Using art to discuss ecological themes

Hilde Lambrechts’s ceramic scuplture “Petrified Forest” tries to show the beauty of biological strucutres on both macroscopic and microscopic levels based on various tree species.

Photo by Jessica Dik
Photo by Jessica Dik

Nature is often seen as a harsh and cruel physical force. The latest exhibit at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, Exquisite Woods, aims to take this deposition and expose artistic nature of the environment.

“Nature is a foreign, weird place where you see dead birds and insects and it’s an uncomfortable place,” said the exhibit curator Christian Bernard Singer. “But it’s also beautiful and magical and it reminds us of this cylindrical nature of our own lives.”

Singer noted part of what drew him to do this exhibit was the architecture of the Clay and Glass Gallery.

“I often look for works that respond directly to the architecture and would be interesting in that space. I want to create an environment in that space where people feel like the work really belongs there.”

The exhibit is a collection of four artists’ work — Marie-Andrée Côté, Hilde Lambrechts, Paula Murray and Grace Nickel. Singer said having a small group of artists to work on an exhibit is the best way to work with a theme.

“It’s about picking a scene and unpacking it from a variety of perspectives. Working with a small group of artists allows for each artist to show different perspectives towards a singular theme.”

For the Exquisite Woods exhibit, Singer said some of the work was created specifically for the gallery. He said he wanted the works to respond directly to the theme he is trying to convey, which in this case is trees.

The exhibit tries to unpack ecological themes through the ceramic art installations of artists.

Singer said while a lot of people have lost touch with the environment we live it, artists have not.

“We’ve lost touch in the Western world with the natural world. Artists have not lost touch. They are constantly trying to remind us of this.”

Singer believes art is a good way to discuss these ecological themes.

“I see artists as a kinds of philosophers and modern-day court jesters. The court jester always told the truth to the king and queen, often in a humourous way,” he said.

“When you see an artwork, you might respond to it in one way and someone might respond to it completely differently and I think both of these responses are good and true. Once an artists has steeped away, they have done their work.”

The exhibit opened at the Clay and Glass Gallery on Jan. 18 and will remain active until Mar. 15. So far, the reaction to the exhibit has been positive.

“I’ve spoken to some people and they have been really blown away by the show. The responses have been about how well it has been installed, how it looks in the space and the range of colours and textures.”

While Singer would love to see the exhibit travel once its tenure at the Clay and Glass Gallery is done, he also understands that moving the suspended installations in the exhibit would be difficult to do.

Like other exhibits he has done at the Clay and Glass Gallery, Singer hopes that has created an environment that can “breathe.”

“I try and create some breathing space around the works, so that the works have their own little space but also a natural space. I strive to find a way for people to travel through the gallery but also have a sense that the works are grounded in the space.”

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