236 Pender St East,
13 Oct 2023–10 Feb 2024
12 October, 2023
T. +1 604.683.7395
02 July–30 July 1994
Curated by: Janis Bowley
Vancouver artist Gwen Boyle’s sculptural installation at the Or Gallery is a re-configuration of elements she has used in other locations. The original research and inspiration for this body of work came from Boyle’s residency in the Arctic at the Polar Continental Shelf Project on Cornwallis Island, Northwest Territories in 1989. Here, looking over her shoulder for polar bears and amidst a community of research scientists, Boyle assembled the sculpture that has been the source of intrigue and creative output for the past five years. Unexpectedly the magnetized sculpture installed on the Arctic rock began emitting sounds that, to date, no one has been able to explain. A tape of these harmonics is incorporated into this installation.
Much of Gwen Boyle’s work is site-specific and she is interested in direct community involvement; allowing for the public to also experience the natural phenomenon she is fascinated with. Using natural and industrial materials, Boyle explores, in uncomplicated juxtapositions, the intangible forces of nature such as magnetism, gravity, harmonics and the earth’s rotation. The sculptures become devices that embody or refer to these invisible states and are a way of communicating her explorations. For this exhibition Boyle is using the gallery as an experimental space; an interior site configuration which parallels the original specific exterior site.
– Press Release
essay by Gwen and Melanie Boyle
What stands out during a sojourn in the Arctic and seems always part of travel in a wild landscape, is the long struggle of the mind fir concordance with that mysterious entity, the earth. Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
Where the influences to make one’s art come from and why they take the forms they do are often the first questions to ask an artist and the last things to define. In the sculpture and installation of Gwen Boyle structure is closely linked to content, and content to her relationship to people and things. Her practice of art involves observation and an enquiry into natural phenomen; she attempts to make visible and tangible those elements which permeate our lives but which we rarely stop to question or wonder at. ~ Boyle’s sculpture is public, site-specific and communicates to the viewer through play and interaction her curiosity about and relation to forces below and above the crust of the earth. She has for many years used the materials of bronze, steel, wood, glass and sound to bring into human terms the wind, sun, earth’s gravity, magnetism, wobble and rotation. Boyle’s sculptures are built to track or suggest the presence of these ephemeral forces and their resultant compositions strike a balance between formal abstraction and technical engineering. ~ Although Boyle admits she is not a scientist her interests do take her into the realm of science, and the opportunities she finds for consultation and collaboration with others outside the arts field form a significant part of her working process. The current exhibition Arc reflects one such opportunity – to work in the High Arctic – and presents, within an urban, art context, the richness of that experience.
Melanie, June 1994
Excerpts From an Arctic Journal:
June 15/89: It’s 2 a.m. air is still, in the silence my boots crunch rocks and ice as I install a sculpture on an exposed cracked mezoic rock… Holding the magnetic steel bar my hair starts to crackle with electricity. A faint electronic sound sings out from this magnetized steel bow. What’s happening… it’s responding to the … what? Out here on this seemingly empty tundra I was alone, excited, mystified and spooked. … Installation complete and harmonics continue to resonate along the shore as if it were “tuning” the shimmering sea ice. Can’t sleep… the sun is already high.
June 16: Announcement: “Art Opening Down by the Big Rock on the Beach, artist in attendance.” Scientists from the camp came by, checked it out and toasted the invisible force with invisible drinks. The harmonics remain a mystery.
June 19: We land within seven degrees of the geomagnetic pole, and we have a couple of hours before the ice becomes unsafe. Out of this sea ice, the light is even more intense and pure, everything is sharp edged, even the ice crystals in the air. I’ve lost my sense of perspective, what is far seems so near. The silence is silencing. I sit listening. In this light I see the Arctic’s long unbroken bow of time.
June 21: Summer solstice, I’m as close to the north pole ever I’ll be. Lying on my back, I watch the day turn completely on its inclined axis toward the sun before I turn southward.
To bring ARC into a parallel gallery has given me the venue to explore and express other aspects of my arctic experience, and to experiment with the magnetic sound in a different context.
Georgia Straight, July 15-22, by Paula Gustafson; Espace Magazine #30 Winter 1994 by Paula Gustafson