This group exhibition features seven artists whose work both centres and expands our understanding of the handmade and its relevance to contemporary art. It is also a meditation on our shared and personal circumstances during a period of multiple crises, as well as our capacity to imagine a better future. Building on the various meanings of “undone,” the exhibition makes connections between artistic process, grief, impermanence, transition, undoing, not doing, and doing differently.
Artistic partners Adriana Kuiper and Ryan Suter explore the space between care and resistance, material and immaterial, and sound amplification and dampening. Combining textiles, video, performative gestures, and found objects, their installations present moments of balance and incongruity in which sound takes shape as a quilt pattern and the body dematerializes into video signals. In her series Stacks, artist Tara K. Wells uses layers of fabric strips ripped in preparation for quilting to create sculptures whose strata recall the natural patterns of sedimentation, eddying waters, and atmospheric effects. As the fabric strips may still be used to make quilts, the sculptures exist as a kind of “holding pattern” in which preparation and recycling become ends in themselves.
Andrea Mortson’s fantastical collages reconfigure vintage children’s books and other printed matter into eerie meditations on artistic self-reference and doubling. At once quaint and sinister, the enigmatic atmosphere of these carefully assembled compositions recalls classic fairy tales in which images come alive and the living become ghosts. Roula Partheniou also explores the ambiguities of representation, but from a more conceptual angle. In her recent body of work, Stationery Objects, she reinterprets the category of still life through meticulous, handmade replicas of office supplies. These incredible, trompe-l’oeil facsimiles of post-it notes, tape, and labels pay homage to the aesthetics of productivity while also playfully sabotaging it.
Erika DeFreitas takes the practice of copying and turns it towards grief. In her ongoing series, so buried in it that we only see them when pulled out in abstractions, human bodies shrouded in blankets or tarps are sourced from newspaper crime scenes, then isolated and embroidered on cotton. In the hours spent embroidering these works, DeFreitas thinks “about the fallen, the circumstances, the location, those who work ‘around’ the body, and those left to mourn.” Ursula Johnson also engages with practices of copying and repetition in her O’pltek series, which questions colonial ideals of authenticity through a reinterpretation of traditional Mi’kmaq basketry. In Mi’kmaq, the word “o’pltek” means “it’s not right,” a turn of phrase that describes both the baskets’ unusual, non-functional forms, as well as the way they “speak back” to oppressive Euro-American histories and archival practices that seek to diminate others and foreclose their future.
About the artists
Erika DeFreitas’ multidisciplinary practice includes performance, photography, video, installation, textiles, drawing, and writing. Placing emphasis on gesture, process, the body, documentation, and paranormal phenomena, DeFreitas mines concepts of loss, post-memory, legacy, and objecthood. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery; Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts (Winnipeg); Gallery TPW (Toronto); Project Row Houses and the Museum of African American Culture (Houston); Fort Worth Contemporary Arts; and Ulrich Museum of Art (Wichita). She is a recipient of the 2016 Toronto Friends of the Visual Arts Finalist Artist Prize, the 2016 John Hartman Award, and was longlisted for the 2017 Sobey Art Award. DeFreitas holds a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto. www.erikadefreitas.com
Ursula Johnson is a Mi’kmaw Interdisciplinary Artist from Eskasoni First Nation of Unama’ki District (Nova Scotia). Johnson consistently works within a wide range of mediums, while maintaining the foundation of her practice in performance and installation. Much of her work employs cooperative didactic intervention, is place-based, and often includes collaboration with others. She describes her work as “changing mediums based on who I am talking to and what conversations I am trying to have.” The works in this exhibition are part of the permanent collection of the Owens Art Gallery.
Interdisciplinary artists Adriana Kuiper and Ryan Suter are partners and artistic collaborators from Sackville, New Brunswick, within the traditional territory of Mi’kma’ki. Their practice examines subtle forms of resistance and resilience while questioning objects and forces meant to provide protection and care. They have completed multi-media, site-specific works for the Confederation Centre for the Arts in Charlottetown, on the Magdalen Islands, Halifax, and in Dawson City, Yukon. Their recent work has also been shown at the UNB Arts Centre in Fredericton, Contemporary Calgary, University of Waterloo Art Gallery, Kenderdine Art Gallery, and the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery. Kuiper received an MFA from the University of Western Ontario; Suter holds an MFA from the University of Guelph. Both artists work in the Fine Arts Department at Mount Allison University where Kuiper teaches sculpture and drawing, and Suter teaches photo and works as the Photography Technician.
Andrea Mortson is a Canadian collage artist and painter. Her practice is a careful process of worrying about the future. This often involves questioning the role of images and artists in the complex relationship between individual and collective experience, the inherent hubris of passive consumption, and the promotion of nostalgia and escapism for power. Mortson’s paintings were included in Oh, Canada, MassMoCA’s survey of contemporary Canadian art, and Le projet peinture, Galerie de l’UQAM’s “snapshot of painting in Canada.” She is the recipient of the Marie Hélène Allain Fellowship Award (Sheila Hugh Mackay Foundation) and has been longlisted for both the Sobey Art Award and the RBC Painting Competition. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and is in collections including the Canada Council and New Brunswick Art Banks, Global Affairs Canada, BMO Financial Group, Confederation Centre Art Gallery, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, and Owens Art Gallery.
Roula Partheniou’s largely sculptural practice centers on an exploration of the replica, calling into question the language of everyday objects and the ways that we read and decipher our environment. Utilizing mechanisms such as optical illusion, associative play, visual similes, material puns, colour cues and the double-take, the works draw an alternate logic from commonplace materials. She has exhibited throughout Canada and internationally, with recent exhibitions at Marta (Los Angeles); Essex Flowers (NYC); Arroniz Contemporary (Mexico City); Manif d’Art Biennial (Quebec); BMO Project Room (Toronto); and Fundacion Calosa (Guanajuanto). Her work is held in numerous private, public, corporate and institutional collections including the Bank of Montreal, TD Bank, MunichRe, the Royal Bank of Canada, Blackwood Gallery, Art Museum at University of Toronto, Hyundai Corporation, Fidelity Investments, Soho House Group, The Art Gallery of Peterborough, the Musée d’art contemporaine de Montréal, the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, the Art Gallery of Ontario, and Fundacion Calosa (Guanajuato, Mexico). In 2019, she was artist-in-residence at Google HQ in Mountainview (CA). She is represented by MKG127, Toronto. www.roulapartheniou.com
Tara K. Wells is a Maritime Canadian artist and designer. Her multidisciplinary art practice includes new media installations, animations, prints, drawing, kinetic and static sculptures, and most recently, quilts. She is also a graphic designer, an illustrator, and a fabric surface designer. In her efforts to make as small a dent on the planet as possible, she prefers to work with recycled materials. Her creations are often rooted in a strong sense of play. Tara has thankfully received support from her family, Struts Gallery, the Owens Art Gallery, several grants from the New Brunswick Arts Board, and one from the Canada Council for the Arts, and was longlisted for the Sobey Art Prize in 2009. She has had the privilege of spending the last 27 years living and working in Sackville, New Brunswick—the Mi’kma’ki district of Siknikt—where she enjoys the winds, birds, and flowers that surround her. https://verysillymonkey.com
Image: Adriana Kuiper + Ryan Suter, Cover I, 2022, installation (quilt, video monitor, objects)