Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cybele Young at the Visual Arts Centre of Clarington

The Visual Arts Centre of Clarington is another public gallery that we love, and that loves us back. Located in Bowmanville, about 40 minutes east of Toronto, it is situated riverside, in the 100 year old Cream of Barley Mill. Do not underestimate this gallery based on its suburban location and small size: director Richard Toms and curator Maralynn Cherry manage to deliver very sophisticated programming while still fulfilling their community mandate.

It is well worth the drive from the city to see Cybele Young's exhibition, which opened Sunday and runs for the next four weeks.

Young is a Toronto artist who exhibits and is collected nationally and internationally. Her miniature and poetic sculptural works are made of Japanese papers with copperplate etchings. She depicts quotidian objects in odd juxtaposition: Chestnut husks on a milk carton, a shopping cart rising skyward courtesy of a hot air balloon, a view camera pointing at a circa 1975 office chair on wheels.

These are familiar tactics to the mnemonist who is able to remember long lists of unrelated items by making visual images that link them together a very personal and idiosyncratic fashion. The artist is building and rebuilding an internal lexicon. We viewers are invited to read along with her and make our own connections. The work comes from that place where where episodic memory meets semantic memory.

Young hints at this process in her artist statement/poem:

"I knew a lot when I was sixteen,
quite a bit at twenty two
some at thirty
but now, honestly, I know very little.

I know the smell of the yogurt container in which I housed
my grade four caterpillar collection.
I know the cat-like shape of shimmering metal near the train
tracks down the street.

Memories and impression inspire me and I know that if I
Don't harness them, and others that jump out at me from the
neighbour's garbage or the bottom of a soup pot, I lose them
and all the knowledge they might hold for me.

So I make art as a way of building a personal dictionary.
I have faith that by creating new words from abstract and
familiar forms, they will compose their own sentences, and
make up new stories."

The wall installations and the groupings of multiple sculptures in large shadowbox frames are impressive. However, I find the smaller works containing two or three elements to be the most engaging. They are haiku poems, dense with interpretive possibilities. These pieces resonate deeply, and while they are lovely and tiny, they are neither twee nor precious. The artist's sincerity and astonishing skill allows the work to be simultaneously playful and serious. Anyone who has spent sufficient time with small children knows that play is in fact serious work. As an artist, Young seems able to tap that unfettered creativity that most of us sadly have lost somewhere around the age of ten.

Young has also extended her practise to the production of stop-action animation. The videos are mindlessly mesmerizing. That is not an insult: it was a tonic to move away from the consciously analytic and sink into the process and the gesture of her work. She tells me that she may put one or two of her films on youtube. If she does, I'll download and post them here in the future.

1 comment:

  1. Marvelous! I will continue to follow up on Young's work, and enjoyed viewing them directly at the Forum Gallery today. I happen to enjoy working obsessively with paper, but I am a realist figurative painter by profession. I work rather obsessively myself, so naturally, I appreciate careful and precise works as these. Each of Young's pieces are like small gems that nurture our extinctive need for intimacy and curiosity.