Elizabeth Babyn and Ester Pugliese at loop

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As always, loop Gallery has two shows on view in their Dundas West boutique space: Elizabeth Babyn’s Plastopia and Ester Pugliese’s Measured Calm. As you walk into the gallery, you are welcomed by a vivid splurge of color radiating from Pugliese’s paintings, yet as you make your way further inside, the room gets darker and more mysterious as sound and video images creep in from the back. You are wondering what awaits you, as you approach Babyn’s grand installation that covers every inch of the front desk and the walls across from it.

Installation view of Elizabeth Babyn, Plastopia, loop, 2017

Elizabeth Babyn’s installation Plastopia is a fully immersive visual and sound experience. For her MFA thesis, she imagines a serene dystopian world created from the plastic refuse of our current one. Thousands of strips of plastic and miles of saran wrap are the main building material for this new world: a windmill, a waterfall, and a mythic creature. The windmill is located on the left side of the installation. There is a fan right behind it, which startles the viewer the first time it turns on and makes the plastic strips rustle. The right side has a beautifully designed plastic waterfall, back-lit with colorful lights and accompanied by a very rough, tsunami-like audio recording. A mythical creature, resembling a bull, is placed in the center, with his torso and head turning away from the viewer toward the video projected on the wall.

Installation view of Elizabeth Babyn, Plastopia, detail (windmill) loop, 2017

The composition of these elements in the installation, however confusing, most definitely entrap the gaze of the onlooker. The overwhelming presence of plastic envelops the viewers and leads them to ask questions about our society’s excessive consumption. Babyn, on the other hand, illustrates her idea by creating another world where this waste is re-configured into something useful and totally new.

Ester Pugliese, Thunderstorms will likely occur across the region, 2016, acrylic, soft pastel, carbon pencil, and chalkboard paint on wood panel

Ester Pugliese’s exhibition, Measured Calm, juxtaposes Babyn’s installation both in medium and meaning. While Babyn’s installation is striking and exciting, Pugliese’s paintings take the viewer into a tranquil pleasure state. The colors of the abstracts paintings resemble flowers and coral reefs. They are inspired by endangered species and Italian folk songs. Large patches of colors are contrasted by geometric shapes, depicting different elements that happily coexist – creating a unique beauty. “Moderate to strong northwest winds will persist through the weekend” is a stunning example of the artist’s method. Orange, red, and purple hues are erupting in the background then covered with drawing to form something between a flower and a firework. It’s electrifying but the longer you look at it, the happier and more peaceful your mind becomes.

Ester Pugliese, Moderate to strong northwest winds will persist through the weekend, 2016, acrylic, soft pastel, carbon pencil, and chalkboard paint on wood panel, 30 x 30 inches

Both exhibitions are playful in their own ways. Their different styles – Babyn’s conceptual and contemplative installation and Pugliese’s emotional and tranquil paintings – are greatly complement each other.

Text and photo: Elizaveta Mironova

*Exhibition information: Elizabeth Babyn’s Plastopia and Ester Pugliese’s Measured Calm, January 28 – February 19, 2017,  loop Gallery, 1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Thur 12 – 5, Fri -Sat 12 – 6, Sun 1 – 4 pm.

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