the tree grows its crown in the image of the root


Two person show with Jason Deary @ Forest City Artist-Run Centre

May 5th-June 9th, 2017

Clay and Water

Curatorial Essay by Matthew Kyba

Documentation photos taken by Ruth Skinner


Clay and Water

Curatorial Essay by Matthew Kyba

the tree grows its crown in the image of the root presents is an echoing, a reverberation that transforms itself through the infinite feedback of memory. Claire Scherzinger and Jason Deary transmute their practices through the loop of production & understanding, culminating into seemingly disparate works that began much closer. Akin to disparate tree branches that stemmed from a knotted trunk, each artist’s work acts as symbolic memory markers on two meandering paths of artistic practice. Through Deary’s formal compositions and Scherzinger’s sculpture, the tree grows its crown in the image of the root is a frozen moment in the middle of a bellowing echo, connecting to memories past and untold futures.

The most interesting question may be how did the artists get here? Each of their newly created works speaks to artistic journey and the impact that artistic reverberation has on personal practice. While memory plays an important role in each artist’s work, this exhibition demonstrates the ability for the gallery space to become a landing space for personal reflection. Although not overtly evident, Deary and Scherzinger inform their production through stories and histories of their earlier years. In doing so, they create a type of affective “memory map” that can be unpacked and examined.

In order to understand how the exhibition materialized as such, it helps to first learn the artist’s pasts. Claire Scherzinger gained international attention through her careful compositions of abstract imagery and flora. Through these works, she had developed an artistic practice that explored colour and shape relationships. How did she get to the un-earthly bodies, covered in transparent slime, that stand within the exhibition now? As art is externalized and reified into material form, the artists of such work understand and interpret different reactions to their creations. Scherzinger was no different, and after succeeding in the RBC paining competition, she decided to try her hand at a more challenging artistic avenue. Scherzinger was invited to the Banff Centre on a residency, and while there she examined and ultimately cast aside her previous interest in abstract formalism. Surrounded by the lush greens of nature and almost other-worldly setting so antithetical from urban life, she began constructing paintings of alien forms and non-earth environs. Although possibly seeming like a non-sequitur break from her previous work, in actual fact her newest works have clear personal connections. When younger, Scherzinger would watch and voraciously read science fiction, a genre that now heavily influences her practice. Under the surface of these clay-coloured sculptures lies artistic development many years in the making.

The uncanny and surreal landscapes that populate much sci-fi media represent the untold utopic potential of new worlds, lands that lay just beyond our reach. Scherzinger’s break in painting served as a resistance to the commercial market’s infatuation with zombie formalism. She was determined to create art that served a higher purpose. In appropriating surrealist imagery, Scherzinger also defied the misogyny that is apparent in surrealist art history[1]. As a conscious break from her previous works, Scherzinger ultimately used her experience to initiate a new trajectory into other-worldly scenes. Her earlier works echoed back, and reverberated into new approaches seen within the exhibition.

Deary’s work are recordings of a search, different iterations of the artistic process at work and archived onto the canvas. In The Cultural Biography of Objects, Chris Gosden and Yvonne Marshall examine if objects have a biography unto themselves or, instead, perform the biography of a culture. Deary’s grey-scale watercolour artifacts present artworks that not only possess the literal history they exhibit, but also the artist’s past. As a constant search for balance, Deary’s pieces use the splashy and ambiguous nature of water to communicate with his rigid lines and shapes. Surface tensions present binary relationships between what is present and what isn’t; Deary’s process examines how memory and the past can be stored, kept, archived, and remembered. Each canvas is a frozen moment that has reverberated back unto the artist, as each is a continual exploration between clarity and obfuscation. Deary’s canvases are populated with clouded and black water colour next to rigidly strict lines and details. In each lies circles, the symbols of a perfect and empty entity. As a composed scene, the pieces can be thought of as personal diary pages. Working through each ones gives a glimpse into the thought processes of Deary’s practice. The works are biographical markers (earmarked earlier by Gosden and Marshall) through which Deary’s artistic practice constantly evolves through, seen as echoes from earlier times. Each scene captures the artist’s emotional, intellectual, and artistic process like a still moment in time.

Bold lines break up the almost sequential placement of abstract shapes among greys and blacks that both infers a geometric depth but resists drawing the viewer into it. Instead of shying away from the opaque visuality of the artist’s shape and form, Deary instead forces perception into the middle of the work, as if to punctuate the equalized black, white, and grey images with hypnotizing focal points. Similar to stained glass windows, they are calm and meditative scenes that balance light and dark, shape and line, history and memory. Seemingly random, the works are carefully planned and produced to represent an equilibrium of sorts. In order to present the artist’s history as truthfully as possible, Deary negotiates the tense relationship between surface and viewer, unapologetically reifying previous personal memories into challenging and dense aesthetics.

Taken together, both Deary and Scherzinger’s works are time capsules of personal narrative. Interestingly, the two artists were at one-point studio mates and worked in close proximity. Just as the tree branches out and becomes divided, so too did Deary and Scherzinger. Over the years, the practices became disparate, developed with deeper personal significance. the tree grows its crown in the image of the root represents the transformation and elastic malleability of artistic growth. The works play off of each other through the enticing tactility of Scherzinger’s sculptures that work almost in opposition to Deary’s painted surfaces. The gallery is a containment zone for a new environment populated by abstracted landscapes and alien life forms. Seemingly disparate but connected, the works fit within a larger world of human recollection. Understandably then, the works allow for each artist to breathe and present new narratives that interweave history and future. In doing so, the tree grows its crown in the image of the root doesn’t constrain or constrict the past; instead allowing for a dualistic present that celebrates artistic difference.


[1] Haynes, Douglas (2015) Absent mindedness about grapes: surrealism and contemporary art. Garage, 15.


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