|Beth Stuart, But a Weak Smile (2012)|
When you first enter “LOUD.BROWN.SHROUD”, Beth Stuart’s new show at Erin Stump Projects on Queen Street West at Dovercourt, you’re greeted by a melange of work - paintings, sculpture, hanging objects. It’s also a playful mix of textiles - linens, leather, tile, paint, gold leaf. Stuart’s forte doesn’t just lie in one mode of creation - she thrives on the complex conversation created by a diversity of objects.Too Bright Light (2013), the large painting that greets you when you enter is a strange play of warm colours, oblique shapes, and bananas. Next to it is Teens in Tight Jeans (2013), a long, skinny, tiled pole, with a green arc resting on top, with large hoop earrings on either side. It’s a strange placement of objects, but they seem to be having a conversation.
Stuart, who was shortlisted for the 2010 RBC Canadian Painting competition, clearly works from a very conceptual place, and her work is rooted in cultural and literary references. At the front of the gallery is her artist’s statement, in which she writes, “as the three push on and pull off, they look, they consider their affinities and their conflicts, they tease their fractious symmetry. There is a shuffling dance to recommit the balance in their reflections, to adjust for change”. It’s certainly cryptic, but this is part of Stuart’s modus operandi; she plays on the edges of abstraction and figuration, a constant oscillation of meaning and reference. She leaves clues for us, maybe even red herrings, and let us consider, infer, or invent our own interpretation of her pieces.
There’s also a definite sexual overtone to this show. Each piece in itself might not be overtly sexual, but together they tell a different story. Rode Hard, Put Away Wet (2013) is a marbled ball, suspended from a long leather string attached to the wall, reminiscent of a Louise Bourgeois-era of abstracted sculpture referencing the body. Another piece, But a Weak Smile (2012), is a large piece of grey linen suspended in the wall, its shape a double entendre- a coy smile, and a distinct hint at the female reproductive system. I definitely read the bananas differently as I passed by on the way out.
“LOUD.BROWN.SHROUD” closes on July 14th, don't miss it!