JUNE 6 – JULY 11, 2014
RECEPTION: FRIDAY, JUNE 6, 2014 AT 8 PM
LOCATION – STRIDE GALLERY
1006, MACLEOD TRAIL S.E, CALGARY, ALBERTA
In the long-shadow days of autumn, when the sun is low, reality is skewed. My perceptions move beyond boundaries and edges. The planes of my remote body cross, and pass through one another, and through other bodies as I cut across ground and walls. Forms find freedom from servitude in slanted, alien shadows and I am reminded of something primal, and dangerous. Their adumbrations reach out into open space hoping to escape containment, redrawing themselves with new life.
SHYRA DE SOUZA earned her Bachelor’s Degree with Distinction from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2006. De Souza is the recipient of numerous grants and residencies, including Re: Making at the Banff Centre lead by Peter von Tiesenhausen in 2014. She is based in Calgary.
INEXORABLE BLANKNESS: TRACING THE PATH OF SHYRA DE SOUZA’S LONGSHADOW
The darting glance echoes, diving headlong into walls and windows – a collision of blinding white, skating over slick surfaces, the timorous hearts of tinier creatures coming to rest. A narrative of scale relationships unfolds, measured against our own hovering bodies. But shadows tell a longer story… a mute tracery soaking in.
Immensities dwell in the quiet, persistent work of Shyra De Souza. Beyond being merely ornamental, this is art as instrument: registering the temperature of shadows, giving shape to the yawning pauses that seem to haunt still life objects. Massed ceramic forms are lightened by the negative space interlacing them – a skeleton of porous bone. Zoomorphic pairings model an uncanny symmetry. Fins and wings are splayed expansively in shirred patterns. A layer of white glaze unifies the figures across types. De Souza’s sculptural interventions function to both encourage and stunt this sense of familiarity.
Decorative objects are destabilized from their axis, appearing to rotate in space. A pitcher, oriented frontally, becomes an orifice. The aperture of a napkin ring is ocular once doubled. Labile forms shape-shift according to their juxtaposition. It is through the combination of objects that the artist creates the third – a hybrid asserting its own wholeness, legible through the particular calligraphy of cast shadows. The play of light and shadow enlarge the physical presence of the work, advancing as a slow stain. An awareness builds as to the level to which the artist is orchestrating her environment. These are not discreet objects.
De Souza manipulates her materials in ways that complicate and confound the seeming passivity of these knick-knacks. A bouquet of tangled birds intertwine in an indistinguishable mass. Of the works on view in Longshadow, this piece is unique in its adherence to a singular typology. Other composites are much more heterogeneous, as evidenced in the wall-mounted form affixed to a plaque – a mode of display more commonly seen in the presentation of taxidermy. In this instance, the trophy kill is of indeterminate origin. Horned tendrils protrude asymmetrically, melding disparate species together as an act of invention. Grappling with the strangeness of the superfluous consumer items that provide her source material, the artist conjures a more encompassing taxonomic language.
A visual index of museological tropes plays out through De Souza’s methods of display. Shelf, plinth and plaque are elected in turn across the landscape of Longshadow’s installation. Clever insinuations are made through the order and disorder imposed within this scheme as supports are used in deliberate and subversive ways. Shelves float sparingly within the white cube of the gallery, bracing a tumble of forms from freefall. The suspense of lamplight rakes across these architectural details, throwing them into sharp relief. The identity of the space is manifold and referential. It is the interior of a well-appointed drawing room, the rarified atmosphere before a mantelpiece. It’s an (un)natural history museum – a parade of inert specimens.
The similarity of form has an inculcating effect that resonates within the enclosed space. Dissonant variations become amplified as forms merge and diverge. The artist orchestrates the tension in-between. Shadows bleed their penumbra into borderless grey areas. Edges become more intensely interesting than the bodies they surround. De Souza seeks to stimulate active viewing of static objects – the challenge of “thinking your way around something.” Bonds appear to be under strain as in the suspended pairs seen hanging under the ledge of dual shelving units bearing their weight. Strands of objects are strung in descending order of size, a kind of reverse gravity holding sway – an orderly alienation of one from the next, isolated in a vertical chain. Elsewhere, the collective weight of these ceramic vessels is hung together in a clattering assemblage. Sound and touch are inferred – frayed ganglia of coarse twine ensnaring the inverted structures. Individual forms hang independently of one another with inescapable points of contact among the caught bodies. Shadows map out a different impression on the wall. The obverse becomes what’s true, appearing as one rather than many. Constituent parts are absorbed, a mutable entity assembling itself.
The underside of cast ornaments gape open – eye/mouth/ear. The impassive faces of figurines mirror us back. An air of expectancy permeates the room. Ceramic creatures float breathlessly while their shadows crawl. Glazed skin of the perceived environment broken in pieces, our minute attention inching across the gallery floor…
JENNA SWIFT is an emerging writer and artist, currently residing in Calgary, Alberta. Words hold a sustaining fascination for her as she feels out the strengths and limitations of descriptive language to adequately express what is filtered distinctly through each of the senses. In 2014 Jenna was awarded the Canadian Art Foundation’s Writing Prize for her essay “The Dilated River,” exploring the creative research of Watershed+ artist-in-residence Rachel Duckhouse.