12 loop.
Katie Bethune-Leamen Broadbent Sisters Daniel Griffin Hunt Sanaz Mazinani Sandy Plotnikoff Mary Pratt Cole Swanson Catherine Telford-Keogh Xiaojing Yan Curated by Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery Art Gallery of Peterborough McIntosh Gallery
Broadbent Sisters, Midnight Forms, 2017, 13:20 HD video.
CONTENTS 10 12 14 16 36 48
Foreword and Acknowledgments Donna Raetsen-Kemp, Celeste Scopelites, and James Patten Curatorsâ€™ Acknowledgments Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky Introduction Radiant Intensities Ruth Jones Skimming Shininess Sam Mogelonsky Finding Light in the Dark Ages Vanessa Nicholas
List of Works
FOREWORD AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Much lies beneath the shine of a surface as is revealed in the exhibition Glimmers of the Radiant Real. Curators Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky have brought together the work of nine artists whose practices vary as much as the mediums they use, which include glass, video, gold, foil, plastic, and photography. Like magpies and crows that are drawn to the shine of distant objects, our focus can be
Daniel Griffin Hunt, Portal, stretch wrap, 2015â€“ongoing, performance and installation.
led by that which glimmers and gleams. But what lies beneath? That question i s e xplor ed in thre e e ssays i ncl ud e d i n t h is pu blica ti on. Ruth Jone s, Sam Mogelonsky, and Vanessa Nicholas each approach the subject of glitter differently and illuminate the works from a unique angle: scientifically, from a personal perspective, and with a historical bent. We begin by thanking Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky, in this, their curatorial debut within the public art gallery system. Their combined capacity for bringing the best of the artistsâ€™ work forward, their skills in organizing the work of nine individuals and collectives, as well as budgeting, designing, and editing, has been instrumental to the success of the project. We are grateful to Ruth and Sam, along with Vanessa Nicholas, who have contributed greatly to this publication with their insightful essays. Thanks go to the artists whose work glimmers and shines throughout our gallery spaces: Katie Bethune-Leamen, Broadbent Sisters, Daniel Griffin Hunt, Sanaz Mazinani, Sandy Plotnikoff, Mary Pratt, Cole Swanson, Catherine TelfordKeogh, and Xiaojing Yan.
We are grateful to the RMG staff for their assistance in bringing the exhibition to fruition, along with its tour: Linda Jansma, Jason Dankel, Sonya Jones, Lucas Cabral, and Saira Knowles. Our funders have made this project and its accompanying publication and programming possible and we are grateful to them. The presenting sponsor Partners in Art; sponsors Ridgewood Capital Asset Management, and Burgundy Asset Management; media sponsor Akimbo; and individual donors Sara & Michael Angel, Stephen Bulger, J.S. Darville, Jennifer Davis, Barbara & Arthur English, Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, the Jones Family, and Pat & Gerry Wood. Our galleries are dependent on the ongoing support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, as well as the cities of Oshawa, Peterborough, and London. Donna Raetsen-Kemp, Chief Executive Officer, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery Celeste Scopelites, Director, Art Gallery of Peterborough James Patten, Director/Chief Curator, McIntosh Gallery
Since beginning the Glimmers of the Radiant Real project, we have been overwhelmed by support. This being our first major curatorial endeavor, we are grateful to everyone who enabled us to create the exhibition and see it to fruition. We would like to especially thank The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s Senior Curator, Linda Jansma, who has been our mentor, friend, and inspiration for this project. Linda’s support and words of wisdom have guided us along this curatorial journey and we are forever grateful for the opportunity. We would also like to acknowledge the team at the RMG—Jason Dankel, Sonya Jones, Lucas Cabral, and Saira Knowles— who supported the project from the start and helped it develop. Thank you as well to Nicolas White at Sonic Print for his care in printing this catalogue, and to Vanessa Nicholas for contributing an essay that has brought a fresh perspective to the exhibition as a whole and to the works it contains.
Right: Cole Swanson, Tuesday Night Special (detail), 2013, chicken skeleton (Mammoth BBQ Chicken), blood, 24 carat gold leaf.
The curators at the participating galleries— Fynn Leith at the Art Gallery of Peterborough and James Patten at the McIntosh Gallery— have been instrumental in making sure that the tour goes off without a hitch. We are excited to be able to bring this exhibition to three Ontario communities.
We thank our sponsors, partners, and donors for their continuing support and help in making the exhibition programming and this catalogue come to life. We are grateful to our sponsors Partners in Art, Burgundy Asset Management, and Ridgewood Capital Asset Management and to our media partner Akimbo Art Promotions. We are grateful to our donors Sara & Michael Angel, Stephen Bulger, J.S. Darville, Jennifer Davis, Barbara & Arthur English, Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited, the Jones Family, and Pat & Gerry Wood for their support. We also acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.
Thank you to our families and friends, whose conversation helped to shape our thinking about the exhibition and whose patience and enthusiasm have been crucial to bringing it all together. Finally, we would like to thank the artists for sharing their works with us. There would be no exhibition without the glistening, shining surfaces of works by Katie Bethune-Leamen, the Broadbent Sisters, Daniel Griffin Hunt, Sanaz Mazinani, Sandy Plotnikoff, Mary Pratt, Cole Swanson, Catherine Telford-Keogh, and Xiaojing Yan. Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky Exhibition Curators
INTRODUCTION What happens when surfaces glitter, gleam, sparkle, and shine? The artists and works featured in this exhibition use a variety of materials to generate these surface effects, from glass to gold, foil, plastic, and pearls. Each material has its own qualities of shine and reflection. The surfaces they offer are seeded with aesthetic associations from glamour to kitsch, celebration to science. For the viewer, the resulting effect of each work is a combination of material familiarity and perceptual distortion. Surface is the point of contact for the body—it’s skin and texture and touch. The contact between light and surface in these shining, sparkling works creates, variably, the mirrored illusion of extended space, the fracturing and projection of the viewer’s body, rainbow refractions of white gallery light, and uncertainty about the material limits of the work itself. How does the viewer experience these qualities as integral to the work’s wholeness, affecting the surrounding space, inviting or dissuading contact? 14
Catherine Telford-Keogh, Above: The BaByliss Ultra Series institutionalized all forms of human function into low, flat intensities, and left: Modern mathematics and sullied diapers was all Hal needed to formulate the abstruse and truly terrifying theological models that characterize Contemporary Life, 2018, installation view. 15
RADIANT INTENSITIES Ruth Jones
I have no idea where I am. It is my first time in Vegas, and I feel that I am not equipped for it. It is very shiny. —Philippe Vergne
There is something stirring about surfaces that reflect light. In the epigraph above, what overwhelms the curator Phillipe Vergne, who has arrived in Las Vegas to discuss the ways art deploys its capacity for delight and spectacle, the “guilty pleasures” of the entertainment economy, is not the generalized spectacle of the desert city but a single aspect of its aesthetic experience: its shininess. Not merely astounded, he loses his place in a kind of rapture. The Kirakira app can make your world shiny, not only the parts that already glitter with Vegas’s promise of glamour and spectacle, but also its mundane corners, like the glass of water on your desk or your friend’s new shoes. When it hit a popularity surge during London fashion week in the fall of 2017, beauty magazines convulsed in ecstasy, breathless at the thought that now “you can instantly turn yourself into a walking disco ball/fairy queen/some beautiful alien life form that makes us weep because it’s just so beautiful.” 1 Run a search for “Kirakira+” and you’ll find no shortage of disco desserts and enchanted landscapes,
not to mention fairy-queen selfies of men and women whose eyes glimmer in the light of a parallel world where everything shines. When everyone starts sporting a unicorn glow and you can make a glass of water look like it’s made of liquid diamonds, what is changed in our relationship to the blinding, the beautiful, the brilliant and its seemingly endless capacity to delight? In physics radiance is the transmission and reception of energy. It is directional: to be measured, it must be received. Associated with the idea of being “lit from within” in its mystical and cultural appearances, scientifically it is a perceptual quality sandwiched between reflectance and luminescence: whereas the former is the capacity of a material to reflect light and the latter the haptic experience of light, reflected or generated, as your eyes react to gauge its brightness, radiance measures the light, or energy, perceived and received at a given angle.2 It is separate both from the properties of a reflective surface and from its subjective experience. Instead, it influences the space between them,
1. O livia Harvey, “We just found an app that makes you sparkle like diamonds, and apparently a ton of celebs already use it,” Hello Giggles, October 13, 2017, accessed April 22, 2018, https://hellogiggles.com/lifestyle/technology/app-makessparkle-like-diamond-many-celebs-using/.
2. G ordon Kindlmann, “Face-based Luminance Matching for Perceptual Colormap Generation,” (presentation, IEEE Vizualization, Boston, October 28, 2002), accessed April 22, 2018, https://www.cs.utah.edu/~gk/papers/vis02/talk/ slide005.html; Terrill W. Ray, “A FAQ on Vegetation in Remote Sensing,” October 13, 1994, accessed April 22, 2018, http:// pages.csam.montclair.edu/~chopping/rs/rsvegfaq.html.
creating an atmosphere that surrounds a bright or shining thing. For the work of art that glitters or shines in a glittering and shiny world, this space becomes the place where it is active, altering viewers’ encounters with their environment and reawakening them to the unsteady feeling that attraction breeds. Catherine Telford-Keogh offers her viewers pools to gaze into, Narcissus-like, their reflections obscured by the objects called out in the artist’s extensive lists of materials: Unico® Olives, 3D printed grapes, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, Hellmann’s® Light Mayonnaise, and more, encased in coloured resins that glow like specimens under glass. These objects and substances—resin, glass, and Plexiglas, as well as the ingredients— function atmospherically according to the same principles that Jean Baudrillard
afforded to glass as an aesthetic mediator of modernism in the 1960s, offering “at once proximity and distance, intimacy and the refusal of intimacy, communication and non-communication […] the basis of a transparency without transition: we see, but we cannot touch.” 3 Each object lying on the floor pulls us into depths both decadent and fraught with disappointment, where The telephone melted into a pond of blue goo in Jasmine’s clammy palm after a caller’s obscene message (the title of the green piece). They are filled with the recipes we concoct to define ourselves, universes of accumulation. Pressed tight against their smooth, shining, transparent surfaces by the weight of the artist’s body in their making, the organic objects contained in 3. Jean Baudrillard, System of Objects, trans. James Benedict (London: Verso, 1996), 42.
Catherine Telford-Keogh, The telephone melted into a pond of blue goo in Jasmine’s clammy palm after a caller’s obscene message, 2018, glass, Unico® Stuffed Manzanilla Olives, Maynards Swedish Berries, White Wood Letters by Artminds®, 9” pigmented FlexFoamiT!® III, LEGO®,, found objects, 3D printed cookies, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood, 26.4 x 92.4 x 92.4 cm. Previous: Daniel Griffin Hunt, Portal, 2015–ongoing , stretch wrap, performance and installation.
her matrices make space for themselves as they shrivel and retreat. The light that passes through the oranges, pinks, and blues of each of Telford-Keogh’s sculptures insulates the selves invoked by their titles, recalling the kinds of aesthetic worlds through which the characters of nineteenth-century decadent novels move. Jean des Esseintes, the protagonist of Joris-Karl Huysmans’s Against the Grain, famously spends a chapter selecting colours to fill an apartment that will be a curative environment lit by artificial light. The depth of hue that fills the space substitutes ecstatic taste for sociable emotions drawn from connection and comfort. These cultivated worlds generate an ambivalent relationship to luminosity, from the intense pleasure of a lamp-lit, jewel-box room or a shimmering, almost glowing, object from another world, to the deadening effects of too much artificiality. That ambivalence is fundamental to a context where the artificial and the natural are increasingly at odds. Sandy Plotnikoff’s work engages in a formalist exercise that undermines and pokes fun at the contradictions in modernism’s pure reason and smooth surfaces while embracing materials that coat and maintain its artificial environments. By the accumulation of foils, transfers, paint, bark, plastic bread clips, and other materials whose capacities to reflect, refract, and diffuse the light he stretches beyond the specialized 20
Sandy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem, 2018, foils, acrylic, bread clips, glass gem, birch bark, holographic lens, glitter transfer, image transfer, industrial foil, 46 x 35.2 cm.
functions for which they were designed, his works create not merely glittering surfaces but complex relations of layers and juxtapositions that keep the pieces from ever seeming still. His manipulations of colour and materials are developed through practices that connect one work to another, each the product of lessons learned and colourations explored to meld the static forms and individual uses of what Bruno Latour has described as modernity’s categorical fixation on purity into dynamic compositions rich with oscillations and networked, compounded effects.4 For the artist Tavi Meraud, this surface quality, common to both natural and engineered
phenomena, offers the viewer the chance to come close to the light-emitting thing, slipping out of the spatial and sensory divisions of a reality that is “mundanely given” and into intimacies made possible by the nature of the iridescent image: To witness iridescence is to encounter a phenomenon where the axis of reality is perhaps no longer the mundanely given but rather one that is shifted towards a heterotopic convergence of images with different degrees of reality, cohering into a single image: the apparent—the really apparent and apparently real—of the perceived shine.5 What is really apparent and apparently real in Plotnikoff’s works is a relationship between the person whose gaze holds the object and the object itself, an exchange of light and experience that fills the void between them with energetic possibility; as Plotnikoff’s Foil Problem (2015) declares, “IT FEELS.” Katie Bethune-Leamen’s linked pieces, A Third and Final Part: Peary and Ahnighito and Really It’s A Lot Bigger, A Lot Heavier, And A Lot Darker #18, fixate on the apparent nature of a single object: the meteorite fragment Ahnighito, one of several sections of the Cape York meteorite transported
4. B runo Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993). 5. T avi Meraud, “Irridescence, Intimacies,” e-flux 61, January (2015), accessed April 18, 2016, http://www.e-flux.com/ journal/61/60995/iridescence-intimacies/
from Greenland to New York City’s Museum of Natural History by the American Robert Peary in the early twentieth century. In reality a behemoth of 34 tonnes, a dullish dark mass of iron ore, Ahnighito in Bethune-Leamen’s works becomes (in the video piece) an iridescent object that rotates, weightlessly, in a black space, seemingly small enough that the explorer who gazes on it could cradle it in his arms. The sculpture that sits near it echoes its form, but this time in cast aluminum— smaller, lighter, and brighter than the real thing, but hard and solid compared to Peary’s vision. Their difference from the Ahnighito fragment seems to underscore the difference in power between a facsimile and an original. Yet even the original itself, no matter how massive, how alien, how out of proportion to its surroundings, will never
Katie Bethune-Leamen, Really It’s A Lot Bigger, A Lot Heavier, And A Lot Darker #18, 2012, solid cast aluminum, 40.6 x 55.9 x 43.2 cm.
RADIANT INTENSITIES | RUTH JONES
hold for the viewer the power it exerts over the explorer who imbues it with his desire, transforming it from a piece of the landscape to a kind of philosopher’s stone that allows him to drift untethered through his dream of the north. Bethune-Leamen’s iridescent Ahnighito undercuts the rationalist narrative of Peary’s arctic expedition, revealing the obsession that guided it and wondering at the aura that transforms the object under the obsessive’s gaze. Though Peary’s vision may be fantastic, its power and its consequences are located in the realm of the real, existing alongside what Anthony Vidler describes as the feelings that infiltrate modernist rationalism, and modernist spaces in particular, “…the endlessly shifting sensations and moods of a perceiving subject whose perceptions [have] less to do with what [is] objectively ‘there’ than with what [is] projected as seen.” 6 The viewer of the glittering or shining work engages in the subjective perception not only in forming an attachment to the substance of the work through its subversion of or engagement with systems of value, but also in the ambiguity of perception that is involved in trying to see the thing that shines. When that reflective surface does not reveal but rather wraps, contains, or conceals another potential
form, it plays on the viewer’s expectations, deflecting as much as it reflects. In the Broadbent Sisters’ Midnight Forms, a river of Mylar wraps around them in a ritual that recalls the shrouding of a body, a metaphorical rebirth, or the restorative treatments of a health spa, where beauty and wellness are the ultimate, transcendent, goal. They delve into what JJ Charlesworth describes, in discussing the ritualized and totemic work of British sculptor Roger Hiorns, as a Western turn towards “…new forms of irrationality, superstition and religiosity [that] feed on the sense of ambiguity and self-doubt that currently besets the culture of liberal democracy.”7 If a hidden talisman inspires anticipation, wonder, and some kind of protection in an uncertain world, the Broadbents’ manipulations of this river of material promises that and more: an ordering of the self to escape the power of the twinned currencies of beauty and money. The inverse colour of the film locks the “true” image behind the screen of the viewer’s phone, a mise-enabyme that must be accessed to bring the ritual back to earth. Once this is done, the obsessive layering of pen strokes in their drawings of desert details and cash-formed mountains has an alchemical effect: while
6. A nthony Vidler, Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2001), 3.
7. JJ Charlesworth, “The New Citizen: On the Work of Roger Hiorns,” Roger Hiorns (exhibition catalogue), 2006.
Sandy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem, 2015/2018, foils, acrylic, glitter transfer, image transfer, melted bread clips, reflective spray, snaps, canvas, cinefoil, industrial foil, 116.6 x 92.4 cm.
the landscape in the film resolves into earth and sky and mountain, these panels turn from blue to glowing gold, a kind of proof of the ritual’s success. Acting as if potential— an unseen future, unknown luck, unhoped for transformation—lingers always just out of reach, the Broadbents’ rituals of wrapping and unwrapping explore our need for fulfillment and release. For Daniel Griffin Hunt the projection of the self beneath the shiny surface of the wrapping needs no contained object, only bodily relation. In his Portal, meters and meters of stretch wrap are looped around trees, poles, or lamp posts to create walls of dubious strength and stability, revealing the solidity of their accumulated layers only when pushed, prodded, or, eventually, transgressed. Stretch wrap is made to hold things together, its elasticity locking them inside a glossy casing. The space they define, then, is tense, as well as luminous.
The viewers moving around this temporary space see something that appears both solid and liquid, not precious, but shining all the same. In the performance version of the work, these walls become transparent, translucent, or opaque depending on the angle of the light and the folds and thickness of the layers: they close off a section of the world and they hold it together. The world of Mary Pratt’s Christmas Turkey is not so tautly held, but it is contained within its foil covering, armoured against the oven’s heat or packed like a present to go under the tree. Pratt’s work is anchored in the domestic and evocative of the rich meaning we associate with that sphere: a Canadian Art article from 2013 leads with a title that calls her still lifes “luminous.” 8 But the domestic scene in Christmas Turkey is implied rather than stated, its tented form barely suggesting the bird within while the surface on which it sits (a kitchen
Broadbent Sisters, Desert Floor, 2017, archival pen, acrylic on wood, 79.2 x 105.6 cm.
Broadbent Sisters, Desert Floor. (Inverted colours shown.)
Daniel Griffin Hunt, Portal, 2015–ongoing, stretch wrap, performance and installation.
counter, presumably), fills up the canvas around it and the reflections in the foil itself, refusing to let any detail of the room shine through. Pratt’s works are talked about as photographic close ups, yet this turkey is smaller in the painting than a holiday bird, and while Pratt has said that, in her work, the symbolic follows the reality, the many shifts necessary to get this real image into its frame are at odds with so simple an extrapolation. The scene is cropped out, the subject covered, and the title that holds in two words the supposed nature of the thing must be sought out through more complex systems of reference and remembrance. Emanating from the foil
surface of Pratt’s wrapping, the meaning here is not transcendent but immanent. In Cole Swanson’s Monument, the gilded wings of dozens of insects enhance rather than diminish the iridescent gleam of the bodies of blue and green house flies or the resiny black back of a beetle. Arrayed across the gallery wall, their bodies fixed in place by pins and connected with thread, they appear and disappear like a trick of the light. Swanson’s insect wings are attended to with the same care as a saint’s golden fingernails. What would it mean to try to unweave ourselves from the forms of life we live with symbiotically, whether they’re drawing on us like the blue bottle flies
8. “Slideshow: Mary Pratt’s Luminous Still Lifes,” Canadian Art, November 29, 2013, accessed April 22, 2018, https:// canadianart.ca/features/mary-pratt-luminous-still-lifes/.
RADIANT INTENSITIES | RUTH JONES
Cole Swanson, Monument (detail), 2018, reclaimed insects, 24 carat gold leaf, entomology pins, thread.
that emerge from a summer compost pile or the other way around, like the chicken dinner that preceded the golden bones of Tuesday Night Special, its flesh now only implied? The channels of scientific inquiry that reason, we are taught, opened, show more complexity, more entanglement, the further we follow them. Pull a thread and the universe shivers. The gilding common to both these works does more than make the animal bodies Swanson works with ornamental. By attaching to them the real worth and symbolic light of the gold leaf they’re covered in, he interrogates the systems of value that separate a human world from an animal one, even when the
spaces where we live and die can never be untangled. If the light cast by a hundred gilded wings illuminates a truth, it is that the border between a fly’s world and ours is porous, the concept of a lifetime relative. Animals use iridescence for camouflage and covert communication, as well as for differentiation and display: light distorted by glimmering feathers or sparkling scales helps them blend into a background, and surfaces that throw off UV light exclude species who can’t see signals passed along that spectrum. 9 Like this prismatic refraction, the diffusion of light across a disrupted surface or through a matrix of different points creates confusion around
9. S téphanie M. Doucet and Melissa J. Meadows, “Iridescence: A Functional Perspective,” J.R. Soc Interface, February 23, 2009, DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2008.0395.focus.
the location or limits of an object, as well as the meaning its image signals. In Sanaz Mazinaniâ€™s Threshold, the tessellated pattern of her mirrored panel borrows from the mirror mosaics that cover the interiors of Iranian mosques and palaces beginning in the sixteenth century. Using silvered mirrors imported from Venice and often broken in transit, mosaicists created surfaces that amplified the light but diffused the images their material was also designed to reflect. Mazinani exaggerates this effect with tesserae carefully angled and positioned on a panel so that they splinter that image even more.
Standing between the mirror and a monitor playing a kaleidoscopic loop of Hollywood explosions, the viewer sees herself reflected and fragmented, mirrors mirroring mirrors to shatter the scene behind her until it is unrecognizable, her own image moving like a shadow as she tries to get a better look. The limits of her body dissolve as she listens to the similarly fractured audio that holds her between the two faces of the piece, and the realities of violence implied by all this animated destruction are not distanced by the sparkling colours it casts before the viewerâ€™s eyes but brought closer through a
Sanaz Mazinani, Threshold (detail), 2015, mirrored acrylic, wood, silicone, 97.9 x 162.8 x 3.3 cm, 4:50 HD video, audio composition by Mani Mazinani, 6 channel surround sound, 8:12 loop.
RADIANT INTENSITIES | RUTH JONES
confrontation between visual pleasure and the discomfort of seeing war-as-spectacle broken down into parts. Mazinani’s work troubles our conception of self in the face of violence: as potential threat, as distant danger, as a manufactured thrill on a movie screen. The reflective qualities of the work manifest this trouble, preventing us from forming a clear image. A sense of uncertainty in terms of po s i t ion an d a t e chni q ue of formal dissolution is shared by Xaiojing Yan’s Cloud Cell, an amorphous form created with thousands of suspended freshwater pearls. Where Threshold makes the viewer’s body evanescent, Yan’s shimmering cloud is bodiless, a 3D collection of points that mark out a complex form of varying density that taps both the mechanization of the natural process of pearl production and the labour organization that allows for the creation the work itself. Yan’s work references traditional Chinese artforms not as distant or nostalgic visions that exist somewhere exterior to the hyper-modern realities of mega cities, manufacturing monopolies, and rural displacement, but as properly internal to contemporary art practice both in mainland China and in the work of diasporic artists like Yan who maintain strong connections to the country of their birth through exhibitions and ties to Chinese galleries and museums. The material of Cloud Cell latches onto this
nostalgia not only in its references to the clouds that blanket mountains in landscape paintings beginning during the Song dynasty of the tenth to thirteenth centuries,10 but in the pearls that it is made from, their cultivation a technological through line that connects China’s history to the industrial present. Yan’s piece manifests the image quality of the hypermodern rendering and the shimmering desire for a continuity with the past, what Svetlana Boym describes as the “fundamental ambivalence” of nostalgia, which “is about the repetition of the unrepeatable, materialization of the immaterial.”11 Each strand of Yan’s work holds its series of pearls in alignment, one following the other in a simple chronology; strung in formation, the relationships between them multiply. As the viewer’s eye looks through what appears suddenly to be a net or material, each opalescent point blurs the form it supposedly sketches until the cloud itself seems to dissolve into a hazy collection of lights. The seeing and unseeing of a thing, whether quickly, in a flash, or hardly, as with the dissolving surface of Cloud Cell, changes not so much our relationship, as viewers,
10. R obert E. Harrist, Jr. “’Watching Clouds Rise’: A Tang Dynasty Couplet and Its Illustration in Song Painting,” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art, 78, no. 7 (1991): 301–23, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25161335. 11. S vetlana Boym, The Future of Nostalgia (New York, Basic Books: 2001), xvii.
Xiaojing Yan, Cloud Cell (detail), 2014, freshwater pearls, monofilament thread, aluminum, 211 x 99 x 99 cm.
RADIANT INTENSITIES | RUTH JONES
with reality, but rather the emotional or affective response that the seeing evokes, especially when illumination seems to offer us the possibility of more: more contrast, more sight, more pleasure. In religious and transcendental texts radiance is associated with the otherworldly, with light that seems to come from beyond the physical world, and that appears as halos encircling the heads and bodies of holy figures. It is also the name of a fragrance by Britney Spears, who appeared in a TV advertisement for the scent in 2010 in a sparkling silver dress, walking away from the flashes of paparazzi and a fortune teller’s crystal ball to utter the slogan “Choose your own destiny.” Radiance has been packaged and distilled, but the potent appeal of the animated space it creates remains.
Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie, a modernist work full of shining and radiant things, seems to warn of the hazards of a world made of glittering illusion and of the seduction of engineered radiance in a modernist rejection of the irrational, the fantastic, and the ornamental. Yet in Williams’s play and elsewhere, what a ppe a r s a t fi r s t t o be a cl e a r br e a k, between a glittering fantasy world and the harsher light of reality, is neither so firm nor so constant as those initial descriptions suggest: the script dances through passages of candle light and rainbows to end with a flash of lightning, electric and miraculous. For the artists in Glimmers of the Radiant Real, the implied division between the electric and the prismatic, between a flash and a sparkle, the rational real and the irrational fantastic, is not so much rejected as rendered irrelevant. By incorporating into their work the reflective properties of materials and surface treatments from the precious to the mundane, the artists featured here instead offer glimpses into animated worlds where then transcendent qualities of amplified and reflected light collide with the lightning-lit shocks of a world of material consequences.
Above and left: B roadbent Sisters, Uprising ($100 Mountain), 2017, archival pen, acrylic on wood, 79 x 105.6 cm. (Normal and inverted colours shown.) Following: K atie Bethune-Leamen, A Third And Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito, 2012,16:53 HD video, scored by Andy McCluskey (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark).
RADIANT INTENSITIES | RUTH JONES
SKIMMING SHININESS Sam Mogelonsky
I don’t remember ever not knowing how to swim. I only remember watching the water shimmer below my feet and diving in. In thinking about how to write about the exhibition Glimmers of the Radiant Real I began to consider the act of swimming, of immersing yourself in water and seeing your body wet and glistening, and of the moment before immersion, when you see yourself reflected and refracted as the light dances across a surface like a skin, inviting you in. For film theorist Giuliana Bruno, the moment of contact is a crucial moment of exchange: “When we touch a surface, we experience immersion and inversion fully, and reciprocity is a quality of this touch. There is a haptic rule of thumb: when we touch something or someone, we are, inevitably, touched in return.”1 The works selected for this exhibition give light back to the viewer, and in doing so, allude to their touchability. They evoke an uncanny sense of the limit that is present both in the experience of touching water and in the anticipatory quality of looking at the reflective surface. When swimming in a pool, the painted lines and tiles at the bottom keep you moving in a straight line, but the distance you perceive between your body and the bottom is skewed by the refracted light in the water. Looking up from below the
1. G iuliana Bruno, Surface: Matters of Aesthetics, Materiality, and Media (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 19. 36
surface, the outside world is distorted and out of focus. In Sanaz Mazinani’s installation Threshold, the fluid imagery of the video seems to almost float atop the surface of the mirror that reflects it. Distorted and fractured, the reflected images cause the viewer to lose their sense of scale. The idea of the body in relation to the photographic image is central to the installation’s effect: the
viewer must stand within the space, between the video and a mirrored panel, to be able to experience the project. The view is fractured, with reflections from the video, as well as the viewer and the room, all refusing to come into focus. Like the depth of a pool perceived by the swimmer, Threshold creates a sense of the uncanny by juxtaposing our fractured bodies within its reflected space.
Above and Left: S anaz Mazinani, Threshold (detail and video stills), 2015, mirrored acrylic, wood, silicone, 97.9 x 162.8 x 3.3 cm, 4:50 HD video, audio composition by Mani Mazinani, 6 channel surround sound, 8:12 loop. Previous: X iaojing Yan, Cloud Cell (detail), 2014, freshwater pearls, monofilament thread, aluminum, 211 x 99 x 99 cm.
Catherine Telford-Keogh, Modern mathematics and sullied diapers was all Hal needed to formulate the abstruse and truly terrifying theological models that characterize Contemporary Life, 2018, Plexiglas, Unico® Olives, Pigmented FlexFoamiT!® III, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Forb Flooring System Rubber, Betty Crocker® Coffee Mug, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, hot dog trays 8-pack, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, hair, cardboard valentines, cartoon heart hands, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood, 26.4 x 94.6 x 94.6 cm. 38
Catherine Telford-Keogh’s sculptural forms resemble pools unto themselves. Unlike the distorted depths achieved by Mazinani’s reflections, a considered pr oce s s of l a y e r i ng fa mi l i a r obj e ct s suspended in foam and resin here creates a sense of depth in a relatively shallow space. Pushed up against the layer of glass that both protects this artificial environment and restricts our access to it, we see pickles, cookies, cleaners, candles, figurines, and everyday objects suspended in a new gooey and glossy reality. Looking down into these pools I am reminded of the smell of swimming pool chemicals, chlorine that permeates wet hair and damp bathing suits. I imagine sinking like a stone to the bottom and seeing these swirling objects float around me and I am reminded of the old wives’ tale that swimming on a full stomach will make you sink. If Telford-Keogh offers pools, in the Broadbent Sisters’ film Midnight Forms a roll of common Mylar is transformed into a flowing river, its surface used to perform symbolic rituals as the sisters bring connectivity back to the landscape. The connection to the idea of water as surface is direct—the metallic foil is pulled and flows across the landscape. In their drawings, Uprising ($100 Mountain) and Desert Floor, the inverted images read almost as liquid gold. Here, the meditative quality of water and its reflection is what brings us into the mysterious world we see on the screen.
Sandy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem (detail), 2018, foils, acrylic, bread clips, glass gem, birch bark, holographic lens, glitter transfer, image transfer, industrial foil, 46 x 35.2 cm.
Whereas in Midnight Forms the Broadbent Sisters manipulate a uniformly shiny material to create variations in the surface, in Sandy Plotnikoff’s Foil Problem series the artist uses material variability to make a static surface dynamic. You experience his iridescent works the same way you feel water rushing over your body. For the artist Tavi Meraud “to witness iridescence is to encounter a phenomenon where the axis of reality is perhaps no longer the mundanely given but rather one that is shifted towards a heterotopic convergence of images with different degrees of reality, cohering into a single
image: the apparent—the really apparent and apparently real—of the perceived shine.”2 As you move around each work, they morph and change with the light, creating a uniquely intimate and singular experience for each viewer, an unstable sense of what is real. Foil Problems lie flat against the wall and require the viewer’s body as well as light to activate them, emphasizing the viewer’s haptic processing of their radiating visual information through 2. T avi Meraud, “Irridescence, Intimacies,” e-flux 61, January (2015), accessed April 18, 2016, http://www.e-flux.com/ journal/61/60995/iridescence-intimacies/.
SKIMMING SHININESS | SAM MOGELONSKY
more than just their eyes. As viewers, we become playful participants, immersing ourselves in this world of light and shine. Experiencing Plotnikoff’s work is akin to feeling suspended in iridescent waters— you can’t tell where your own body ends and your glittery self begins. While Plotnikoff’s Foil Problems ask us to fully immerse ourselves in holographic works, in Daniel Griffin Hunt’s Portal, light bounces off a plastic coating and causes the viewer to see the space as if through a watery lens—almost as if opening your eyes underwater, where the water comes into contact with the lens of your eye, preventing you from seeing fully. Hunt has stretched pallet wrap to the point that the tension of the created surface is what holds the form together, and the surface created bounces light in dazzling, random patterns. In Glamour in Six Dimensions, Judith Brown speaks about the power of the new plastics and their importance in the modern era, the idea of being “‘wrapped in cellophane!’ ... aesthetically brilliant, impervious to the elements, artificial in all the best senses of the word.” 3 By using plastic wrap to negotiate a relationship to a gallery wall or to create an artificial world within a forest, Griffin Hunt creates a transitory space that viewers enter, inviting them to be overcome by a feeling of leaving reality behind.
In Mary Pratt’s Christmas Turkey, the aluminum foil surrounds the turkey and acts as a n i ns ul a t i ng l a y e r , ke e pi ng it warm. This simple, everyday action of cooking is elevated through Pratt’s treatment of the painted surface and renders it almost jewel-like as a precious object on the table, with each creased facet of foil pooling the light and reflecting the room. Where usually aluminum foil is a throwaway material, in this rendering you feel the opposite as it speaks to desire. I want to touch it, to unwrap it, and disrupt the surface. Like the shimmering surface of a pool of water, inviting disruption and promising release, the foil covering Pratt’s turkey glimmers with the suspense of its eventual breaking. In Xiaojing Yan’s Cloud Cell, over 30,000 freshwater pearls are suspended on threads of clear filament, creating a cloud formation. To the eye, it appears as if these pearls are floating in space, weightless as they shimmer in the gallery’s light, while we dazzle in the preciousness of the work, the detail, and the shimmer. In this project Yan fully embraces water as a tool and magical element, able to shift and morph into multiple forms. Pearls are made when an irritant enters the shell of an oyster, and as a defense mechanism, a fluid is applied to coat it. In the wild, it’s divers who retrieve
3. Judith Brown, Glamour in Six Dimensions: Modernism and the Radiance of Form (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2009), 150.
Right: X iaojing Yan, Cloud Cell, 2014, freshwater pearls, monofilament thread, aluminum, 211 x 99 x 99 cm.
SKIMMING SHININESS | SAM MOGELONSKY
Katie Bethune-Leamen, A Third And Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito, 2012, 16:53 HD video, scored by Andy McCluskey (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark).
them. Similarly, the clouds are formed by a process of condensation when multiple drops of water collect on to tiny particles of dust floating in the air. Yan’s cloud takes an object created in the sea and suspends it in the air. The result is dreamlike, bringing ethereal formations into the gallery space for us to imagine in what mystical sky they could be floating. Just as Yan creates a feeling of suspension with pearls and filament, in Katie BethuneLeamen’s video A Third And Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito, floating is a common theme: Peary floats weightlessly above the water’s surface and the meteorite rotates against a black backdrop, highlighting the shimmering effects of its reflective coating. The video space is extended into the physical space of the gallery with a wall painted a peach shade, an exact match to the colour of a dissolve that blows out the scene around P e a r y ’s e y e s , i ncr e a s i ng t he fe e l i ng of otherworldliness gained through the video and soundtrack. In contrast to the floating sensation achieved in the video projection, Really It’s A Lot Bigger, A Lot Heavier, And A Lot Darker #18 rests directly on the floor, with obvious weight. Made of solid cast aluminum, this sculpture and its placement causes us to think about its implied heaviness, bringing an element of the video into the real-world space of the gallery. While we feel weightless in the water, once we come back on land, we are
SKIMMING SHININESS | SAM MOGELONSKY
increasingly aware of our own bodies, our weight, and the weight of the air around us. When leaving the pool, the adhesion and cohesion of the water molecules that create the “stickiness” of water pulls it into droplets. You become hyper aware of the way water coats skin and how these droplets form, together covering you in sparkles. Once dried, the body returns to its former state of dullness. Cole Swanson’s Monument references that moment where transcendence lingers by using suspended insects that float against the white wall to create a constellation pattern, their wings covered in gold. In his essay “Unknowing Decadence,” Charles Bernheimer describes the way that the value ascribed to objects unfixes something of our feelings about them: “Decadence holds judgment in suspension. It fights against betraying the materiality of signs and objects and tries to adhere to surfaces and sensations.”4 Looking at Swanson’s golden wings, I’m reminded of night swimming, watching the stars as they glimmer above me and around me, reflected in the water, decadence that’s at once material and immaterial. In Tuesday Night Special, Swanson takes a supermarket rotisserie chicken and carefully gilds each
4. Charles Bernheimer, “Unknowing Decadence,” in Perennial Decay: On the Aesthetics and Politics of Decadence, eds. Liz Constable, Dennis Denisoff, and Matthew Potolsky (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 62. 44
of the bones. This action is delicate, kind and considered. With Swanson’s work, the magic of delicately applying gold leaf to bugs and bones causes them to leave the known world and enter a distant but glimmering reality. We experience a new world underwater: one full of sparkle, uncertain material limits, and illusions of extended spaces. In this e xhi bi t i on, Ka t i e B e t hune - L e a me n the Broadbent Sisters, Daniel Griffin Hunt, Sanaz Mazinani, Sandy Plotnikoff, Mary Pratt, Cole Swanson, Catherine Telford-Keogh, and Xiaojing Yan situate the body of the viewer in this unreal space to destabilize our assumptions, causing us to reflect on our relationship to the body as a solid object. Their surfaces, alive and unstable, invite disappearances and transformations. In Jewish tradition, immersing yourself in a ritual bath called a Mikvah requires you to lift your feet as you float beneath the surface of the “living waters” so they touch every part of your
body at once. When this happens you are spiritually transformed—the physical and emotional weight of the world lifts— and y ou r e-en te r the worl d d i ffe re nt from before. Even without its religious weight the ritual would feel significant—the water’s touch is its central requirement,
a touch that is complete, total. When we emerge from the water, that touch lingers, and we are momentarily glossy and shiny, sparkling in the light as the water drips from our weighted bodies. As we dry, we are returned to our actuality, longing for a glimmer of the radiant reality we just left.
Above and left: C ole Swanson, Monument (detail), 2018, reclaimed insects, 24 carat gold leaf, entomology pins, thread.
Following: Sandy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem, 2015/2018, foils, acrylic, glitter transfer, image transfer, melted bread clips, reflective spray, snaps, canvas, cinefoil, industrial foil, 116.6 x 92.4 cm.
SKIMMING SHININESS | SAM MOGELONSKY
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES Vanessa Nicholas
Above: Sanaz Mazinani, Threshold (detail), 2015, mirrored acrylic, wood, silicone, 97.9 x 162.8 x 3.3 cm, 4:50 HD video, audio composition by Mani Mazinani, 6 channel surround sound, 8:12 loop. 50
Previous: K atie Bethune-Leamen, A Third And Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito, 2012, 16:53 HD video, scored by Andy McCluskey (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark).
In a personal essay on the subject of glitter published by Rookie, an online platform for teenage girls, the author declares: “I never wanted to be matte.”1 By correlating the outward with the inward, this adolescent affirmation challenges the notion that lustre, sparkle, and frill are inherently superficial and trivial. Cultural prejudice against dazzle and ornament is neither universal nor timeless. It hardened in Western cultures during the twentieth century when high modernism prescribed value to utility, minimalism, and economy. In the pre-modern period, surface treatments and trimmings were widely understood as signs of deference and regard, and inanimate objects were not denied internal, spiritual lives. The artists featured in Glimmers of the Radiant Real cultivate this medieval sensibility and strive to renew our faith in decoration and talismans. What’s more, their dynamic eschews the cultural homogeneity of globalization and recalls the decentralized medieval world, in which complex regional customs were enriched by cross-cultural exchange. In this exhibition, the profundity of surface certainly runs deep.
Sanaz Mazinani’s Threshold and Sandy Plotnikoff’s four Foil Problem works share essential formal characteristics with the mosaics that adorn early Islamic and Christian buildings. The geometry and materials of Mazinani’s work reference the Islamic mosaic tradition, which dates to the seventh century. The Islamic mosaics that have survived from this early medieval period are primarily graphic rather than pictorial because pattern and math were understood as fundamental truths intrinsic to the laws of creation. 2 Glass mirror tesserae, which first appear in sixteenthcentury Islamic-Iranian mosaics, amplified the traditional equation of surface pattern with infinitude.3 What’s more, they conducted light, an element regarded as paramount to the religious experience of mosque interiors.4 Mazinani interrupts the historical, transcendent properties of her mirror mosaic by installing it opposite a screen playing video clips of blasts and explosions lifted from Hollywood films. Humanity’s creative and destructive capacities collide in this work, which asks contemporary viewers to reflect on old existential questions.
1. L aia Garcia, “Literally the Best Thing Ever: Glitter,” Rookie Yearbook One, ed. Tavi Gevinson (Montreal: Drawn and Quarterly, 2012), 149.
2. Issam El-Said and Ayse Parman, Geometric concepts in Islamic Art (London: World of Islam Festival Publishing Company Ltd., 1976), xi. 3. H asan Bolkhari Ghehi, “Geometrical Manifestation in Iranian Art of Mirrors According to Seyed Heidar Amoli’s Thought,” International Journal of Arts, 3, no. 1 (2013): 1. 4. R obert Irwin, Islamic Art In Context: Art, Architecture, and the Literary World (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1997), 62. 51
Though Plotnikoff’s work is not religious, its profundity is located at the same fulcrum between light and colour that enchanted the Christian Byzantines and led to their introducing coloured and gilt glass tesserae to mosaic traditions across the middle east and Mediterranean.5 In Plotnikoff’s Foil Problems, commercial materials that share reflective, iridescent properties are imbued with mystical meaning through the artist’s unique combination of collage, painting, and printmaking techniques. Metallic and holographic foils, reflective spray, and glitter transfer are distilled and transmuted into prismatic planes that compel us to see the light—in technical and spiritual terms. The Foil Problems are alchemical rainbows that refract and reflect the otherwise imperceptible stuff of sight, giving us brief glimpses of the order underlying the infinite universe. Foil Problem (2015) is emblazoned with a text fragment that reads “IT FEELS” in a dated, glitzy typeface. Coincidentally, these two words offer a succinct summary of organicism, the medieval European worldview that attributed agency and vitality to all things—even rocks.6 In A Third And
Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito, Katie BethuneLeamen reasserts organicism by giving the star treatment to Ahnighito, a massive iron meteorite on display at the American Museum of Natural History. The film’s other subject is Robert Peary, the American arctic explorer who removed Ahnighito from its crash site in Greenland before the turn of the twentieth century and sold it to the Museum. Though iron is heavy, dark, and dull, Bethune-Leamen represents Ahnighito as weightless, lustrous, and shining. The significance of this is evident at the film’s end, when Peary and Ahnighito commune in the dark. Feverish light bounces between the surface of the suspended meteor and the explorer’s face, casting their relationship as an energy exchange. Bethune-Leamen thus challenges us to reconsider the power dynamics of our relationships with nonliving things. Comparable principles of interconnectivity figure in Xiaojing Yan’s Cloud Cell, an amorphous form composed of freshwater pearls suspended on monofilament thread. Bearing in mind that the Chinese were producing pearl-covered Buddha ornaments in freshwater mussels as early
5. F red S. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages: A Global History (Boston: Cengage Learning, 2016), 309, 251. 6. K ellie Robertson, “Exemplary Rocks,” Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (Washington: Oliphaunt Books, 2012), 93–123.
Right: S andy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem, 2015, foils, acrylic, glitter transfer, aluminum foil, industrial foil, 27.5 x 22 cm.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES | VANESSA NICHOLAS
as the thirteenth century, the freshwater pearl befits Yan’s interest in the global significance of Chinese heritage. 7 Pearls have long been invoked in Chinese culture to express the ancient belief in unity between man and nature. 8 For example, both the habit of describing tears as little pearls and the practice of placing single pearls in the mouths of the deceased signify that nature has corporeal significance. 9 In the title of her work, Yan scientifically substantiates this continuity principle by compounding the macro with the micro. As metaphorical cells, her pearls stress that all living and inanimate things are made of the same exquisite, microscopic elements. Their resilient nacre reminds us that our smallest component parts will outlast our waking lives, which are more akin to the ephemeral cloud. The awe inspired by stones, pearls and other naturalia had its counterpoint in the delight roused by refining raw materials.10 Pearls, for example, were fascinating in part because they manifested from grains of sand. The fatal consequences of gleefully
aestheticizing the natural world are integral to Daniel Griffin Hunt’s Portal. His only material is stretch wrap: a petroleum product that at once conjures the optimism of early modern industry and foretells the approaching ecological collapse. The temporal poles of Hunt’s installation are referenced in its title: Portal. If we walk through Hunt’s plastic looking glass, will we be put in the position of changing the past or witnessing the future? The artist forces us to recognize that shine may be melancholic and irrevocably tied to our individual and collective mortality. As environmental journalist Tatiana Schlossberg wrote for The New York Times, “since plastic does not naturally degrade, the billions of tons sitting in landfills, floating in the oceans or piling up on city streets will provide a marker if later civilizations ever want to classify our era. Perhaps they will call this time on Earth the Plastocene Epoch.”11 Catherine Telford-Keogh’s floor sculptures could be the dystopian excavation sites evoked by Schlossberg’s words. They look like polished cross-sections of hardened bog in which a variety of branded consumer
7. R obert Webster, Gems: Their Sources, Descriptions and Identification (London: Butterworths & Co Ltd.,  1989), 522. 8. M ary Tregear, Chinese Art (London: Thames and Hudson,  1995), 108. 9. W olfram Eberhard, A Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought (London: Routledge, 1983), 282. 10. P eta Motture, “Introduction,” in Medieval & Renaissance Treasures From the V&A, ed. Paul Williamson and Peta Motture (London: V&A Publications, 2007), 2.
11. T atiana Schlossberg, “The Immense, Eternal Footprint Humanity Leaves on Earth: Plastics,” The New York Times, July 19, 2017, accessed March 21, 2018, https://www. nytimes.com/2017/07/19/climate/plastic-pollution-studyscience-advances.html.
Daniel Griffin Hunt, Portal, 2015â€“ongoing, stretch wrap, performance and installation.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES | VANESSA NICHOLAS
Mary Pratt, Christmas Turkey, 1980, oil on masonite, 45.8 x 59.9 cm.
products and processed foods have been preserved. For example, the artist’s materials list for The telephone melted into a pond of blue goo in Jasmine’s clammy palm after a caller’s obscene message includes Maynards Swedish Berries, LEGO ® pieces, Bick’s Dill Pickles ®, and Yankee Candle Home Sweet Home Fragrance Spheres ®. Telford-Keogh’s practice of collecting and enshrining our cultural artefacts seems influenced by the medieval Christian cult of relics, the devotional fervour for s a i nt l y v e s t i g e s a nd r e ma i ns t ha t peaked in the Romanesque period. The form of her sculptures also accords with this phenomenon as relics were initially kept in crypts and made visible to pious pilgrims through a pane in a church floor.12 Looking down at Telford-Keogh’s stained-glass time capsule thus takes on a ritualistic dimension and elevates the everyday to heavenly heights. The cult of relics is also at issue in Mary Pratt’s Christmas Turkey. The shimmering crinkles and crisp creases of the kitchen foil covering the turkey recall a faceted gemstone or a piece of ornate metalwork, the fundamental design elements of medieval reliquaries. These marvellous objects proliferated once the popularity and intensity of relic veneration compelled churches to unearth their relics and place them on public display. These coffers were typ i c al l y made of silver or gold and sumptuously decorated with jewels, enamel, or carved ivory. 13 Pratt’s subject seems modest by comparison, but in the painting itself she displays an equal measure of
12. H enry Kraus, The Living Theatre of Medieval Art (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1967), 25. 13. Kleiner, Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, 340.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES | VANESSA NICHOLAS
Cole Swanson, Tuesday Night Special, 2013, chicken skeleton (Mammoth BBQ Chicken), blood, 24 carat gold leaf.
craftsmanship. A devotional tribute to the home and family, this work reminds us of the miraculous, mysterious nature of the commonplace. Fittingly, Pratt’s foil tents the centrepiece of today’s Christmas dinner tradition, the turkey carcass, which one could liken to a sacrificial or saintly body. Cole Swanson does as much in Tuesday Night Special, a gilt deconstructed chicken skeleton that the artist himself associates with medieval relics and ritual. In early Christendom, gold was regarded as the material form of heavenly light, and it was employed in the production of art
and objects associated with worship and prayer. Swanson’s golden chicken bones thus demand our reverence and compel us to contemplate the sanctity of nonhuman animal life. The artist extends his campaign of compassion to insects in Monument. Their gilt wings are angelic, but this decidedly secular altarpiece looks up at heavens that are astronomical rather than divine. Significantly, an earlier incarnation of this work was conceived of as a Constellation. Carl Sagan articulates the logic of Swanson’s astral iconography in the first episode of his iconic television
series, Cosmos: “We are made of star stuff.”14 Tuesday Night Special and Monument visualize Sagan’s elegant maxim by compressing distant stars, precious gold, and delicate wings into a wondrous concentrate. The Broadbent Sisters appeal to the same collective consciousness in Midnight Forms, a film about two sisters who perform healing rituals in a post-ap oc al yp ti c landscape. The film’s subjects and setting recall the aged earth goddess tradition
that was supported in the West by geocentricism until Nicolaus Copernicus placed the sun at the centre of things in the sixteenth century.15 Even medieval Christian theology was earthbound insofar as it mandated that humankind advance the Divine Order by cultivating and improving the natural world. 16 The protagonists in Midnight Forms may well be dethroned, neglected earth goddesses, and the film’s inverted colour scheme fittingly visualizes
14. C arl Sagan, “The Shores of the Cosmic,” Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, TV series, directed by Adrian Malone (1980; Los Angeles, KCET/Public Broadcasting Service).
15. C arolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution (New York: Harper Collins Publishers,  1990), 100.
Broadbent Sisters, Midnight Forms, 2017, 13:20 HD video. (Normal and inverted colours shown.)
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES | VANESSA NICHOLAS
Catherine Telford-Keogh, The BaByliss Ultra Series institutionalized all forms of human function into low, flat intensities (detail), 2018, Plexiglas, Unico® Olives, 3D printed grapes, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, Hellmann’s® Light Mayonnaise, Pigmented FlexFoam-iT!® III, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Forbo Flooring System Rubber, Betty Crocker® Cup, Froot Loops®, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, hot dog trays 8-pack, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, hair, cast ash tray and IKEA cereal bowl, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood, 26.4 x 94.6 x 94.6 cm.
the disorder modernity has imposed on them. The sisters set about a corrective course of meditation and alchemy, one that viewers are invited to participate in by changing the settings on their phones. Ultimately, the sisters fuse with a reflective, shiny shroud and become a life-giving river. Their metamorphosis corroborates girlie testaments to the transformative power of glitter and gloss, much like the one we started with. While to turn towards the pre-modern is to hazard the dangers of nostalgia, it is evident that Sanaz Mazinani, Sandy Plotnikoff, Katie Bethune-Leamen, Xiaojing
Yan, Daniel Griffin Hunt, Catherine TelfordKeogh, Mary Pratt, Cole Swanson, and the Broadbent Sisters earnestly mine their past for the sake of our future. Considering that conceptual and post-modern art thrived in a period that was foolishly regarded as post-historical, it makes sense that our increasingly perilous geo-political landscape is producing renewed artistic interest in materials and tradition. Indeed, the works presented in Glimmers of the Radiant Real are much-needed antidotes to the slick, solitary notes of the digital age. They implore us to yearn, touch, caress, care, feel, and hold fast to the light.
16. M ax Oelschlaeger, The Idea of Wilderness: From Prehistory to the Age of Ecology (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991), 70.
Above and Following: C ole Swanson, Monument (detail), 2018, reclaimed insects, 24 carat gold leaf, entomology pins, thread.
FINDING LIGHT IN THE DARK AGES | VANESSA NICHOLAS
EXHIBITION DOCUMENTATION The Robert McLaughlin Gallery
LIST OF WORKS
Katie Bethune-Leamen Really Itâ€™s A Lot Bigger, A Lot Heavier, And A Lot Darker #18 2012 solid cast aluminum 40.6 x 55.9 x 43.2 cm Collection of the artist Katie Bethune-Leamen A Third And Final Part: Peary & Ahnighito 2012 16:53 HD video Scored by Andy McCluskey (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark) Collection of the artist Broadbent Sisters Uprising ($100 Mountain) 2017 archival pen, acrylic on wood 79 x 105.6 cm Collection of the artists Broadbent Sisters Desert Floor 2017 archival pen, acrylic on wood 79.2 x 105.6 cm Courtesy of the kontort collection
Broadbent Sisters Midnight Forms 2017 13:20 HD video Collection of the artists Daniel Griffin Hunt Portal 2015â€“ongoing stretch wrap performance and installation variable dimensions Collection of the artist Sanaz Mazinani Threshold 2015 mirrored acrylic, wood, silicone 97.9 x 162.8 x 3.3 cm 4:50 HD video Audio composition by Mani Mazinani, 6 channel surround sound, 8:12 loop Courtesy of the artist and Stephen Bulger Gallery Sandy Plotnikoff Foil Problem 2015 foils, acrylic, glitter transfer, aluminum foil, industrial foil 27.5 x 22 cm Courtesy of the artist and Paul Petro Contemporary Art 73
Sandy Plotnikoff Foil Problem 2015/2018 foils, acrylic, glitter transfer, image transfer, melted bread clips, reflective spray, snaps, canvas, cinefoil, industrial foil 116.6 x 92.4 cm Courtesy of the artist and Paul Petro Contemporary Art Sandy Plotnikoff Foil Problem 2017 foils, acrylic, image transfer, industrial foil 30.8 x 24 cm Courtesy of the artist and Paul Petro Contemporary Art Sandy Plotnikoff Foil Problem 2018 foils, acrylic, bread clips, glass gem, birch bark, holographic lens, glitter transfer, image transfer, industrial foil 46 x 35.2 cm Collection of Simon Blais, Montréal Mary Pratt Christmas Turkey 1980 oil on masonite 45.8 x 59.9 cm Collection of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, purchase, 1981 74
Cole Swanson Tuesday Night Special 2013 chicken skeleton (Mammoth BBQ Chicken), blood, 24 carat gold leaf Installation, variable dimensions Collection of the artist Cole Swanson Monument 2018 reclaimed insects, 24 carat gold leaf, entomology pins, thread Installation, variable dimensions Collection of the artist Catherine Telford-Keogh The BaByliss Ultra Series institutionalized all forms of human function into low, flat intensities 2018 plexiglas, Unico® Olives, 3D printed grapes, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, Hellmann’s® Light Mayonnaise, Pigmented FlexFoam-iT!® III, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Forbo Flooring System Rubber, Betty Crocker® Cup, Froot Loops®, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, hot dog trays 8- pack, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, hair, cast ash tray and IKEA cereal bowl, miscellaneous
objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood 26.4 x 94.6 x 94.6 cm Collection of the artist Catherine Telford-Keogh Modern mathematics and sullied diapers was all Hal needed to formulate the abstruse and truly terrifying theological models that characterize Contemporary Life 2018 plexiglas, Unico® Olives, Pigmented FlexFoam-iT!® III, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Forb Flooring System Rubber, Betty Crocker® Coffee Mug, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, hot dog trays 8-pack, SmoothCast® 325, 326, hair, cardboard valentines, cartoon heart hands, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood 26.4 x 94.6 x 94.6 cm Collection of the artist
Catherine Telford-Keogh The telephone melted into a pond of blue goo in Jasmine’s clammy palm after a caller’s obscene message. 2018 glass, Unico® Stuffed Manzanilla Olives, Maynards Swedish Berries, White Wood Letters by Artminds®, 9” pigmented FlexFoam-iT!® III, LEGO®, found objects, 3D printed cookies, Yankee Candle® Home Sweet Home® Fragrance SpheresTM, Del Monte® Sliced Peaches Yellow Cling Peaches, President’s Choice® The Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookie, Bick’s® Dill Pickles, Smooth-Cast® 325, 326, miscellaneous objects, aluminum drain, inkjet print on transparency, Con-Tact® Brand Creative CoveringTM Self-Adhesive Shelf and Drawer Liner, Granite, snake plywood 26.4 x 92.4 x 92.4 cm Collection of the artist Xiaojing Yan Cloud Cell 2014 freshwater pearls, monofilament thread, aluminum 211 x 99 x 99 cm Collection of the artist
Katie Bethune-Leamen (b. 1973) works in sculpture and installation toward consideration of the nature of objects, our relationships with them, and our relationships with each other as mediated through objects. She is interested in the inchoate as location for engagement and possibility for meaning. Recent solo exhibitions include: I can talk about enjoyment. Iâ€™ve tasted it. (University of Waterloo Art Gallery), YOU WIN! (february) (8-11, Toronto), and Shiny, Object, Person. (Art Gallery of Ontario); group exhibitions at Susan Hobbs Gallery (Toronto), the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and many others. Recent residencies include: the Canada Council for the Arts International Residency (Paris), Fogo Island Arts, and more. She recently received an Ontario Arts Council Chalmers Fellowship to research sculptural abstraction through travel in Japan, Germany, Italy & the USA, and a Canada Council for the Arts grant to produce new video work in Iceland. Recent writing on her work includes critical essays, and reviews in publications including Canadian Art. Her writing has appeared in Canadian Art, C Magazine, Border Crossings, and others. Joy and Rose Broadbent (b. 1977 and b. 1986) are multidisciplinary artists based in Toronto. Together, the Broadbent Sisters transform the domestic into dreamlike
realms where sparkles are swept and spaces are cleared. They use performance and installation to create interactive experiences that transform “lowly” everyday objects into mystical artifacts. Their unfolding art practice, Clearing Spaces, examines themes of domestic life, meditation, femininity, religious ritual, and pop spirituality. They were recently awarded the 2017 Burtynsky Grant through the CONTACT Photography Festival for A Telepathic Book. They have produced multiple exhibitions in the series Clearing Spaces, which have been shown internationally at the Festival Du Nouveau Cinema, TRAFO Centre for Contemporary Art, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Stephen Bulger Gallery, The Gladstone Hotel, and as part of the Sunday Drive Art Projects. Daniel Griffin Hunt’s (b. 1993) practice is intrinsically about relationships. He holds an MFA from the University of Guelph and a BA from the University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC). He is a founding member of Y+ Contemporary in Scarborough. He is interested in the relationship objects have with each other and the relationship we (as humans) share with these objects. He is a passive observer, but a persistent one, taking the role of the listener—a position in which he both listens to and instructs materials to build systems. Sometimes, he is an active
listener, taking the material intelligence of forms and helping shape them into another construction. Sometimes he is a passive listener, putting multiple elements in play and letting time and the materials do the rest. When he is actively listening, the forms are relatively straightforward in construction. Materials are stacked, sliced, stretched, pulled, hollowed out, bent, and twisted. Sanaz Mazinani (b. 1978) is a contemporary artist who works primarily in photography, video, and large-scale installations. She obtained her undergraduate degree in photography from the Ontario College of Art & Design University, and an MFA from Stanford University where her research focused on the study of digital photographic propagation and its impact on representation and perception. Mazinani has participated in worldwide exhibitions including the Art Museum at the University of Toronto; Southern Alberta Art Gallery; di Rosa Museum, Napa, California; Emirates Financial Towers, Dubai; Fotografie Forum Frankfurt; and Museum Bärengasse, Zürich. Her work is in private and public collections, including the Canada Council Art Bank, Cleveland Museum of Art, and San Francisco International Airport.
Sandy Plotnikoff (b. 1972) is a Toronto artist working with collage, paint, and foil printing. Recent exhibitions include Foil Problem at Paul Petro Contemporary Art, WHAT at YYZ Artistâ€™s Outlet, and Showroom at Art Museum at the University of Toronto. Realist painter Mary Pratt (b. 1935) received a BFA at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Her work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions throughout her career, most recently in the touring exhibition Mary Pratt, organized by The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, and the solo exhibition Mary Pratt: This Little Painting at the National Gallery of Canada. Her paintings are in numerous public and private collections including the National Gallery of Canada, Vancouver Art Gallery, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and the University of Toronto. Cole Swanson (b. 1981) is an artist, educator, and curator based in Toronto. He holds a BA in Studio Art from the University of Guelph and an MA in Art History from the University of Toronto. Swanson has exhibited his works in solo and group e xh i bitio n s in inte rnati onal ve nue s including those in the USA, China, Taiwan, India, and Italy. He is a two-time national fellowship winner through the Shastri
Indo-Canadian Institute (2007, 2014) for his research on miniature paintings and Jaipur school fresco techniques in Rajasthan. At the heart of recent work is a posthumanist exploration of materials and their social, cultural, and biological histories. Embedded within art media and commonplace resources are complex relations between nature and culture, humans and other agents, consumers and the consumed. Swanson has engaged in a cross disciplinary practice using sound, installation, painting, and sculpture to explore interspecies relationships as they relate to complex coevolutionary systems. Swanson has received support from several public agencies including the Ontario Arts Council, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Toronto Arts Council, and the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute. Catherine Telford Keoghâ€™s (b. 1986) work explores the visual and material language of objects, and their physical and psychological relationship to the body through sculpture and video. She received her MFA in Sculpture from Yale (2011), MA in Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies from Yale (2013), and BA in Fine Art from the University of Waterloo. Recent exhibitions include FLAT FOOD at Roberta Pelan, Rot: Compost and Surgery at the
Seattle Art Museum, WA; Bronx Calling, Bronx Museum, NYC; Legal Tender, The Alice, WA; and Video Snack, Vox Populi, Philadelphia, PA. Telford-Keogh currently lives and works in Toronto. Xiaojing Yan (b. 1977) is a Chinese-born, Toronto-based artist. She received her MFA in Sculpture from Indiana University o f P e n n sylva n ia, U SA, and B F A from Nanjing Arts Institution, China. As an artist migrating from China to North America, both her identity and her work pa s s th r o u gh the comp l e x fi l te rs of different countries, languages, and cultural expectations. In an effort to shape herself, she takes traditional Chinese materials and techniques and reinvents them within a contemporary aesthetic and presentation. Yan’s sculptures have been exhibited in galleries and museums in China, Canada, and the United States. Yan is the recipient of numerous grants including most recently the Chalmers Arts Fellowship from the Ontario Arts Council and a Project Grant to Visual Artists from the Canada Council for the Arts. Ruth Jones (b. 1984) is a writer, academic and an editor at The Site Magazine. She holds a BA from Dartmouth College and a PhD in French and Francophone Studies from UCLA. Her work focuses
on literature, representation, and visual perception with a particular interest in late twentieth-century urban space. Her writing can be found in the LA Review of Books, Canadian Architect, Quebec Studies, and The Site Magazine. Sam Mogelonsky (b. 1983) is a Torontobased artist with a BFA from Queen’s U ni v e r s i t y a nd a n M F A fr om Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and has received grants from the Toronto Arts Council and the Ontario Arts Council. Her sculptural practice references the body, ostentation, and the dialogue between the mass-produced and the hand-made. Mogelonsky has curated projects for t he H a ze l t on H ot e l , t he William Vale Hotel, and The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. Vanessa Nicholas (b. 1986) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Visual Art and Art History at York University, where she is researching the environmental history of Canadian quilts. She earned her MA History of Art degree at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and her BFA degree at Queen’s University. Her critical writing has appeared in Fillip and The White Review, and she has curated from the collections at the Art Gallery of Ontario and York University.
Following: Broadbent Sisters, Midnight Forms, 2017, 13:20 HD video. 79
SPONSORS PARTNERS & DONORS
Touring Exhibition Partners
Donors Sara & Michael Angel Stephen Bulger J.S. Darville Jennifer Davis Barbara & Arthur English Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited The Jones Family Pat & Gerry Wood White
Glimmers of the Radiant Real © 2018 The Robert McLaughlin Gallery 72 Queen Street, Civic Centre Oshawa, ON L1H 3Z3 rmg.on.ca Art Gallery of Peterborough 250 Crescent Street Peterborough, ON K9J 2G1 agp.on.ca McIntosh Art Gallery Western University London, ON N6A 3K7 mcintoshgallery.ca Graphic Design: Sam Mogelonsky Editor: Ruth Jones Printing: Sonic Print. Printed in Canada. Fonts: Opens Sans, Josefin Sans Cover: Astro Bright “Venus Violet” - 30% post consumer waste. Interior Pages: S upreme Silk text. FSC certified - 30% post consumer waste. Manufactured with renewable energy. Chlorine Free / Acid Free. Photo Credits: Toni Hafkensheid: exhibition documentation, Katie Bethune-Leamen: the artist, Broadbent Sisters: the artists, Daniel Griffin Hunt: the artist, Sanaz Mazinani: the artist, Sandy Plotnikoff: the artist, Mary Pratt: The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Cole Swanson: the artist, Catherine Telford-Keogh: Laura Findlay, Xiaojing Yan: the artist.
A note on the cover design: The nine “circles” represent the nine exhibiting artists and the space between the “real” in black and the “Radiant Real” in holographic foil. 84
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Glimmers of the radiant real / curated by Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky. Catalogue of a touring exhibition held at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, May 12 to September 16, 2018; Art Gallery of Peterborough, October 13, 2018, to January 6, 2019; and at the McIntosh Art Gallery, January 17 to March 16, 2019. ISBN 978-1-926589-97-8 (softcover) 1. Art, Canadian--21st century--Exhibitions. 2. Exhibition catalogs. I. Jones, Ruth, 1984-, organizer II. Mogelonsky, Sam, 1983-, organizer III. Robert McLaughlin Gallery, issuing body, host institution IV. Art Gallery of Peterborough, issuing body, host institution V. McIntosh Gallery, issuing body, host institution N6545.6.G62 2018
glimmersoftheradiantreal.ca Distributed by: ABC: Art Books Canada 327 Ste. Catherine W., Suite 521 Montréal, Québec H3B 1A2 abcartbookscanada.com
Above: Cole Swanson, Tuesday Night Special (detail), 2013, chicken skeleton (Mammoth BBQ Chicken), blood, 24 carat gold leaf. Following: S andy Plotnikoff, Foil Problem, 2017, foils, acrylic, image transfer, industrial foil, 30.8 x 24 cm. 85
9 781926 589978 88
Exhibition catalogue for Glimmers of the Radiant Real. Curated by Ruth Jones and Sam Mogelonsky.