The Sire of Sires

The Sire of Sires is a new video work by Jordan Elliot Prosser produced during his artist residency at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery. A loose adaption of L’Après-midi d’un faune – first a poem by Stéphane Mallarmé (1876), then a symphony by Claude Debussy (1894), and then a ballet by Vaslav Nijinsky (1912) – The Sire of Siresis the latest chapter in Prosser’s expanding video series mapping personal and collective histories of Oshawa. In earlier works, Prosser turned to local landmarks such as General Motors and Parkwood Estate to reflect on the city’s precarious post-industrial identity. In this new work, he considers another performance-driven business that took root in Oshawa in the 20th century: Windfields Farm.

Through the late 20th-century, E.P. Taylor’s horse breeding enterprise at Windfields was the leading producer of Thoroughbreds in Canada, the most famous of which, Northern Dancer, was the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby. He retired as a sought-after studding horse at Windfields in 1965, ultimately siring the dominant lineage of Thoroughbreds world wide and earning him the title “sire of sires.” Many of Northern Dancer’s descendants achieved success in both racing and breeding, including his son Nijinsky whose namesake, Vaslav Nijinsky, was a prominent originator of modern ballet in the 20th-century.

In 1912, Nijinsky dramatized Mallarmé’s poem L’Après-midi d’un faune in a lyrical tableau set to Debussy. The original poem takes the form of an erotic monologue written from the perspective of a mythological faun on a summer’s afternoon. In Prosser’s film, the central figure journeys through Windfields’ defunct farm buildings and its surrounding suburban landscapes in a plaster horse mask. They explore the transformed rural pastures in ways that are at times curious and searching, and in others, bored and languishing. In addition to capturing a sense of this place, Prosser is interested in considering the ways that lineage and reproduction are valued in Oshawa’s industrial histories and civic identity. By drawing on the creative lineages of Mallarmé, Debussy, and Nijinsky, Prosser awkwardly inserts himself within these traditions, exploring the relationship between reproduction, legacy, and identity.

Jordan Elliott Prosser (b. 1991, Oshawa, Canada) is a multi-media artist who uses documentary methods to study the architecture of subjective experience. He received a Master of Visual Studies from the University of Toronto, a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of Waterloo, and studied Literary, Musical, & Visual Thought at the European Graduate School. His work has been shown at the Art Museum at the University of Toronto, Hearth Garage, and Crutch CAC.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation’s RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Code Switch

Join Malik for an Artist Talk on July 21st!

In virtual spaces, expressions of identity are usually performed through avatars. Malik McKoy’s new body of work asks how these carefully mediated and constructed identities actually relate to the people they represent when they are used to connect or perform moral virtue. As an abstract self-portrait, Code Switch also considers how technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence reproduce human biases, and more specifically, how racialized bodies are subject to the harms caused by online escapism and the commodification of identity.

The exhibition features five new paintings and an augmented reality installation created during McKoy’s residency in the RBC Artist Incubator Lab. A central character appears in all six works. His shifting form and surroundings are composed of the disassembled pieces of a 3D human figure; as 2D shapes, they are unrecognizable as the basic figure McKoy built using 3D modelling software. The avatar stands in for the artist, travelling through abstract and fantastical spaces, which relate in some way to McKoy’s own online identity and the collective experience of disorientation that virtual spaces can produce.

The internet offers users the freedom to grow beyond their physical environment and try on new identities – it is also prone to prejudice, exploitation, and misinformation, when truth or identity can appear transparent one moment and opaque the next. McKoy is interested in exploring how Black and queer bodies in particular are fetishized and consumed as cultural currency. For instance, in DBLRM (Do Black Lives Really Matter), he adopts a cynical view of public promises for representation, inclusivity, and justice by highlighting the fragile balance between utopia and horror in virtual fantasies. As playful as it is discerning, Code Switch reflects McKoy’s ongoing effort to bridge his digital and paint-based practices and to grapple with the increasingly blurred line between online and offline selves.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele

Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around) by Laura Grier

Join Laura for their workshop, In Bloom: Lino Printmaking, on April 24th!

Laura Grier’s works in printmaking and word-making are expressions of relationships. In Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around), Grier works with TseYǝ́dı́ı (wood), tampons, pads, underwear, takeout containers, plastic beads, pill bottles, and Sahtúgot’ı̨nę Kede (the Bear Lake Language) to make words and patterns that adorn sheets of cotton and the gallery’s walls. These hand-carved wood block prints foil institutional expectations for printmaking by aspiring to be less precious and more useful than fine art prints on paper.

Making with wood and the Bear Lake Language teaches Grier how to recognize the potential for extending and receiving care; asking for and yielding to compromise; and cultivating joy and respect with non-human relations. Within Sahtúgot’ı̨nę Kede, Grier carves out space for their lived experiences as an urban Dene person by crafting words that reflect their reality. For Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele (Now Things, She Carries Them Around) specifically, Grier shares words that describe the floral designs of their textile works, honouring their self-care while confronting the tension they feel about menstruation and its associated waste.

Each design in this new body of work began as experimental drawings made with objects from Grier’s life related to bodies and periods. Grier translated those marks into digital form, then combined them with others into patterns reminiscent of Dene textiles. Though not sewn with beads, this imagery allows Grier to connect with the visual language of Dene craft as a printmaker. The work also creates opportunities for Grier to contemplate the harder-to-recognize relationships in plastic, whose versatility as menstrual products or pill bottles tends to disguise its deep-earth origins. Camouflage is at work in Hįdú ɂAssı̨́i – K’inayele too. As it invites moments of disorientation and discovery, the work asks you to look with fresh eyes on the materials that populate your everyday life.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Laura Grier is a Délı̨nę First Nations artist and printmaker, born in Somba ké (Yellowknife), and raised in Alberta. Through the use of traditional print mediums, they instrumentalize the power of the handmade to reflect political sociology, culture, ecology, and Indigeneity. Responding to lived experiences of urban displacement as a Dene woman through print, Laura’s work is also inspired by the dynamism of Indigenous art practices and uses printmaking as a tool for resistance, refusal, and inherent Bets’ı̨nę́. They hold a BFA from NSCADU (K’jipuktuk) and an MFA from OCAD University (Tkaronto). They have exhibited at Xpace Cultural Centre, Harcourt House, DC3 Art Projects, SNAP Gallery, and ArtsPlace. Laura has received grants and awards for their work, including the Indigenous project grants from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Toronto Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and was the 2018 RISE Emerging Artist recipient. They currently reside in Tkaronto.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn

How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn by Florence Yee

Exhibition: October 30 – December 5, 2021

Join us for an Interactive Artist Talk on Zoom with Florence Yee on Tuesday, November 9, 2021 at 6-7pm.

In this exhibition, Florence Yee presents recent embroidery and text-based artworks that dissect the motives, values, and assumptions that produce public monuments. Drawing on commemorative methods like bronze casting and photography, Yee recontextualizes experiences from their own life to create works that favour process over completion, uncertainty over authority, and consensual recognition over exploitation.

The exhibition’s title reveals a few important things about Yee’s work, including a recurring theme in their practice: futility. Without skin, sunburns are likely a nonissue for ghosts; in this context, How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn reveals Yee’s skepticism of monument-making itself. Nevertheless, the ‘how-to’ title gives the unmistakable impression that this work seeks an approach to monument-making despite these doubts. It also reveals the type of monument Yee is after, one that, through close proximity and searing attention, proves the existence of something immaterial or gives temporary shape to that which is hard to define.

In two of the works, Yee has embroidered the word “proof” across the surface of two images. One is of the Anti-Displacement Garden in Toronto’s Chinatown and the other is a moment of queer intimacy. The watermark designates these works as prototypes, but it also indicates Yee’s desire for the series to be read as evidence of small, but vital gestures: in this case, acts of resistance to gentrification and queer love respectively. Other works explore how memories can fade or spread like a virus, and another posits whether multitudes can be held within commemorative acts. How to Give Ghosts a Sunburn assembles these recent ruminations and invites audiences to consider their relationship to these and other monuments to memory.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Florence Yee is a visual artist and recovering workaholic based in Tkaronto/Toronto and Tiohtià:ke/Montreal. Their practice uses text-based art, sculpture, and textile installation through the intimacy of doubt. Their work has been exhibited at the Museum of Contemporary Art (2021), the Art Gallery of Ontario (2020), the Textile Museum of Canada (2020), and the Gardiner Museum (2019), among others. Along with Arezu Salamzadeh, they have co-founded the Chinatown Biennial in 2020. They obtained a BFA from Concordia University and an MFA from OCAD U.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

a fervid surfacing

a fervid surfacing by Joy Wong

Exhibition: September 14 – October 24, 2021

Join Joy for an artist talk and workshop on October 2nd at 2 PM!

Across cultures, time, and geographic borders, people have used methods of fermentation to make foods more digestible, delicious, and longer lasting. As the RBC Emerging Artist in Residence at the RMG, Joy Wong has been preoccupied with fermentation. Their new work adopts these practices as a framework for critiquing society’s reverence for purity and fear of contamination, and for asserting that bodies, borders, and cultures are porous, rather than impenetrable.

To create the work in a fervid surfacing, Wong turned to SCOBYs, the colonies of bacteria and yeast that transform sweetened tea into tart kombucha. The artist prepared several batches of kombucha in vessels of assorted shapes and sizes to grow and harvest the slippery, fleshy skins that form in the fermenting tea. Wong dried the SCOBYs on different surfaces, which have imprinted the skins with various textures; the woven pattern of nets reappears throughout the installation. Once drippy and flabby, many of the skins are now rigid and brittle. Others are distinctly gruesome in the way they drip and languish on copper supports. These (net)works and Wong’s embellishments in paint highlight the artist’s interest in origins and the factors that shape how people and places relate to one another. Visually, they challenge the idea that perfection or purity in culture, or in ourselves, is possible, let alone desirable.

Wong also uncovers metaphors for human migration and experiences of living away from one’s motherland. Like other fermented foods, kombucha relies on a starter and the exclusion of other bacteria in the culture. Commonly referred to as a mother, a starter SCOBY can yield numerous batches of kombucha, producing with each fermentation additional SCOBYs for yet more batches. Echoing the complexity of cultural inheritance, access to an original SCOBY eventually becomes impossible to trace. Wong is drawn to the way these processes shed light on the settlement of people in colonized lands, especially the structures that reinforce desirability and belonging for certain cultures while actively rejecting others. a fervid surfacing bears these realities and invites viewers to consider how we are each embedded in the fermentation space and what responsibilities that truth bestows.

The RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program is generously sponsored by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

The artist would like to thank the Ontario Arts Council for supporting this project.

Joy Wong (she/they) is an interdisciplinary artist based in Tkaronto, with Cantonese immigrant settler ancestry. She works in painting, print media, poetry, and sculpture. Their practice focuses on the intersections of disgust and beauty, decay and decadence, and connects material investigations with the shifting physicality of a queer and racialized body. She obtained her BFA from York University with a double major in Visual Arts and Creative Writing and her MFA from Western University where she received a SSHRC grant for her research. Wong was a finalist for the 2018 RBC Canadian Painting Competition and was the 2019 Pope Artist in Residence at NSCAD.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Can I Play Outside?

Join us for a Live Artist Talk + Drawing Event with Jaspal Birdi on February 24, 2021 from 12:00PM -1:00PM.

Using her smartphone, laser printers, and paint, Jaspal Birdi plays with colour and technical glitches to make large photo-based works. In this exhibition, she uses photos from her phone’s camera roll to explore the nature of memory, the interplay between physical and virtual worlds, and the potential for audience interaction in collaborative artmaking.

To make one of her works, Birdi manually overrides the low-ink warnings from her printer to create an ethereal copy of a chosen image. She scans the printed image back into her computer, then prints a second, enlarged copy that is broken into a grid, like tiles or oversized pixels. Piece by piece, Birdi transfers the image to various surfaces with gesso before removing the paper and using paint to further embellish the final image with her memories and interpretations. In this case, the images are affixed to emergency blankets, mirrors, and the gallery wall. These efforts between artist and machine make images that are wholly transformed. Exaggerated, embellished, and missing details, the copies are not unlike memories, which also tend to be altered by their own retrieval.

Can I Play Outside? is particularly concerned with the interactions that take place through digital screens, which play an active role in framing and constructing perceptions of self and others. Think about your own camera roll and the images you may make or encounter online. What sorts of stories do these photos tell? What is remembered and what is forgotten? Alongside these questions, Can I Play Outside? captures the artist’s bid for spontaneous and curious fun. Birdi invites you to add your personal memories and interpretations to the work using a digital drawing app. The multiple versions and layers of this living artwork will mimic the artist’s process of assembling pieces into a whole and will allow audiences to generate a picture that is multi-dimensional, constantly changing, and reflective of collective experiences.

Jaspal Birdi is a Canadian artist who combines photography and painting by experimenting with contemporary technologies. Born in Toronto, Canada 1988, Birdi completed her BFA in drawing and painting from OCAD University 2010, a Masters in Arts Management from Istituto Europeo di Design 2013, and a Specialization in Curating Contemporary Art from Venice School of Curatorial Studies 2016. She is the recipient of the Arte Laguna Solo Exhibition Prize in 2013, as well as the 2017/18 Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa Artist Residency Fellowship, during which she also received the BLM Stonefly Art Award. In 2017 Birdi co-curated the exhibition “Command-Alternative-Escape” for the opening week of the Venice International Art Biennale. During the 2018 Berlin Art Week, her works were presented in “Transferred Recall,” a curated solo exhibition. Currently, Birdi is a 2020 Visual Arts Fellow for the Fondazione Culturale SanFedele Art Prize.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

The Perfect Day by Sophie Sabet

The Perfect Day is an exhibition of new video and sculpture work by emerging artist Sophie Sabet, produced during her residency in the Artist Incubator Lab. Sabet is a filmmaker who mines personal relationships and found footage from her past to explore processes of migration and creation, body politics, and the myriad ways we reveal and conceal ourselves in the world. For this new work, she blends home-video footage from her childhood with intimate present-day footage in a single-channel video. The work touches on her mother’s own practice as an artist and accesses images that reveal how bodies, spaces, and objects can act as vessels for memories, emotions, and trauma. A series of cast plaster sculptures are presented alongside the video. Created through a process of filling and extracting, they become material representations of this inner weight.

Sophie Sabet is a Toronto-based visual artist working predominantly in video. Her practice is often autobiographical and intimately traces the complexities and fluidity of the domestic sphere. She is interested in different forms of communication, creating space for empathy and the process of working through heterogeneous cultural and personal perspectives. She holds a BA in Art History from Queen’s University, and a MFA in Documentary Media Studies at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada. Sabet has exhibited solo exhibitions at the Student Gallery at the Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto) in 2016 and Flux Gallery (Winnipeg) in 2017. She has participated in several artist residencies including the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity in 2017 and the Vermont Studio Centre in 2018. Sabet recently completed a solo show at the Mississauga Museums for CONTACT’s 2019 photography festival (Toronto) where she received the Gattuso prize for an outstanding Featured Exhibition.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project.

Lithic Innards

Opening Reception: Friday, January 3, 2020, 7PM -10PM | Artist Talk: Friday, January 3, 2020 8:30PM

Lithic Innards is an exhibition of new work by Toronto-based artist Ellen Bleiwas. The installation’s assembly of unfired clay figures prod at conscious and unconscious knowledge, prompting an experience that is something like recognition, a form of looking that is both familiar and new all at once. The individual works are formed from molded masses or coils of clay, rolled and stretched long into slippery ropes. These soft, pliable coils are wound around and around to form towers that are pinched and smoothed, creating space and texture inside and out. The arrangement of these forms activates circular movement, which direct the viewer to move around the works in a circle, reinforcing the artist’s interest in repetition, reflection, and looking in. Holding space, the installation also produces a feeling of grounded monumentality characteristic of architectural forms and primordial rock. Inviting you into this space and into yourself, Bleiwas asks: do you know this place?

Ellen Bleiwas is an emerging visual artist based in Toronto. She has recently exhibited at Idea Exchange (Cambridge), Angell Gallery (Toronto), and Art Mûr (Montreal). Bleiwas holds a MFA from York University (2017) and a Master of Architecture from McGill University (2010). She has participated in artist residencies including Takt Kunstprojektraum (Berlin), Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto), and the School of Visual Arts (New York). Her practice has been supported through grants and awards from the Toronto Arts Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 401 Richmond through the 2017-18 Career Launcher Prize, and here at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery through the RBC Emerging Artist Residency Program. Immediately following her tenure at the RMG, Bleiwas is attending an artist residency at the NARS Foundation in New York, supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

This exhibition is supported by the RBC Foundation and the RBC Emerging Artist Project