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Projet Pangée: 'L’île Déserte' - A Review

Virtual 3D exhibition - PAPIER 2020

Artists featured:

Trevor Baird

Simone Blain

Angela Heisch

Oda Iselin Sønderland

Laurence Veri

3D Design: Katerine Dennie-Marcoux

Image courtesy of Project Pangée

The viewer of L’île Déserte finds themselves facing a navigable digital beach. Braced by the sand coloured background of Projet Pangée’s website, the set scene is tranquil and inviting. Moving my cursor allows me to spin around within the simulation. Alongside the palm trees is a grey and beige assemblage of blocks with a doorway, obviously the entrance to the gallery. On the beach, there is a giant yellow and black snail crawling up a marble boulder. I discover that you can jump within the simulation and try to join the snail atop the rock, but the software doesn’t let me. I decide to keep exploring the island, and on the other side of the gallery find a detached concrete arch and a shiny, levitating green frog. It is as cartoon-like and oversized as the snail. I start to think about scale. The only recognisable indicator of size on the island are the palm trees, and even they can be subject to question. With those thoughts in mind, I make my way back around the island and walk into the gallery.

A smaller version of the snail from outside has found its way into the first room. Centre stage is taken by 3D scans of Trevor Baird’s ceramic vases. Baird is based in Montréal and his work grapples with trying to “blend the sentimentality of DIY with the idealised perfection of industrial productions.” The conventional shapes of his pieces sit in tension with their modern and irregular surface topography, which is inspired by comic books. The digital scans are very good, if you get close enough to the sculptures you can see the way the paper sticks out off the sculpture’s body and the grains of the printed colour. Beside Baird’s work sit two stone plaques made by Laurence Veri. One shows two humanoid features clutching a frog, the other shows a dragonfly. Also from Montréal, Veri’s work explores the physicality of the natural world. She is similarly a ceramic artist, and uses the material “as an extension of her sensitivity.” Both Veri and Baird subvert the expectations of their material and call into question our relationship to tradition. Despite the exhibition being digital, I feel these emotions are still easily understood. This is a testament to Katerine Dennie-Marcoux’s 3D design and curation. On the walls behind the sculptural works hang four paintings. The works are by Simone Blain, Angela Heisch, and Oda Iselin Sønderland. The paintings look good together, they all achieve a use of line that feels dynamic and curvaceous, a theme also reflected in the three dimensional works.

Image courtesy of Project Pangée

I enter the room to the left. Here, three of Sønderland’s paintings are hung. The subjects of all three are fictional women, with cartoon-like features and bodies that glow blue, green, and pink. The figures stare out of their portraits with bulbous, glossy eyes. They feel simultaneously alien and human. Sønderland’s work is full of archetypes and symbolism, and through her mythical characters she explores “experiences of identity, sexuality, and puberty.” They are all charged with a very tender sort of eroticism that radiates through the ‘room’. Her pieces look onto Angela Heisch’s work on the opposite wall. On show are two black and white graphite drawings which really capture Heisch’s “architectural and anthropomorphic abstract language.” The eyes and swirls capture a similar feeling of a type of ‘all seeing-ness’ also present in Sønderland’s paintings. Between them on the floor sits a miniature version of the frog from outside. It all feels quite surreal.

I cross the gallery and enter the final room to the right. Other than Heisch, there is a piece from all the featured artists on display here. In this final room it feels as though the focus has shifted beyond the human and into this really spiritual realm. There is heavy use of natural imagery in all the work. The lines from Blain’s painted vines echo in the tendrils on Baird’s enormous ceramic vase. We find the same flow in Veri’s plaque at the far end of the room, a speckled and cracked image that that shows a human seemingly burning atop a chalice shaped altar. On the the opposite side of the room hangs Sønderland’s last piece. In the reflection of a lake, a bird becomes a female fury, looking out at the viewer with glowing red eyes as it clutches a coveted egg. It captures an air of transformation which characterises the whole show.

Image courtesy of Project Pangée

This blend of the natural and fictional works well in a digital context. The success of the show is indebted to the fact that time has been taken to construct the bizarre virtual island on which the gallery sits. The irreality of the built software makes a good stage for the mythical. The emptiness of the gallery builds a space that feels meditative and tranquil; the viewer is able to immerse himself completely without the worry of opening hours, or scheduled entrance times, or indeed other visitors. There is something to be said for the virtual gallery in the ability for omnivision it establishes, if I can coin a word. Perhaps it can allow for greater reflection than a conventional gallery, despite the obvious lack and want for physicality.

Have a look for yourself:

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