Durham Art Gallery: Comtemporary Canadian Art Home Exhibits About Contact Visiting Support Events

Past Exhibition


  • Group Show

    Group Show

Shades of White

Group Show

July 20 - September 16, 2018

Upon entering a white-walled gallery filled with artworks made entirely of white materials and white images, we seem to be encountering a mischievous visual pun. Indeed, virtually all colour has been banished from this exhibition leaving a subtlety and nuance that beckons the viewer closer to see what elusive messages and motives are at play in the work of these eight artists: Becky Comber, Lois Andison, Gina Duque, Svava Thordis Juliusson, Kristiina Lahde, Sung Ja Kim Chisholm, Nancy Anne McPhee, and Noelle Hamlyn.

White is no colour or all colour, depending on how we look at it. “The first of all single colours is white,” according to Leonardo da Vinci. In western culture we have white weddings and white flags of surrender. The gallery itself, sometimes derided as a “white cube,” now features works in a broad range of media and materials that explore personal cultures, spiritual journeys, texture and shadow – all bound by hues of white.

The act of abstraction challenges our ability to see at all. This is exemplified in Duque’s choice of subjects: seed structures of flowers that are magnified with mixed media materials to bring their beauty and complexity into the realm of the seen. They were never really invisible, but they were too small to be able to distinguish individually.

McPhee borrows imagery from the natural world by adapting the suckers of the octopus as the design motif for a body-sized white-on-white trapunto quilt that relies on the shadows created by the thread. Unsteady, it depends on the angle of the light and the position of the viewer for its effect. Her image spills out of its borders to become an un-quilt.

Comber re-imagines photographs she took of her backyard environment. She removes the “negative space” in the image by dissecting it with an exacto knife and then further eliminates all colour by flipping the photo print over on its white side. This double subtraction creates a new kind of positive image, both delicate and serene.

Lahde makes the unseen become visible by re-purposing office supplies and collapsing their functionality and subverting their internal logic through various methodical processes. Likewise, Juliusson transforms commonplace materials but with a far more intuitive approach that strives to create collisions between what is expected and what is revealed.

Sorrow and pain reverberate through a few works in this show, as though it has adopted the colour of white bandages. Kim Chisholm`s work plunges into layers of white fabric saturated with plaster, as reflections of the layers of memories, experiences and wounds that echo our lives and make up our sense of self.

Hamlyn’s dress is a response to the story of Nomi in Miriam Toews’ novel, A Complicated Kindness, and traces the slow corrosion of innocence and purity, and the dissolution of stability. Similar sentiments arise in Andison’s animated neon sculpture: coffee and tea, those mainstays of domestic sociability, are supplemented with an additional word: “tears.”

The works in Shades of White embrace care, restraint, and the abstracted potential of a minimal palette. Each artist starts in the messy world of social and natural complexity and simplifies it to reveal an essence, deepening our conversations with the artwork and with each other. - Ilse Gassinger, curator of the show