Nadia Belerique, Maryanne Casasanta, Karen Kraven and Jennifer Sciarrino


What It Seems Is Something Too, installation view (2011): Images courtesy Neubacher Shor, Toronto. Photos: Jennifer Sciarrino.What It Seems Is Something Too, installation view (2011): Images courtesy Neubacher Shor, Toronto. Photos: Jennifer Sciarrino.

By Ellyn Walker

What it Seems is Something Too
Nadia Belerique, Maryanne Casasanta, Karen Kraven, Jennifer Sciarrino
Neubacher Shor Contemporary
October 28 – November 26, 2011

The recent group exhibition What it Seems is Something Too perpetuates the expression that “there is always more than meets the eye.” Consisting of a variety of sculpture, photography, ready-mades and installation-based work by four emerging female artists – Nadia Belerique, Maryanne Casasanta, Karen Kraven and Jennifer Sciarrino – the selection of artworks was thoughtfully selected by local curator and writer, Catherine Dean.  Originally inspired by Dean’s research into the provisional, these four artists’ work intersects with their intangible visual qualities, all of which suggest possibilities of transition and impermanence. Here, we are invited to look further at these works – to reflect on what we think they articulate and of what they actually do

‘The space in-between’ would undeniably be on any viewers’ mind while walking through the exhibition.  Having friendships that emerged prior to their promising art careers, the four artists – all based in Toronto, except for Kraven who is completing an MFA at Concordia – have been inevitably influenced by each other’s practices. Most breathtaking about this collaborative exhibition is the conversational element present within the combined body of work. Dean’s arrangement of works spans over two large conjoining gallery rooms, but succeeds at creating an intimate, enveloping space where viewers can contemplate what these works appear to be, their experiential presence and the cohesive practice of four artists working around each other. 

Casasanta produced some of her strongest images for this exhibition. Playing with the idea of the ‘commonplace’, Casasanta’s minimalist photographs disrupt traditional understandings of everyday objects and, instead, suggest that the presence of images and their represented space is more important than the idea of immediacy and resolution. Her new series, From Wherever You Are Looking (2011), invites the viewer to reconsider the ordinary, and to look for the space beyond what is initially presented. The rectangular image of a taped, white hand-made envelope is, in fact, an edition of ‘DDDDoomed, Or, Collectors & Curators of the Image – A Brief Future History of the Image Aggregator by R. Gerald Nelson that was unopened and first seen on Tumblr under the alternative title, ‘set it free’ (2011).  Casasanta documents familiar objects and materials within her own living space and depicts them as rarified matters of everyday life, elevating them to spiritual encounters within our day-to-day routines. 

What It Seems Is Something Too, installation view (2011)What It Seems Is Something Too, installation view (2011)Belerique’s work expands upon the practice of documenting the everyday, re-imagining commonplace encounters as transcendental experience. “Fence” (2010), consists of a somewhat banal photograph of a close-up of a fence that is enlivened by the fleeting reflection of its environs. A metaphor for the body of the work on view in the show, it appears as if the fence is a barrier between the actual and the mystical.

Sciarrino elaborates on the duality of vision with regards to representation, her sculptural pieces requiring particularly careful consideration.  “Octagonal frustrum” (2010) is presented on a natural wood plinth, and is made of gypsum cement and graphite mounted on steel. Instead of simply existing as a smooth grey, octagonal form, “Octagonal frustrum” points to what lay beyond a physical shape and its space. Rather than accept a three-dimensional sculpture as a static, constructed object, we must simultaneously consider the transient environments in which objects exist.  

Kraven completes the arrangement of work with two divergent series. “Summoned Luck for Missing Numbers” consists of two large-scale digital photographs of found playing cards that combine to complete a full deck. Visually, these images play out as balanced records of the artist’s collection, proving its fortuitous findings through their aptly named titles. Two mobile installations, “Galactic Pants and Split Time Travel” (2011) and “Transfer” (2011) put forth existing narratives of time, chance and communication that are fabricated through Kraven’s use of re-imagined materials.

The sentimental narrative at play throughout the exhibition required viewers to participate in these complex environments, forcing viewers to become active mediators in their own understanding of objects, and in turn, objecthood. There is a cohesive overarching investigation in the works of these four artists that explores instinctual, inexplicable experiences of intervention. Belerique, Casasanta, Sciarrino and Kraven bring together an ephemeral idea of looking beyond what we immediately see. Thus, our individual negotiation of everyday objects as transitory, poetic materials is central to our experience of being with these works. Furthermore, Dean successfully frames these works as tokens to be felt, rather than simply seen, proving that “what it seems is something, too”.

Ellyn WalkerEllyn Walker is an artist and writer who lives and works in Toronto. Using intervention, performance and language-based disseminations, Walker’s practice and writing employ both formal and informal platforms for critical discussion. Her recent project, Foreigners Everywhere, is an ongoing social practice that aims to collapse divisions between language, politics and present social conditions through shared acts of learning. Walker’s writing can be found in C Magazine and Magenta Magazine, as well as various other writing projects for Mercer Union, Xpace Cultural Centre, Gallery TPW and an upcoming catalogue raisonné project for the National Gallery of Canada.