The Power Plant’s fall exhibition features engaging multi-medium art

By Natalie Michie

The Power Plant is known for their seasonal exhibitions of Canadian contemporary art. This fall, they featured five artists who presented a variety of unique multi-medium art.

Visitors were lined up around the building at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery on Friday, Oct. 19 for the Fall 2018 Opening Party.

Each of the gallery’s season exhibitions includes an opening party where admission is free and anyone is welcome.

This season, the gallery featured five artists: Abbas Akhavan, Vivian Suter, Elizabeth Wild, Karla Black and Beth Stuart.

With the intent of making visitors more aware of their bodies and the space they take up in a room, much of the work was created by the artists with the exact intent to be experienced in The Power Plant’s gallery.

As visitors entered the gallery, they were first introduced to Akhavan’s piece, an abstract exhibit with the theme of changing seasons.

 Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Akhavan’s work ranges from site-specific installations to drawing, video, illustration and performance. His piece featured in the fall exhibit is titled “Variations on a Landscape.” (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

His exhibit consisted of green TV screens on each side of the room, a fountain wrapped in a tarp, a stick, and a non-working iPhone charger plugged into the wall.

“His work is left open to interpretation,” said Emily Peltier, a gallery assistant at the Power Plant.

Although there was little information about Akhavan's piece, he included a written component where he asked a group of writers to write about what came to mind when hearing the word “fountain.” Their contributions were featured in booklets available for visitors to take home.

According to Melissa Gerkup, an art enthusiast and event volunteer, the way in which art is displayed here is through one panel that gives little information and another that lists all of the materials that were used.

“The rest is left up to your imagination. It’s up to you,” said Gerkup.

In the next room of the gallery, visitors admired clusters of painted canvases that were hung from the ceiling by artist Vivian Suter.

 Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Suter’s work is inspired by the landscape and nature in Guatemala, where she lives. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Gerkup said that she felt like she was in nature by the set-up of how the canvases were hung. Canvases were painted with a wide variety of colours and marks left from elements of nature, such as visible flood stains. This, paired with visitors needing to navigate the paintings to see them all, created a forest-like feeling.

In fact, a large part of Suter’s creative process is her collaboration with nature. It all started after a hurricane flooded her studio and damaged her work. From then on, she began leaving her canvases out to allow them to be altered by the outdoor elements.

“Sometimes it is hard to focus on the individual paintings, but because everything is put so closely together it makes me think that the intent was for the work to be shown as one big piece, rather than looking at each painting individually,” Gerkup said.

As opposed to some art galleries where patrons admire pieces from afar, guests at The Power Plant were invited to walk through the pieces in order to experience them in the way the artists intended them to.

This includes the site-specific piece created by artist Karla Black, who used household items such as eyeshadow, lipstick and blush to create her aesthetics influenced piece. She included her daughter in the making of the piece by having her put her handprints on the walls around the room.

Rebecca Black, a student at the Toronto Film School, said she had a hard time visualizing the planning behind such a large-scale sculptural piece.

“I love it,” said Black, “It has me thinking, did (she) do it in (her) living room first? How does someone come up with this?”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Beth Stuart’s work was displayed all around the Power Plant, including outdoors. Her piece had multiple aspects, such as video, and perhaps provided the most context out of any of the other exhibits.

Visitors saw the first piece of Stuart’s installation while waiting outside, where a traditional 18th-century bathing machine was installed. Guests were welcomed to enter the bathing machine, which was used in the Victorian era by high-class members of society to enter bodies of water.  

Upstairs, Stuart’s take on traditional bathing costumes were hung, and visitors could proceed through a hallway featuring sculptures that symbolize microorganisms found in the sand.

“There is a lot of elements but they are all connected,” said Nadia Nardine, a volunteer and fan of Stuart, “Altogether, it is a feminist view on the 18th century.”

 Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Black’s large-scale installation featured smaller details all around the room, with elements plastered on the walls. Visitors were again encouraged to walk around her exhibit. (CanCulture/Natalie Michie)

Featuring exhibits since 1987, the gallery has been popular amongst visitors and art lovers for its seasonal exhibits that are always uniquely designed and different each time.

Harry Clarke, a Ryerson journalism student, said going to The Power Plant is one of his favourite things to do. He explained that he tends to go there whenever he feels anxious.

“It is a great place for me to centre myself and remind myself of my existence because for one, the artists always have such an eloquent way of describing existence,” said Clarke, “I always cry here, but it is a good release.”

The Power Plant’s Fall Exhibition will be featured at the gallery until Dec. 20, 2018.