Sylvia Safdie’s 12 collections of meticulously gathered natural objects are on display at Fonderie Darling until Dec. 19
In Sylvia Safdie’s latest exhibition, the 79-year-old artist, who was born in Lebanon but moved to Montreal in 1953, manages to animate the inanimate. Until Dec. 19, Fonderie Darling will be showcasing As I Walk, an exhibition featuring 12 works composed of what Safdie deems “earth fragments.” These natural objects manage to lead double lives, ones that are, according to the artist, entrenched in personal meaning. The artist explained that “There is always something behind an act or a gesture that is veiled. There is always something that comes from a hidden place in the unconscious or in our memory.”
When standing inside the gallery’s main hall and admiring Safdie’s collections, it’s difficult not to appreciate the artist’s unrelenting search for meaning in the objects around her. The hall, filled with an accumulation of rocks, branches, dried fruits, and fossils, just to name a few, feels like stepping into Safdie’s own personal museum. While many of these natural elements may carry more significant meanings for the artist than for viewers, there are many objects that display discernable human-like characteristics. Take, for example, her work titled Feet. In this piece, the artist has organized several pairs of rocks that, almost eerily, resemble varying sizes of human feet.
As only an avid collector can, Safdie has spent years of her life carefully and patiently compiling these collections of precious materials. One work, titled Heads, took Safdie a whopping 28 years to complete. This is due to the fact that the artist was constantly reorganizing and transforming her work, forming new associations between the objects and what they mean to her.
Safdie’s move from Israel to Canada and her memories associated with this move were integral in bringing together these collections. She explained that “It was an enormously difficult experience. […] Now, looking back I am able to understand the rich process of dislocation and relocation. You are able [to] bring things from your past into the present and create your own language.”
A particularly interesting aspect in bringing this exhibition together was Safdie’s process in collecting these materials. All of these natural objects were gathered by the artist during her routine walks, something that she considers an essential aid to her creative process. With this in mind, viewers may reflect on their own ventures into nature, and perhaps leave this exhibition with a deeper appreciation for the many natural elements they encounter during the day that normally wouldn’t draw much attention.
While most of the collected objects have been carefully grouped together according to their form, some works such as Inventory include a variety of items that may not necessarily belong together. This is part of the charm of Safdie’s exhibition; some groups of objects appear to adhere to a certain shape or material, while others completely disregard the need to conform.
As I Walk extends an invitation for viewers to pause and reflect on the many natural objects they come into contact with on a daily basis. It also encourages them to not only acknowledge but admire both the unity and differences among the accumulation of objects presented, serving as a reminder that memory is a powerful, and at times elusive, thing.
Fonderie Darling is located at 745 Ottawa St. For more information on As I Walk please visit the gallery’s website.
Photo courtesy of Ashley Fish-Robertson