Caleb Saraby Sandblom at Gallery 1313

Gallery 1313’s members’ gallery – a room in the corner of the main gallery – hosts a dizzying variety of shows. Currently it features the works of a young new member, Caleb Saraby Sandblom, who is about to embark on an MFA in the US. Here he offers us a selection of recent works, which are primarily mixed media on board. Wonderfully energetic and graphic, the work might best be described as street art in overall style. The work is clearly influenced by this highly urban artform.

Saraby Sandblom has long been in the habit of collecting images chanced upon here and there – magazine photos, papers found in the street, and so on. He admits doing this to the point of hoarding them. It is a selection of the resulting cache of images, and various pieces of writing, that is incorporated into the finished works. Often this involves photocopying them and/or projecting them onto the board. It is an unapologetic use of basic graphics technologies.

Installation view of Caleb Saraby Sandblom, Noise/Signal

He does not lament the lack of originality that follows from this approach, but rather embraces the derivative nature of his imagery. This seems indicative of a postmodernist attitude towards authorship, namely that it is not you or I in isolation that create ideas and images. All is a social construct in this respect. No abidance to the myth of the avant garde here then. That is not to say, however, that his work does not have the stamp of individuality. It is indiosyncratic in an interesting way.

Home, Visualizer, 2020, acrylic, paper, ink and pencil on board, 9 x 11 inches

Two of the works that I find to be most successful, Laundry Comfort Rites and Shitbox Scratchpad, are small in scale. In the former there is the outline of a narrative that allows the viewer to engage with the work. There are, oddly, echoes of the art of Paul Klee here, in terms of its intimate scale, deft use of colour and a strong overall composition. The simplified wailing and tearful figures create a real sense of drama in a beautifully economical way. In the latter piece, the images and words are smartly incorporated. These works point to a considerable talent behind them.

Laundry Comfort Rites, 2021, mixed media, 11 x 11 inches

By contrast, other works on display are less engaging. While, for instance, we get a hint of a narrative in his Boy Is the New Girl, with these words pasted on it, little follows. That is to say, the text and imagery are hard for the viewer to connect, though formally it is a very coherent work. As well, the larger works, while well designed, can seem overblown – especially the monochromes. This fact suggests that Saraby Sandblom’s style and method are perhaps best suited to works on a small scale, which, as a rule, is true of this exhibition.

Boy is the New Girl, 2021, acrylic, paper and ink on cardboard, 32 x 40 inches

Experimentation is key to his method. He spends hours working out various compositions. Thus, one might explain the seemingly arbitrary juxtapositioning of images, in thematic terms, as being the result of such experimenting. Experimentation is an essential aspect of most artistic practices of course. But, ultimately, any work must be more that just a product of the playful arrangement of elements. What more is difficult to say – if it were easy we’d have a formula for art production perhaps. At any rate, more content might be beneficial in this case. Given the early stage of his career, the works in this exhibition show a lot of promise. I can’t wait to see what he produces in the future.

Hugh Alcock

Images are courtesy of Gallery 1313.

*Exhibition information: Caleb Saraby Sandblom, Noise/Signal, August 2 – 13, 2023, Gallery 1313, Cell Gallery, 1313 Queeen St, W. Toronto. Gallery hours: Wed – Sat 1 – 5pm, Sun 1-4pm.

  1 comment for “Caleb Saraby Sandblom at Gallery 1313

  1. Saw the show in person yesterday, was truly a delight to see such a talented young artist working in Toronto. Really like the dialectic between author and editor you see in his work. Great review Hugh.

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