Friday, 24 February 2012

Two Black Figures

Drabinsky Gallery
114 Yorkville Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
M5R 1B9
February 2011

Review by Julie Hinton Walker

Sarah Elise Hall
Untitled Figure
Resin and glitter
H 30 inches

In 2011 the Drabinsky Gallery in Yorkville held a two person exhibition featuring works on paper by Leonard Cohen and sculpture by Sarah Elise Hall. Sadly, the gallery closed its doors shortly thereafter, yet discoveries made are still worth remembering.
     The gallery accepts visitors with no special fanfare. One is almost expected and certainly welcomed. It is situated on a busy corner and happily allows itself to be stumbled upon in the course of a day. Enter and quiet transcends the bustle of the world without. The art displayed speaks no singular language and patiently awaits discovery. On this day the gallery's offering includes, among others, works by Leonard Cohen. Beautiful remnants from a past Cohen show of 2007. Behind him, Cohen left a delicate trail of delicious thoughts and images to be swept up in.
     Brushing away the soft residue of Cohen's poetry, you are struck by a stark white room. You stop and feel how it is meant to titillate by mere virtue of its emptiness. Without thinking, your eye travels bang, bang, bang, to a large room, bright light, white walls, two black figures floating and two piles of black sand on the floor beneath the figures. The installation is arresting.
     The paint finish on the figures is black and glittering capturing light and imagination. My mind races to a midnight summer sky of Temagami. Prone on a dock, hovering above the lake, I am enveloped by a canopy of endless light puncturing endless darkness with a suspended history; as though time had freed itself from any confines and exposed what seems like every star that has ever existed.
     I step closer towards the two black figures. I hear the lapping water at my back splashing rhythmically in time to the twinkling stars above. These walls are white; the white of the Temagami stars are so close, one could take a spoon and scoop them up. The two black figures seemingly float before the wall. For me, their story begins to unfold. It is a history created as the shadow behind each figure forms and moves in tandem with my movement. Tick tick tick. In this moment, we are brought together. The dark grey shadow layers and fades as it dissolves into the white light of the wall. I see the passage of time. I feel the inevitable.
     The figures are the deepest of black betrayed only by the light reflected off each grain of glitter. This blackness creates a visual void. I dare to stick my head in past the outline of the forms to see what is behind the wall! Look long enough and time halts. A shift occurs. The white wall appears closer; the figures form a portal leading my eye out past the room inviting me in; offering a place among the stars where time matters not.
     I step back. The figures have surrendered themselves to this contemporary crucifixion scene. External pressures have left their mark on the postures with heads down and arms hanging; defeated. Defeated by time. "Fallen angels, shadows up against the sun", as Robbie Robertson versed. I stand in a place where nothing is as it was and nothing will ever be the same from here. There is no alternative but to look within. And, looking in, one can see a universe of limitless stars and endless possibility. And, is it not the universe we look out to for our future?
     As you ponder the mortality of it all, your attention falls to the floor. Collected beneath each figure is a pile of the black glitter that adorns the figures and has seemingly fallen away. Is the artist suggesting an hour glass without a glass? Time slips easily and away into history. We sense it is running out and we see we can never get it back. Have we now used up all of our chances to once again, turn the hour glass over and merely carry on?
     Perhaps, if we peer into our own depths, we may discover something new or, seek out something known, yet long neglected. Sarah Elise Hall may be inviting us to go inward to a place beyond ourselves leading us to a place where a new understanding soon approaches.