A new show has opened at Artspace. This meant a great deal of prep work for Jon, Bec, and myself in the days leading up to the installation of Will’s work last week. I used a palm sander for the first time, splattered myself with an inexplicable amount of grey paint, and made all those tidy edges in Gallery Two hammering electrical cords out of harm’s way. Following the opening and artist talk, which took place on Friday and Saturday respectively, I have been thinking about walking, community and communing, and the ways sound can sculpt a space. Here are some thoughts on Pickard Quarry Transpose.
Behind the front desk, two photographs fall within my sightline. The glass and black mats framing these images reflect the cars and passers-by that course down Aylmer St. throughout the day. The reflections are slightly distorted, as if seen in a funhouse mirror. It is an interesting juxtaposition, since the second of the two photographs is an aerial view in which, from my position at the desk, roads are the most clearly legible forms. It is a serendipitous layering that brings together the streets of Sackville, New Brunswick with those of Peterborough, Ontario.
At the artist talk, Will revealed to his audience that the white line transposed onto the exterior walls of the Mount Allison University Chapel is a route he mapped between the quarry and the chapel. You can trace that path on the neighbouring aerial photograph and imagine navigating it on your own. The mutual “ahh!” that followed this explanation hinted at sudden, collective understanding. But more than answering the “what is that?” question, this knowledge opened up Will’s installation for me. Will has said that “being an artist… makes you feel more rooted in the world”i and, indeed, as a viewer, I feel more rooted-in-place with this invitation to walk.
Walking as an art practice has a long history, but the route pictured in Will’s photograph reminds me of a particular British artist, Hamish Fulton. Fulton's 1983 book, Horizon to Horizon, documents a walk the artist took from Galway to Derry. He recreates the walk with a minimalist gesture such as that that appears on the Mt. A. chapel (check out Fulton's artist book here). However, whereas Will's image is a route viewed from above, Fulton's is a record of the horizon the artist observed during his ramble through the countryside. He supplements this documentation with a list of other observations, including clouds, swallows, and streams.
As a multi-media artist, Will provides very different evocations of place.
With a Gregorian chant echoing in my ears, I stand by the table that is positioned in the centre of Gallery One. Will invites the miners of Pickard Quarry to gather round the table and sing a work song—the package of cigarettes is our clue to this theme of communal labour. The choral voices that emanate, it seems, from the three rocks on the table’s edge, carry me from the ledge of a mine pit to the interior of a chapel. These transporting and transposing effects are present throughout the exhibition; I invite you to come and see where you go.
I am heading out for a walk.
i. William Robinson, quoted in 2016 Sobey Art Award - William Robinson, on the National Gallery of Canada YouTube channel.