Tau Lewis at Cooper Cole

Tau Lewis’ solo exhibition at Cooper Cole, Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls, explores a paradisiacal world both timeless and tethered to this one. Lewis generates the realm of the T.A.U.B.I.S. at Cooper Cole “to explore desires for abundance, safety, deep roots, and justice.” Sectioned around three figures, Lewis has hand-stitched and hand-dyed upcycled materials into unforgettable textile sculptures. Though in-person viewing was cut short by Toronto’s lockdown restrictions, in its final week, the realm of T.A.U.B.I.S. was accessible by gazing through the well-lit windows of Cooper Cole.

Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls view from the Cooper Cole Gallery window at night

The quantity of physical and emotional labour put into this work can be detected in the intimacy and care evident in every detail. Lewis began collecting and dying fabrics approximately one year before the exhibition, some materials having been gathered and held onto from much earlier. The result is an environment that appears to be in constant transformation yet also seems to have existed forever. In conversation with Cooper Cole, Lewis shares her connection with upcycled materials, “I feel like I’m a treasure hunter… That’s been a part of my life since childhood.” In her artwork, Lewis uses second-hand clothes, textile waste, gathered shells, and even sacrifices personal jewelry all in the name of sharing the love and lives of the items’ previous owners.

For Lewis, the process of creation is healing in itself. In her studio, she doesn’t abandon life but instead takes a departure from it. In the gallery, Lewis hopes viewers can take their departures as well, departures that are well-needed in such a new and wearisome time as this. With such love for the process, Lewis finds it difficult to name her pieces and watch them exit the studio. Her sometimes long titles are products of her labouring love and need to share sentiments that a single word cannot express.

Tau Lewis, T.A.U.B.I.S., 2020

The whole of Lewis’ oeuvre connects in ways known only to her in a non-linear exploration of a bigger story. Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls showcases the first time the artist’s clarification of these relationships for her audience, done largely through the exhibition text, allowing the viewers to fully enter her conceived world of abundance and safety.

“Mutable and devoid of gender, they transmute into blossoms. Every blossom embodies a soul who is alive and listening. T.A.U.B.I.S. blossoms grow year-round, uni-wide, even in most harsh weather and on most hostile planets. The T.A.U.B.I.S communicate and collect intel through these blossoms.” – Tau Lewis

The T.A.U.B.I.S. figures embody the essence of genderless fairy godmothers; they are the unconditional providers of motherly love and comfort. By Lewis, Symphony embodies this fairy godmother spirit best of all. With energetic lines and powerful stillness, Symphony stands visible from the street, displaying a delicate colour palette of pastel pinks and yellows. Lines of blossoms—souls cascade down from above and tether the figure to both the earth and the cosmos. Symphony exudes the safety of a “motherly overlord.”

Tau Lewis, Symphony, 2020 (bottom) & detail (top)

Past a forest-like gathering of blossoming souls, Delight sits in the corner. This figure exudes wisdom appearing to be in an engaging conversation with the blossoms that surround them. Delight, like the rest, is the product of intimate labour and a representation of a community of ancestors well-understood if never seen. Lewis’ transformation of recycled materials tells a story rooted in the past and reflects the artist’s inwardness.

Tau Lewis, Delight, 2020 (bottom) & detail (top)

Another “motherly overlord,” Opus (The Ovule) is a towering head with bright discerning eyes and a tongue extended forward. A head so large in scale can’t help but impose a sense of endless and eternal wisdom. Indeed, in the realm of the T.A.U.B.I.S. the Ovule is an essential but vulnerable source of knowledge and power. Lewis began work on this figure in 2017 in Kingston, Ontario, collecting textiles but limited by the few objects accessible to her there. “Opus slept for a couple of years,” says Lewis, and here the figure finally emerges in this 2020 exhibition.

Tau Lewis, Opus (The Ovule), 2020 (bottom) & detail (top)

In a world where justice and goodness are at times hard to locate, the T.A.U.B.I.S. provide us with an unmatched system of comfort. While science fiction plays a large role in her works, Lewis takes care to point out that science fiction is often about examining the present from new perspectives despite the genre’s futuristic connotations. In this way, the realm of the T.A.U.B.I.S. gives us the opportunity to both depart from our world and locate the often-elusive love within it.

Olivia Mariko Hsuen-Ferris

Images are courtesy of Cooper Cole Gallery

*Exhibition information: Tau Lewis, Triumphant Alliance of the Ubiquitous Blossoms of Incarnate Souls, October 17 – November 28, 2020, Cooper Cole, 1134 Dupont Street, Toronto. Exhibition images and text remain on the Cooper Cole website for viewing. Artist talk: In Conversation with Tau Lewis | Cooper Cole

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