Judy Raymer Ivkoff: Earthly Matters

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Walking on busy Church Street, surrounded by noisy crowds and then stepping into the Canadian Sculpture Centre is like entering a different world. Not just because you are leaving everyday life behind and entering an art gallery but because the silence inside is deep, a feeling of pure solitude greets you.

Celebrating Earth Day, Earthly Matters explore elements of nature. The nature that inspires Judy Raymer Ivkoff’s work is the most ancient aspect of earth, the dark, all enveloping one. It can be nurturing with its fertile soil and threatening with its darkness both at the same time. All the works, regardless of the material the artist used, are monochromatic: earth colored, showing every shade of the ground.

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Wilderness, wood, steel (left) and Life Source, oxide glaze fired clay (right)

In her artist statement Raymer Ivkoff writes: “My subject matter centres on elements of the natural physical environment within the context of movement, order, time, energy, rhythm and regeneration.” My overall feeling of the show was something very earthly. I could almost smell the richness of soil after a rain or ploughing, a sensation that goes back at the beginning of mankind.

The exhibition contains of three series. “Forest” is an earlier series the artist began in 1998. Each sculpture is freestanding, narrow, linear and upright, approximately 7 feet high and made of hand hewn wood with metal detail. Each piece rests on a bedrock of unadorned limestone. Raymer Ivkoff depicts the amazing richness of a forest with its tall trees that try to reach even higher, closer to the sun, and the abundance of undergrowth. I could imagine many of those sculptures put close together like a real forest. Walking in between them, one easily could feel like you were entering the black forest of the Brother Grimm – welcoming and tricky at the same time. One of the clay figures from the Khivas series, a hooded one without a face, could easily be a creature in that forest.

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Forest  Series, wood, limestone base

The entire exhibition seems to be curated around the forest and its flora. There is a piece dedicated to every stage of natural growth. “Sighting”, a relief, from the series with the same title, take us underground when we can peek at seeds hiding in their winter retreat, ready to spring into life. “Root Force” shows the amazing energy of the seed, growing into small roots, so fragile looking, but extremely strong that it can brake through rocks and stones until the plant rises out of the ground. Eventually they become roots of larger plants, even trees, connecting the plants to the nurturing earth. In some works surfaces are covered with various kinds of leaves, fragile and beautiful, rhythmically bending in the wind.

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Root Force, bronze, limestone

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Sightings, wood  steel

My favourite piece, “Combined Forces” is a clay, boat-like structure filled with a lighter colored material, maybe sand, that gives a cradling home to some vegetation that looks like seaweed, made of metal strips. I can easily imagine an abandoned seaside where a forgotten boat slowly filled up by the sea.

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Combined Forces, bronze  oxide fired clay

All the pieces are abstract, focusing on natural movement, rhythm and textures observed during the artist’s walks in the woods. 

Judy Raymer Ivkoff, Khivas Series, oxide glaze fired clay

Emese Krunák-Hajagos

Images are courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

*Exhibition information: April 6 – 28, 2017,  Canadian Sculpture Centre, 500 Church Street. Gallery hours: Tue – Fri: 12 – 6, Sat: 11 – 4 p.m.

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