*Art review from class last semester*
Having done no prior reading regarding the work of Seripop or the exhibit I was to expose myself to, I could not help but feel a comedic sense of awe upon entering the YYZ Artist Run Center in downtown Toronto. Being caught unprepared for the scale and vivid colour of the project, I was somewhat disoriented at first, leading me to at once exit and reenter the gallery to be sure of what my eyes beheld. The title of the piece was immediately clear in its form, with a tall, looming structure draped in thick, layered paper and further stuffed with large crumpled paper masses. To the left, a simultaneously fertile and phallic alliance of paper structures hung and leaned against the wall, on which the measurement “13ft 9in” was printed onto a draped paper backdrop. To the right, a wall of layered ripped paper framed nothing, vaguely reminiscent of a fireplace mantle piece, awkwardly stuck where no fireplace exists. My initial thought was that I had been thrown into the rubbish bin of a failed origami artist. It was only by way of thorough reexamination and research that my opinion has been adjusted.
Seripop is the amalgamation of Montreal-based artists, Yannick Desranleau and Chloe Lum. The two explore the medium of printed paper on the large scale, mixing instinct and chance with precision in movement and application. In an interview regarding another work, the duo discuss, rather convolutedly, the process of creation and conceptual ideas surrounding their work. As Lum states, “we always build an element of chance and failure into the pieces.” This is certainly reflected in the physicality of their movement when putting the work together, as shown, cut together with the aforementioned interview. The artists do not exert total control over the paper as it is crumpled and folded, but there does exist a certain element of meticulousness in their method of application. They are quite conscious of their attempt to let the paper do what is natural under their influence, a somewhat contradictory ideal to achieve.
Evolved from their work as poster artists and their observations of posters in the urban space, Looming does indeed reflect many of their sentiments. The way in which posters are layered upon one another and left to degrade in their fixed place is mirrored in the surrender of the piece to its audience. While the paper covers the space almost entirely, the viewer is invited to walk across its surfaces and amid its structures in order to take in its entirety. However, the rules of that interaction seem quite vague at first, and one is unsure whether one is allowed to venture into its midst to get a better look. Indeed, you are invited to see its many angles, but to what degree are your steps restricted? A small sign on the wall instructs you to step only where the surface is flat – a clear indication of artistic control in a supposedly ‘surrendered’ environment. This very much reflects their methodology, of both letting go and holding on at once. In that way, the piece is quite reminiscent of childrearing and the ways in which a parental figure can both allow and restrict freedom. In fact, it seemed that the hand of the artist remained present, quite literally, in the form of an enormous gloved hand, suspended from the ceiling, but not immediately visible from the entrance. This creates a tense emotional relationship between the artist, the art and by extension, the audience who is implicit in its partial degradation.
Looming is an exhibit rife with contradictions of this sort. The artists respond to the space they are given and create these haphazard masses with great precision. It seems to be a sort of intended chaos that exists within the gallery. Thus the message of the work is not explicit by any means, but exists in the relationship the artist has formed through the work and in the delicate balance of regulation and submission to its audience. That said, there is little that can be gleamed from a mere experience of the site itself. The form, in such a grand scale, overshadows the meaning at first, and one is left with only a sense of bemused wonderment. Perhaps that is the element of failure to which Lum referred. The element of chance, falling short of clear meaning, remains a failing for this piece, however conscious or intended it may be. That is the risk in attempting to strike such a precarious balance between control and chaos.