Circulation Patterns at SFU Gallery appears oddly incompatible—at first
Michelle Allard & Khan Lee: Circulation Patterns
At Simon Fraser University Gallery, Burnaby Campus until April 28
Circulation Patterns is an unexpected conjunction of the simple and the complex, the messy and the orderly, the prosaic and the cosmic. The show’s two installations, one by Michelle Allard and one by Khan Lee, occupy the SFU Gallery space in quite disparate ways. Allard’s Confection is a kind of shaggy, Dr. Seuss–ian landscape made out of uneven mounds of shredded, brightly coloured paper, staged on a large, low platform. Lee’s beyond consists of cutout circles and ovoids of grey, white, and black construction paper, attached to the gallery’s walls and floor to represent complex geometric forms.
Guest curator Rachel Rosenfield Lafo brought these young Vancouver artists together because, she writes in the exhibition brochure, she “found affinities in their focus on patterns, repetition, found objects, and everyday materials”.
The heaps of shredded paper that compose Allard’s installation range in colour from Day-Glo orange, yellow, and salmon through mauve, deep blue, and Hunter green, and on to pallid pink and an office white made grimy by indecipherable bits of printed words. Festive, prosaic, and paranoid references abound. The massing of many tiny units of coloured paper suggests, as Lafo notes, everyday office practices, but also confetti, pompons, and snow cones. At the same time, the evidence of large-scale shredding speaks to a growing social compulsion to destroy evidence of public and private transactions, to protect one’s fragile identity or cover one’s dubious tracks. Recycling and the relationship between production, consumption, and waste inflect this temporary installation, too.
Lee, who has studied both architecture and art, uses beyond to investigate the forms of two polyhedrons, chosen from the “five Platonic solids considered by the ancient Greeks to be the building blocks of the universe”, Lafo writes. The circular and ovoid pieces of paper installed around the gallery are abstract “cues” that are supposed to locate us within an imaginary sphere created by the intersection of a dodecahedron (made up of 12 regular pentagonal faces) and an icosahedron (composed of 20 equilateral triangular faces). Lee has marked an X on the floor of the gallery where we’re meant to stand to best comprehend our placement at the centre of a geometrically determined cosmos. My best viewing experience of this installation, however, occurred across the room from the X: from here, a pattern more clearly emerges, one that evokes a sense of movement into vast space.
On first viewing, Confection and beyond appear oddly incompatible in their physical and conceptual claims to the site. With its exuberant colours and messy, three-dimensional, organic forms, Allard’s work particularly seems to distract us from locating ourselves inside Lee’s cerebral, dematerialized geometry. (I would like to have seen Lee’s work by itself and constructed of projections of light in a darkened room.) But perhaps the unlikely character of the show is what it’s about. Perhaps its disjunct elements are intended to bump us into an alternative way of imagining the small envelopes of awareness we each occupy.