Detail exhibition view of Be Mysterious, clockwise from the centre, Brent Wadden, Keystone XL rag rug, (2014), 91.4 x 1097.3 cm, cotton; Alex Morrison, DunLurnin, DunCairin, DunLivin, (2014), dimensions variable, MDF, clay, light bulb, acrylic paint; Joo Choon Lin, I Only Make Friends With Money, 2013 (remade 2014), 123 (diameter) x 72 cm, synthetic goo, wood, cement. Courtesy of the artists, Perez Projects, Berlin; National Arts Council Singapore, and Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre. Photo: Rita Taylor
Fantastical. Whimsical. Mischievous.
These are just a few of the words that come to mind when thinking about Be Mysterious, an exhibition on display at the Walter Phillips Gallery at the internationally renowned Banff Centre in Alberta. Looking beyond the traditional meaning and use of everyday objects, the show challenges and inverts practicality.
“It’s about perception and experience with objects, and trying to refresh that experience,” says Jesse McKee, curator at the Walter Phillips Gallery. “We tend to only value an object for its use to us, whether that’s technological, social, or cultural.”
But what happens when you push the boundaries of that use?
Joo Choon Lin, I Only Make Friends With Money, 2013 (remade 2014), 123 (diameter) x 72 cm, synthetic goo, wood, cement. Courtesy of the artist, National Arts Council, Singapore and Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre. Photo: Rita Taylor
You end up with an exhibition filled with playful, unexpected, and unique works by Canadian and international artists. I Only Make Friends With Money (2013, remade 2014) by Singaporean artist Joo Choon Lin fits that description. Sitting at the exhibition entrance, the work is a wishing well — but not a typical wishing well. “Visitors are invited to throw a coin into the wishing well, but it misbehaves,” McKee says of the work, which is filled with blue goo rather than water. “When the coin hits the surface of the goo, it slaps down in a funny way and sits there, so you don’t have this instant satisfaction of seeing the coin sink to the bottom of the well.”
The work is typical of the artist’s style, which plays with common preconceptions about objects. American artist Patrick Jackson does something similar. His ceramic mugs — variously titled Cup of Pop, Broken Mug, and Mug with Orange (all 2014), among other things — are peculiar versions of a familiar domestic item. Arranged in clusters on the floor, the mugs are both surprising and intriguing. “They could represent a life lived elsewhere, while your dishes pile up and get dirty in this kind of gross, fantastical way,” McKee says. “He plays around with the notion of cleanliness and perfectness, and the way that we might treat things within the home.”
Patrick Jackson, Broken Mug; Pink Crack with Barnacles; Burnt Bubbles (2014), 21.6 x 21.6 x cm (each), ceramic and mixed media. Courtesy of the artist, François Ghebaly Gallery, Los Angeles and Walter Phillips Gallery at The Banff Centre. Photo: Rita Taylor
The works in Be Mysterious — some of which were made specifically for the exhibition — are primarily sculptural, but the show also includes weaving, video, and a vinyl record. Like the wishing well, many of the works involve audience participation. “It’s quite a playful and humorous exhibition,” McKee says. Other artists adding to the mix are Rebecca Baird, Daniel Jacoby, and Brent Wadden — as well as Alex Morrison and Mark Clintberg, whose works are in the National Gallery of Canada collection.
The artists’ ability to transform commonplace things is captivating and fascinating. After all, isn’t that what it means to Be Mysterious?
Be Mysterious is on view at the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, Alberta, until October 19, 2014.
Ariana Armstrong has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management, with honours, and is currently in her second year of the Master's program in Journalism at Carleton University. She interned at Muse Magazine and Global National before joining NGC Magazine.
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