8 December 2011 to 21 January 2012
Laurie Walker (1962-2011) was a Montréal-based artist with an ambitious art practice. She was a respected member of the Quebec art community, having exhibited her large-scale sculptures and multimedia works across the country. Walker’s work held a high degree of fabrication, and was deliberately made from materials carrying weighty symbolic charges that echoed her deep interest in the natural sciences, ancient mythology, and environmental concerns. Her journals are a testament to her thorough research on these topics while also containing some ruminations on the chronic illness that affected the last years of her life and her more recent work.
In this first exhibition of work following Walker’s death earlier this year, the gallery presents two works from distinct periods in her career joined by related themes.
Exhibited for the first time, the four large-scale works on paper that make up Prometheus Rebound (2005-08), reiterate the Promethean myth while alluding to other representations of the same story by Percy Bysshe Shelley and Barnett Newman. Though no definitive version of the tale exists in Greek mythology, the consistent plot is that Prometheus was a god who defied Zeus when he stole fire from Hephaestus’s forge and gave it to mortals on Earth. The Greeks insisted that Prometheus’s actions established the human race, and consequently, mortals inherited his hubristic ambitions. Each of the four intricately rendered panels depicts vast expanses of a barren glacial land or seascape. Within each frame, tiny dramas can be observed: in the first, the glimmer of heat can be seen beyond the apex of an iceberg; in the third, the Promethean figure is chained to an icy cliff enduring his punishment. Walker’s drawings are visual investigations of the sublime, recalling the incorruptible images of Caspar David Friedrich, while also touching on more contemporary concerns. In the second panel, far on the horizon, a shadowy oil rig balances on the sea as a reminder of the dire consequences of human progress.
Walker’s Pyx (1995) is her version of the ornate lidded chalice of the same name, used by Christian traditions to carry and store the Eucharist, or host. The outside of the container is decorated with enameled graphic patterns, simulating cloisonné. Inside, Walker has fitted the sculpture with a tiny flame, and suspended over it a Pyrex crucible filled with a small amount of clay. Housed in this hermetic and culturally charged object, the clay stands as a metaphor for the mythical body built from earth—a trope that appears in versions of the myth of Prometheus, Jewish folklore as the Golem, and elsewhere. Warmed by fire, the clay becomes an alchemic symbol that alludes to these origin stories as well as the transubstantiation of the host.