Four members of the Sculptors Society of Canada, Elaine Jaques, Elizabeth Merei, Marianne Reim and Peter Shoebridge show their works at the Canadian Sculpture Centre in June. However, this exhibition is so much more than a group show, as each artist is displaying numerous sculptures from their oeuvre – it’s more like four solo exhibitions that happen to be in the same place. Each artist has a large area and the high ceiling makes it feel even more spacious.
The four artists (L-R): Elizabeth Merei, Elaine Jaques, Peter Shoebridge and Marianne Reim with her work. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre
Entering the gallery from the Distillery District’s busy street, the visitor is greeted by Elizabeth Merei’s beautiful sculptures. In front of the dark background her figures and semi-abstract works come alive. Merei is enchanted by the human form and the emotions hidden inside. Penelope, an alabaster bust, looks a bit like the artist herself, maybe by accident as she never uses models. Merei carves directly into the stone, using its imperfection and variations to strengthen the expression. In Penelope, the face – even the eyes – remain half hidden in the rough block of the stone. Part of the hair, the jaw line with a beautifully carved, sensual mouth and a pretty curving neck emerge from the pink radiance of the stone. Some of Merei’s sculptures are created from white alabaster like the semi-abstract Twins or Song. The lovely singing girl in Song is going through a metamorphosis and becomes music itself as she surrenders her entire being to the melody. Her neck is elongated to give the sound a better way to emerge, her face turned to the sky while she is singing her heart out. The figure is surrounded by the natural stone creating a tension between the smooth surface of the girl and the rough background.
Elizabeth Merei, Penelope, alabaster
Elizabeth Merei, Song, Italian alabaster
Marianne Reim’s steel sculptures take us into the territory of books, enlarged into monumental forms but still filled with words. It seems a rather strange choice of material but as the artist states, “My work attempts to look into the many ways steel and stone can be translated to obtain a more humanistic metamorphosis.” Since 1984 Reim has been working on her Book (DAS BUCH) series that now contains 52 pieces. Like real books, they are bound and contain steel pages that can be turned and read. They are created through a process of cutting, burning and welding the letters onto steel sheets. The content comes from the artist’s historical and cultural background as well as her experiences. Some depict pages from books or were inspired by a visit to the Berlin Wall, while others are diary entries. One of the latest pieces depicts hieroglyphs, commemorating Egyptian texts. Their beauty is highlighted by coloured lights shining through their cut-out shapes – and you can still turn the pages. It is truly mesmerizing looking and reading these “books.”
Marianne Reim, Tablet, Indiana limestone, steel
Marianne Reim, XLV, (detail) steel
Elaine Jaques examines the power of nuanced gestures within the human form. In Focus Point the artist depicts a female figure in a yoga pose. The seated body is perfectly positioned, her face uplifted as she stares into the distance, radiating peacefulness. Angela, another bronze portrait by Jacques, has the same staring eyes but a very different expression. This face is rather unpleasant with a hole in the middle, as the cheeks are missing. The head seems to be covered with a scarf. Her nose is too large, only her mouth and long neck are truly attractive. Still, the fragmentation of the rough surface seems to hide an inner, spiritual beauty. The circular wood panel used as part of the figure’s cloth and the background as well, enhances the mystique of the sculpture. In Venus Rising Jaques mixes wood pieces – in the exact form in which she found them – with bronze, in a way that makes it hard to know what part’s made of bronze or wood as it all seems very natural and not man-made at all.
Elaine Jaques, Angela, bronze / wood base
Installation view with Elaine Jaques, Venus Rising, bronze / driftwood base
Peter Shoebridge’s figurative works are the most eclectic in the show because of their style, technique and material use. His female portraits, Icara Head, Clea, A Model capture the attention not only for what is depicted in the faces but even more for what is missing. They explore a certain kind of semi-abstraction of the human face and even with parts ripped away, they are beautiful, if a bit melancholy. They appear to be in constant communication with one another as each piece seems to float in their own spiritual worlds. Juxtaposing the movements of those portraits, Shoebridge’s other sculptures follow a more classical tradition with a rather steady composition. Shoebridge works with live models and makes sketches, even large sized ones, close to the finished size of the sculptures. Then he transfers the sketch to clay, from which he makes a mold that he retouches to modify the outcome. The mold is then cast in different materials and sometimes sent to the foundry. Many of the portraits in the exhibition were created using this procedure, including the life size Two.
Installation view with Peter Shoebridge’s scultures Icara Head, Clea, both bronze and A Model, iron tinted cement
Peter Schoebridge, Two, life-size cement fondue
Through their sculptures each artist examines the power of nuanced gestures – capturing the human spirit in clay, bronze and stone.
*Exhibition information: June 8 – July 7, 2019, Canadian Sculpture Centre, 39 Parliament Street, in the Distillery District. Gallery hours: Mon – Sat 11 am – 6 pm, Sun 12 – 5 pm.