Loop Gallery’s two current exhibitions explore themes of mortality and contemplation, creating a dichotomy between ghastly fearfulness and existential yearning. Mark Adair’s Death’s Epilogue: The Glass House Window and Yael Brotman’s We Standing by water Waiting visualize their disparate narratives and thematic preoccupations through differing artistic practices, generating a heterogeneous movement through various emotional states, mainly touching upon anxieties pertaining to death and loneliness.
Upon entering the gallery space, Adair’s immediately confronts the viewer with its quaint aesthetic. Two hefty slabs of glass, steel and lead appear as fragments detached from a larger window scheme, both visualizing the biblical Tree of Knowledge. However, the opacity and weightiness of the lead diminishes the vitality of its subject matter, which is further emphasized by the skeletal rendering of forms, greatly contrasting the more traditionally lively and lush representations of its source material. In contrast, “Death’s Epilogue” executes its grim subject matter in a more literal and menacing fashion. The series of miniature charcoal drawings depict a narrative of death’s superiority over humankind, featuring a gaggle of ghoulish characters engaging in acts of debauchery. Death is personified as a skeletal figure clenching a menacing scythe, performing acts of brutality towards its frightful victims. Cursive captions accompany each tableau, adding a human touch to these uncomfortable and nightmarish scenarios. In comparison to the frightening literalness of “Death’s Epilogue”, Adair’s “Glass House” appears more hopeful and acts as a serene refuge from the prevailing gloominess of his charcoal works.
Yael Brotman focuses her artistic efforts on the symbolic relation between large bodies of water and longing. Presented in a series of mixed-media constructions, these sculptural forms encompass the back end of the gallery, as they are either spaciously hung against the walls or prominently placed on the floor. The use of multi-coloured theatre gels gives each piece a luminous presence, immediately contrasting the opacity of Adair’s work. Brotman ensures that every visible surface of each construction is worked in a particular manner, encouraging the viewer to walk around and observe all angles. Thematically, the pieces abstractly recall feelings of the sublime when confronting a vast body of water and all the contemplative and existential narratives applied to these experiences. Brotman references Western mythological tropes of women wishing and hoping for a particular form of personal fulfillment in front of an ocean, as its endless horizon suggests a sense of endless potential and disappointment.
Brotman takes a more metaphorical approach to visualizing the anxieties and wonders of water, contrasting the literalness of Adair’s uncompromising drawings. Both artists deal with different aspects of the human condition in their own idiosyncratic method, simultaneously unearthing and manifesting suppressed fears, desires and concerns in visual form.
*Exhibition information: December 5 – 27, 2015, loop Gallery, 1273 Dundas Street West, Toronto, (three doors west of Dovercourt). Gallery hours: Wed – Sat: 12 – 5, Sun: 1 – 4 p.m.