Steven Beckly: Meirenyu at Daniel Faria

Ocean; body; delicate; glistening. These are the words I wrote down as I walked through Meirenyu. I am seduced by the shine and the stillness of Meirenyu’s poiesis. Can one create a real being out of a fictional myth? Steven Beckly’s poetic investigation contemplates this question.

Just like the mermaid, Beckly’s works are elusive and hauntingly stunning. One way to summarize the works would be to say it is a didactic representation of the legendary aquatic creature. However it is much more than that. I opt to evade simple interpretation, but the complexity of this collection is one that is hard for words. One simply has to experience.

Installation view of Steven Beckly: Meirenyu at Daniel Faria. Photo: Sunny Kim

Curation is dynamic. There are pieces hanging from the ceiling, placed on the floor, very low on the wall, leaning against the wall, etc. The transparency and tissue papers Beckly uses transform from two-dimensional to three. Transparencies in Blue Dancers are left to take on their own shapes as it hangs attached to a thin chain on one corner. They curl over naturally and mimics the ocean wave imagery printed on the surfaces. The natural cone-like shape they take on is replicated in Sea Elegy, a plaster cast leg jutting out of the floor. On the tip of the big toe is a small transparency rolled into a cone. The transparency and the leg attempt to fuse together, transforming the human leg into a new creature. Part human and part ocean.

Blue Dancers, 2017-18, colour Transparency and silver chain. Photo: Sunny Kim

Sea Elegy, 2017-18, folded photograph and plaster leg, dimensions variable (left) and detail (right). Photo: Sunny Kim

Trans Form and Soft Tissue is another attempt at this transfusion. In Trans Form, the photograph is crumpled, becoming a piece of a shiny mermaid scale. Beside it is Soft Tissue, a masculine torso printed on a gentle tissue paper. Soft Tissue is also sculptural, but softer and ‘fleshier’. Presented side by side, indexicalities of both pieces intermingle and produce a cohesive symbol; of the poetic, fluidity, and longing.

Soft Tissue, 2017, inkjet on tissue, sea urchin spines and plastic sequins, 22 x 16 inches. Photo: Sunny Kim

Trans Form, 2017, folded photograph, approx 21 x 14.5 x 2.5 inches. 3 views: left, front and right. Photo: Sunny Kim

In the back room, light is added as an extra effect. Light passes through the curved transparency and projects the image onto the wall behind it. Like a hologram, Untitled (O) creates a doubling effect and mediates the relationship between the physical and its imitation.

Pearl Harvest, 2017, folded transparency, silver chain and pearl, dimensions variable (left) and detail (right). Courtesy of Daniel Faria Gallery

Beyond the back room is the project room, where Pearl Harvest exists quietly and peacefully. It is alone in the room, meditating. It is a transparency with fishing net imagery, almost curved into a cylinder. The transparency hangs at eye level vertically on the wall, with two light sources making two shadows on each side of the piece. From the ceiling hangs a long thin chain with a pearl hanging at the end of it, and this pearl floats in the centre of the curved transparency. The stillness, the verticality, and the interweaved lights make Pearl Harvest breathtaking. It is a stunning contemplation of Beckly’s thesis.

Meirenyu closes on February 24th and it is a must-see exhibition of the season. The imagery this exhibition provokes will stay within you, illuminating inside like the pearl in Pearl Harvest.

Sunny Kim

*Exhibition information: January 18 – March 10, 2018, Daniel Faria Gallery, 188 St. Helen’s Avenue, Toronto. Gallery Hours: Tue – Fri, 11 – 6; Sat, 10 – 6 pm.

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