WAKE UP is the title of an exhibit, held at the Charlotte Hale and Associates Gallery in Toronto, featuring two Durham Region artists. But it could as easily have been called LOOK UP. Both Lynne McIlvride and Francis Muscat of Uxbridge Ont., draw inspiration from the spinning activities of the sky around us; for McIlvride its tornadoes, for Muscat it is orbiting planets.
Photograph by Will McGuirk
While both artists are long time friends and have had exhibited together twice before they each worked independently on this show but the resulting works in textile, wood and glass demonstrate a complex synchronicity that speaks to their relationship and to this connected global village we inhabit.
The bending twisting tornadoes McIlvride creates from zippers, bobbles, scraps of fabric and thread are a way to externalise the recent turmoil in her personal situation. The Twister is the metaphor she uses to examine the turn of events in her life. Previously McIlvride had lived and worked on a farm in North Durham Region. Of course her tornadoes instantly bring to mind the force which took Dorothy away from the black and white world of domestic bliss and into the confusing Land of Oz, of flying monkeys, singing munchkins and walking, talking scarecrows, tinmen and lions. Dorothy’s tornado was ultimately benign and whether McIlvride's turn out to be that way too is yet to be seen.
However it is worth noting that along with the fabricated tornadoes on display there are also cats in various poses, drawings cut out and placed in boxes on rugs of old knitwear.
It seems within the colourful chaos, the tumbling tumultuous rotating form McIlvride began to discern something familiar, something comforting and something of a contained energy, a cat curled in on itself but ready to pounce. There is a pattern after all, within the swirling, some governance within the apparent disorder. Within the crouching tiger a hidden dragon even.
The drippings of the spinning cone do not deposit these felines but instead they grow from the corona. The cats arise from the rabbit hole of the vortex. McIlvride has stared into the tornado and seen these forms inside.
The work Muscat has created for the exhibit seems to have come as well from staring into those spinning tops. His curvaceous glass towers are evocative of the Marilyn Monroe condos of Mississauga. The topper, the last layer of glass had to be more than just a tabletop however. Muscat looked into the tunnel created by many multi-coloured layers of glass and saw them come together on one plane. Within the rotation he saw, not the coziness of the home-front McIlvride saw, but it’s opposite, the vastness of the universe and its constant circling. Inside the funnel he saw the beginning of systems, of our systems, of our existence: He saw planets.
The spinning orbits around Muscat’s glass planets are made of silk string carefully built up into concentric patterns. They are as if he stole Van Gogh’s starry starry nights and sealed them, amber-like, for the eternities.
Its been many years since Van Gogh took up a brush but in the interim there are people who think that the Dutch impressionist was accurately capturing the turbulent flow of light through a liquid sky. He may have been painting math that is. And math is just another word for pattern recognition. Is Muscat’s silk a road through the chaos, are his dwarf planets stepping stones of glass out of our twisted world?
Marshall McLuhan chose Poe’s tale of the maelstrom to illustrate the world that electronic media would bring into being. We are living that story now. The storm of electrified information is overwhelming, confusing, anxiety-inducing. McIlvride’s tornados are hers but they are also ours. This whirlwind world we occupy, well its hard to stand-up to anything, for anything as the ground shifts so quickly around us. But McLuhan also left us a message. He said watch for patterns and pay attention to the pattern-watchers. Muscat and McIlvride have been looking up, watching the skies, keeping notes and they are seeing something there, patterns, something that may be something. They are not saying what yet but watch these two artists. Look them up and maybe you too will wake up to the world around you.