Susan Hobbs

Yan Wen Chang: Odile’s Notorious Magnum Opus Of Thirty-Two Fouettés, Katie Bethune-Leamen: Pickle Fingers

19 Jan - 25 Feb 2023

Toronto, ON – Opening on 19 January from 5 to 8 p.m. and running until 25 February, the gallery is pleased to present two solo exhibitions with new work by Yan Wen Chang and Katie Bethune-Leamen.

Yan Wen Chang's exhibition, Odile's Notorious Magnum Opus Of Thirty-Two Fouettés, investigates the relationship between a desire and a dream, their differences, and the lengths one takes to achieve them. The exhibition's title references a character in the classical ballet Swan Lake. Odile is the Black Swan and, through deceit and desire, successfully lures the Prince to commit his love dooming the White Swan to her death. The prima ballerina is tasked with the challenge of performing as both swans. This trope of heroes pitted against themselves is a defining feature of psychological tragedies and depicts the two dividing states of pursuing one's dream, reality and hope. This new body of paintings continue Chang's ongoing investigation and critique of the American Dream, referencing common symbolic tropes of psychological tragedies found in films like Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan, directed by Darren Aronofsky. Although the ongoing outcome is two-fold, defiant or desperate, the chance to cheat fate is ever-present in the making of these paintings. Referencing icons like the Hollywood sign and five-pointed star, Chang finds purity in these symbols, turning them into echos of themselves and freeing them from any pre-existing functions. This enables them to relate and belong in ways neither predictable nor predetermined, creating new relationships out of what already exists as a reminder of what is still possible.

Katie Bethune-Leamen's exhibition Pickle Fingers brings historical domestic languages of geometric abstraction–as found in 19th century 'red work' quilts and 1930s European spritzdekor ceramics–into the space of the gallery. Here, she makes their parallel to the aspirational, revolutionary languages of early avant-garde and spiritualist abstraction explicit. These references frame a large, slipcast porcelain tile sculpture that is extrapolated from the ceramic cladding of shared public spaces and circular porcelain works that emulate airbrushed dinnerware, themselves at times supporting small stacked marble and bronze pieces. Together, these materials speak in the range of references they encompass, from the utilitarian to the vaunted. They ensconce floor-based powder-coated bronze sculptures, studded and spiked, with reclaimed glass elements like giant brooches on the lapel of the gallery's floor or like sculptures that consider the deep affect of encounters with animals and their traces. Bethune-Leamen continues her work into making objects articulate the experience of living with them and being with each other in the context of material, objects, and consumption.

Yan Wen Chang and Katie Bethune-Leamen first met as student and instructor at the Ontario College of Art and Design and have since been peers and friends.