Transmundane blinks and twinkles on the shiny side of numinosity

ART by Gregory Beatty

Dunlop & Sherwood Village Galleries

Until Sept. 17

I was a little leery of this two-gallery exhibition. Curated by the Dunlop Art Gallery’s mystic three-headed art-chimera (Jennifer Matotek, Blair Fornwald and Wendy Peart), Transmundane features work by six artists (and one duo), and was described in advance publicity as exploring ideas of transcendence in relation to spirituality, the divine and otherworldly.

A non-material dimension to who we are as people and expressing our soulfulness and creativity through art? Right up my alley. Hardcore religious beliefs and practices that rely too much on pseudoscience and mysticism? No, thank-you.

So it was with some trepidation that I headed to the Dunlop on a warm Friday evening in early July for Transmundane’s opening. We were doing production on the Regina Folk Festival guide that weekend, so I just popped in for a quick look — and was instantly entranced.

From DaveandJenn’s Quetzalcoatlish sculpture of a “birdman” with sparkly wings perched on a palm tree (see photo)  to Deborah Edmeades’ blinking metronome eyeballs to Arma Yari’s sextet of seriously seductive light boxes to Frances Adair Mckenzie’s wall-size video-projection featuring surreal animations of common household items, the exhibition was a trippy delight.

Brendan Schick’s five paintings involve him, as a self-described “restless” sleeper”, exploring notions of dreaming and the subconscious through depictions of the rumpled bed clothes he often wakes to in the morning. Schick’s contemplative paintings aren’t visually ostentatious, and that makes them an essential respite from the razzle-dazzle around them. Balance!

Creature Feature

The following Monday, I trekked out to the Sherwood Village gallery to see that part of Transmundane. DaveandJenn quickly caught my eye again with three ceramic sculptures featuring more hybrid animal/humanoid creatures.  The work is from a series called A Natural History of Islands.

Biologically, islands are interesting ecosystems. Until humans got busy with all our exploration, settlement and trade, they were largely insulated from evolutionary developments in the broader biome. Over many millions of years that enabled some species to carve out some pretty bizarre evolutionary niches — duck-billed platypus, kiwi and lemurs, anyone?

Jelly was another work I enjoyed. It’s a second wall-sized video by Frances Adair Mckenzie that, with a mass of tubules “processing” endless streams of eyeballs, mouths and other objects, inspired thoughts of bodily functions such as digestion and circulation. Enhancing that impression is a 3-D effect created by wall-mounted “supports” on the projection surface, while jellyfish float languidly in the background.

Before I saw the main show again, I read the brochure essay by Matotek, Fornwald and Peart. If you plan on tackling the show in any depth, I recommend you do the same, as it has some valuable insights.

Take Arma Yari’s light boxes. With their geometric shapes, vibrant colours and vortexes of mirrored reflections, they’re visually amazing. Yet when you check the titles, you find cryptic notations such as Dr. A.H., 5-HT2A, Delyside and Absorbance. Only the final two titles, Ecstasy and Serotonin, hint at Yari’s underlying interest in psychedelia and the use of LSD (invented by Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann) as a tool to boost creativity and treat mental illness.

When I did return to Central Library, three banner works by Brendan Schick, Deborah Edmeades and Ryan Peters had been installed on the windows above the east entrance. In technique and composition, Peters’ black-and-white photograms, which are also on display inside and at Sherwood Village, recall work by Surrealist photographers such as Man Ray and André Breton in the 1920s and ’30s.

Surrealism, of course, was all about dreams and the subconscious; and photography, in the hands of masters like Ray and Breton, was a great tool for exploring that realm.

Edmeades’ blinking eyeballs are big and round, with functional lids and tinselly lashes, and as they swing back and forth the movement is captured on video monitors mounted in HMD-style viewfinders. Besides being fun to look at, Blinking and Other Involuntary Portals evokes thoughts (especially in the context of Transmundane) of hypnosis, social media, surveillance, the romantic ideal of eyes being a window to the soul, and more.

Oh yeah, there’s also a video game. It’s by Paloma Rendón Dawkins, the title is Palmistry, and it involves players searching for secret doorways that reveal new worlds for them to explore.

Like I said at the start, Transmundane is a trippy delight. See it before it vanishes in a puff of cerebral glitter. ❧