95th LAUNCH at the Canadian Sculpture Centre

As galleries are gradually being pushed out of the city, the Canadian Sculptors Society has been determined to maintain the dignity and accessibility of local art. Despite the uncertainty and fear surrounding the Canadian Sculpture Centre’s forced and sudden departure from the Distillery District, the Society has secured a space within the campus of Metro Toronto Multimedia College: a private design-focused college located in North York at 95 Moatfield Drive off Valleybrook. Artists and visitors joyfully gathered there for the Society’s 95th birthday and grand opening to show support for the gallery’s tenacity. Fittingly so, the first exhibit sees new and returning artists in an engrossing display of works that celebrate human resilience.

Installation view of 95th LAUNCH. Photo: Tiffany Duong

Gordon Becker’s life-sized wooden sculpture, “The Bow” invites visitors entering to reflect on the beauty, strength, and hardship of one’s artistic journey. While the curves of the ballet dancer’s features are rendered with delicacy, the vigorous, sharp lines of her hair and dress capture the swiftness and energy of her performance. The figure’s flexed pose is particularly difficult to sustain, requiring immense balance and strength, yet Becker preserves the dancer in this manner to emphasize her power—expressing the labor required in pursuit of mastering a creative endeavor.

Gordon Becker, The Bow (left) and detail (right), wood, pigment. Photo: Tiffany Duong

Employing a similar juxtaposition of careful and crude mark-making, Soheyl Bastami showcases the durability of the human body alongside human persistence. “Against the Wind #1” features a figure carved from a block of wood. Parts of the figure have been bluntly whittled away to convey the brute force of nature; however, it stands tall, calm, and contemplative, embracing the natural environment.

Installation view with Soheyl Bastami, Against the Wind #1, wood, steel base (at front, detail). Photo: Tiffany Duong

Patrick Bermingham’s bronze-casted figures compare the strength of human anatomy to machinery. With a background in construction, his figures are structured in an industrial manner— limbs resembling parts found within a building’s foundation. In “Royal Ease,” the artist depicts a figure in the titular pose that is frequent in the art of dharmic religions. Although the figures of divine art are representational, Bermingham simplifies the human body to a purely skeletal form. Sitting atop a plinth, the figure’s arms resemble metal beams; its torso similar to metal piping. In doing so, the artist emphasizes the strength of the human body as simultaneously relaxed, robust, and stable.

Patrick Bermingham, Royal Ease, front and back view, bronze. Photo: Tiffany Duong

Marlene Kawalez explores human interrelationships with nature as a way for us to find and regain inner strength. Her raku clay sculpture, “Far Away” was conceived amid the Covid-19 pandemic whereby quarantine made it difficult to be within and grounded by the natural environment. Here, Kawalez uses raku clay, a naturally-sourced material, to depict a smiling woman’s bust crowned by twine. The back of the sculpture is covered by leaves, and birds, urging us to seek out the freedom and joy that can be found within nature.

Marlene Kawalez, Far Away, front and back view, raku clay, mixed media. Photo: Tiffany Duong

Camie Geary-Martin’s sculptures consider the generational connections formed and furthered by art. Her bronze works are inspired by her grandmother’s textile illustrations of contemporary, fashion-forward women. “Woman with Cat,” for instance, resembles a Vogue illustration. The figure, sassy and humorous, models a matching turquoise outfit. Through these sculptures, the artist is able to respond to, honor, and preserve the works created by her grandmother using a different medium. Furthermore, her work highlights art — both in conversations about art and the expression thereof — as a way of strengthening our connection with the human past and present.

Camie Geary-Martin, Woman with Cat (left) and Woman Looking Left (right), both bronzes. Courtesy of Canadian Sculpture Centre

Ultimately, the works in this exhibit are insightful and impactful, offering viewers compelling discussion about the complexities of human power. As we commemorate and reflect on the Canadian Sculptors Society’s long, eventful past in the face of difficulty, the exhibit in the Canadian Sculpture Centre captures the gallery’s own strength and resolve — excitedly anticipating the future ahead.

Installation view of 95th LAUNCH. Photo: Tiffany Duong

Tiffany Duong

*Exhibition information: 95th Launch, May 30 – June 27, 2024, Canadian Sculpture Centre, 95 Moatfield Drive, 5th Floor, North York. Gallery hours: Tue – Sat 11 am – 6 pm, Sun 12 – 5 pm.

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