Curator Tak Pham offers sweet indulgences and sour truths in Decadence at Pari Nadimi Gallery. The works in the exhibition play off one another as they confront the viewer with an ontological framing of what it is to exist in a state of decline, as Pham states “the politics of the world are distilled into flavourful displays of desire as the subjects have gone past satisfaction and head towards deprecation.” Take for instance Adrienne Crossman’s videos Trevi (2016) and David (2016) installed on separate monitors facing the entrance. The works display the distinct patterns of “datamoshing” a term for the visual effect of when digital signals essentially get mashed together due to an incorrect compression rate. The end result in this case has given a liquid like appearance to the video causing forms morph into one another. The content for Crossman’s videos feature short clips of Michelangelo’s David and Rome’s historic Trevi Fountain on loop; the famous white marble sculptures of a bygone era become merged and cast into low-res rainbow-strewn GIF-like loops where the virtue of classical art is at odds with that of our constantly fluctuating post-internet society.
Installation view with Adrienne Crossman, Trevi, 2016 and David, 2016 (left); Anna Kovler, Plum Figurines (2018) and Fantasy Cake Set, 2018 (right). Photo: Laura Findlay
Anna Kovler on the other hand offers the exhibition a gesture in the form of porcelain collections. In one of her two sculptures for the exhibition, Fantasy Cake Stand (2018), mixed dessert plates are stacked above one another like a tall multi-level dessert platter. In the centre, surrounded by the plate-towers sits a crystal dinner bell, an impractical object that would easily break if ever put to any use. The plates are reminiscent of what one might find at a grandmother’s house, a mix-match of plates and tea cups, collected from thrift stores perhaps, once part of a potentially valuable china collection as a full set but now drastically devalued as single units, a tea party detritus.
Anna Kovler, Fantasy Cake Stand, 2018, detail. Photo: Laura Findlay
Ivan Alifan contributes to the exhibition with Infusion (2018), a figurative oil painting with a complex pallet of hazy violet and purple hues. The work depicts a naked body slouched in a dark room illuminated by yellow sunlight cast through an unseen window. A foamy substance surrounds the figure in creamy globs. Between these globs and the drenched dripping rose placed between the open legs the viewer becomes voyeur to the figure’s post-climatic exhaustion. Perhaps a bit of a sexual hang-over? The orgasm has ended, the figure slouches back and a black cloud shrouds the face. The painting seems conceivably encountering a moment of indignity after being so consumed by sexual urge.
Installation view with Ivan Alifan, Infusion, 2018 (left), John Holland, Lo-Fi, 2016 and Valencia, 2018 (right). Photo: Laura Findlay
Likewise to Alifan’s method, other works in the exhibition that feature figures have also had their subject’s identities hidden or obscured. John Holland’s painting’s Lo-Fi (2016) and Valencia (2018) started as photographs of his friends that were altered though digital filters, printed and then put through the process of applying paint sandwiched through sheets of plexiglass. As the outcome of this procedure the figures become lost in an abstraction of haunting depth, colour and form. In Matilda Aslizadeh’s photograph, Portrait 1 (2011), we are confronted by a back-lit figure. All we can tell that she is possibly a wealthy elderly woman, given away by her hair and pearls, but her features are completely hidden in shadow, like the artist wanted to protect her identity and wished her to remain anonymous. The density of the black in the photograph is consuming, she is faceless, she has become enigmatic, could be a victim or a perpetrator.
Matilda Aslizadeh, Portrait 1, 2011. Courtesy of Pari Nadimi Gallery
As Pham talks to me about his ideas surrounding what decadence means to him, he tells me “Too much candy gonna rot your soul”, a lyric from the song Lollipop by MIKA he says. It’s an apt aphorism for what Pham has brought to the table for this exhibition, the corrosion and breaking down of structure, the cavities have already been formed. The high has worn off and what was once extravagant is now fantastically grotesque.
*Exhibition information: DECADENCE / group show featuring works by Ivan Alifan, Matilda Aslizadeh, Adrienne Crossman, John Holland and Anna Kovler, curated by Tak Pham, February 15 – April 14, 2018, Pari Nadimi Gallery, 254 Niagara Street, Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat, 12 – 5 pm.