Soon Comes Night
Birch Contemporary
29 Tecumseth St, Toronto, ON M6J 2H2
(416) 365-3003

July 27 - August 26, 2017
Reception July 27, 2017 6 - 8pm

Curated by Rebecca Travis with accompanying text
Featuring artists: Steven Beckley, Martin Bennett, Sarah Sands Phillips

Review by David Saric here
Documentation by Rebecca Travis

Soon Comes Night explores images as an unfixed entity – between light and dark, abstract and representational, constructed and incidental. Painterly and photographic processes of abstraction, erasure and physical manipulation reveal alternative ways for imagery to surface over time, encouraging a prolonged act of looking and contemplation of duration. The title of the exhibition is inspired by a common engraving on sundials - in Latin ‘Mox Nox’ or ‘Soon Night’ - which reflects the work’s sense of time, and its hinging between definitive states.

Martin Bennett’s Timed Expanse paintings emerged through a process of dismantling his pictorial Static Image works, focusing on the interplay between positive and negative space, and areas of abstraction and image. The source material for the Static Image paintings are photographs taken during lengthy walks at sites in the UK, Italy and Canada, which are then put through various processes of disintegration – Xeroxing, re-photographing, slide-projection - before the painting process begins. The Timed Expanse series’ vicarious link to photography (as a painterly decoding of these Static Image works) is upheld with each work’s uniform white border, which echoes that of a traditional photograph print. Studying the Timed Expanse paintings, forms begin to emerge but are not prescriptive of a certain subject matter; rather the ‘imagery’ is caught mid-development, much like an exposing photograph in a darkroom. A unifying element throughout Bennett’s practice is the finishing process of sanding the painted surface, pulling certain areas of application to the fore, while receding others.

Sanding is also key to Sarah Sands Phillips’ ongoing series Photographs of Canada, in which she selects photographs from books documenting Canadian landscapes and gently rubs away the image until only an echo of its skeletal structure is left behind. As the primary image is eroded, an alternative, underlying one is revealed, suggesting the long-term instability of landscape, memory and the photographic surface.

The film Under Sun is also created from found material, in this case a splicing together of light leaks from assorted reels of 8mm footage, captured between 1935 and 1965. Along with trapped dust, hairs and blemishes on the film, Under Sun’s spectral colour palette becomes a compositional element of painterly abstraction within each frame, pulling imagery from perceived blankness.

An intimate gaze is key to Steven Beckly’s varied practice. Here, three photographs (two of which were taken during his recent residency at the Doris McCarthy Artist-in-Residence Centre) are presented on translucent film, which hangs, bows and curls from the architectural fabric of the gallery space. The work’s sculptural presentation invites a connection with the body and allows for the imagery to reveal itself from a variety of perspectives, while its organic subject matter – hazy dusk, a horizon line – is ripe with potential for otherworldly transition. // Rebecca Travis