Viewing Morley Shayuk's evocative new exhibition Lotus at Paul Petro gallery, it's hard to pinpoint why everything looks so familiar and yet so strange. He has created pieces rooted in age-old spiritual ideas, referencing sun worship and the changing seasons, and has executed them using the most mundane--even tacky--renovation materials. You will recognize Durabond stucco, the building material used to cover styrofoam, a material that has become pervasive in exterior renovation and architecture today. There are strange glass shapes that if assembled would create a standard Home Depot door window pattern; there's also an ugly plastic vent, flimsy mouldings, and pressure-treated lumber.
Shayuk's rays of sunshine, organic symbols, and Egyptian-style reliefs have been manipulated, abstracted and hidden by these various building materials, yet their strength and original meaning comes through. This new collection of works seem to question not just aesthetic beauty but the value of art, poetry, and spirituality in our contemporary age. The seemingly random placement of little bits of glass, stone, and ceramic draws the eye, forcing the viewer to look closer, looking for patterns and meaning and questioning what is precious. Shayuk looks to our modern man-made landscape and computer-designed structures and asks how this infrastructure aligns with the human soul.
We were particularly intrigued by After Jay Isaac, a copy of a sculpture by the Toronto artist Jay Isaac. Shayuk has "renovated" Isaac's piece, originally made from found pieces of old trim, by recreating these wood elements out of styrofoam and covering them with stucco. What was originally a raw expression of form and line has become a premeditated assembly. Through this "renovation," the piece becomes bloated and fake, bringing to mind Victorian-era buildings that have been "updated" by styrofoam facades, complete with false keystone and oversized moulding. The copy becomes a controlled cry for reality, whether in the environment around us or in the way we live.
There will be a closing reception at Paul Petro Gallery, 980 Queen W, for Lotus on Saturday October 4, from 2-5 pm, along with Shelagh Keeley's After Lucretius/de rerum naura.