Collins and Patella at Propeller Gallery

In keeping with Propeller Gallery’s tradition, two artists: Simone Collins and Frances Patella are showing their latest works at the same time. At first sight these two artists seem very different both in their artistic approaches and their methods of creation. However, I recognized surrealistic allusions in both Collins’ and Patella’s exhibited work. The combining of the collage technique with various materials that flourished during the Dada movement, gives their pieces a variability and pluralism that still characterizes modern art.

In the front exhibition hall, we enter Simone Collins’ show, Crescive. The artist boldly used different materials and multi-dimensional convergence; her works break through the flat canvas and enter the viewer’s vision as three-dimensional forms. Her sculptures and collages encapsulate a combination of real and fairytale characters interacting with often strange animals, surrounded by natural elements. This creates a mysterious aesthetic; a one-of-a kind fantasy world. Her beautiful pieces radiate harmony.

Installation view of Simone Collins, Crescive at Propeller Gallery, 2021

Jewelry, animals, children and embryos are popular elements in her art, bringing to mind the phrase “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” that prevailed in 20th-century Berlin Dadaism. This concept emphasizes the commonality and parallelism in all living things. The title Crescive is originally coming from Italian and means growth marked by gradual, spontaneous development. In Collins’ works human beings are not superior to other creatures, but coexist with them in creating a new, different ecosystem. In Gem Face Girl Carrying her Pets the little girl’s hat and dress suggest a late 18th-century stage, her face is replaced by a hollow gem. She lovingly hugs two rabbits and a chameleon—a rather strange combination of pets. The chameleon here might be a symbol of interchangeability. 

Simone Collins, Gem Face Girl Carrying her Pets, 2020, mixed media on wood panel, 10 x 8 inches

Frances Patella is a photo-based artist, whose canvases in the second room of the gallery also give us a sense of virtually intersecting aesthetics by blending the boundaries between illusion and reality. The gallery’s website explains her unique method, “Using a carpenter’s plane, Patella shaves off layers of photographs and paint, using the plane as another tool, to reveal the slow passage of time.”

Installation view of Frances Patella, Plane to See at Propeller Gallery, 2021

Most of her works are related to the woods, controlled burns, and ruins. Mixing and layering those visual elements create a melancholy undertone in her pieces. Burn with Yellow Leaves seems to take us back to German romanticism of the nineteenth century, with the burning of fires in the foreground and crumbling arches in the background, the only bystander is a red tailed hawk in a dead tree.

Frances Patella, Burn with Yellow Leaves, 2021, mixed media on wood panel, 12 x 12 inches

Nevertheless, the airplanes, cars and metal structures that appear from time to time in her classically-inspired compositions, remind viewers that these are 21st-century artworks.

Vivian Sun

Images are courtesy of Propeller Gallery

*Exhibition information: Simone Collins, Crescive & Frances Patella, Plane to See, September 22 – October 10, 2021, Propeller Art Gallery, 30 Abell St, Toronto.

  2 comments for “Collins and Patella at Propeller Gallery

  1. I would like to thank Vivian Sun for the lovely and thoughtful article on my show PLANE TO SEE at Propeller art gallery. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and sharing it. Just for the record, it’s not an eagle in the tree in the image “Burn with Yellow Leaves”, it’s a red tailed hawk – just saying….

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