As I Walk showcases the relationship between memory and natural elements

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


Construction sites serve as inspiration for artist Philippe Battikha

Until Dec. 19, Fonderie Darling will be showcasing the sound artist’s first major solo exhibition

Trumpet player and sound artist Philippe Battikha presented his first major solo exhibition on Oct. 28 at Fonderie Darling. Someone’s Always Listening, a kinetic installation, creates a new perception of construction materials for its viewers. Battikha has his studio on the second-floor of the art gallery. In this space filled with collected objects and on-going projects, the Concordia graduate discussed his relationship to the materials used in the work with The Concordian.

The piece is composed of blasting mats that are made up of old tires that have been woven together. They were produced by the company Dynamat, and are used on construction sites to absorb explosions that occur during building projects. Battikha first saw these mats during his time at his old studio in the Rosemont area. “I was on the second floor, so I had a vantage point on the construction site where normally you wouldn’t see that kind of explosion,” recalled the artist. “It would become all quiet because all the construction around stopped and then you would feel it […] the whole Earth would shake, and I was in the building adjacent to this particular site and you would feel it in the building. Then slowly, the construction noise would come back.”

The mats were fascinating to Battikha. “Right away I got infatuated by the aesthetics of the mats themselves. They were beautiful, beyond human size […] and to see them kind of bubble up like that from the dynamite explosion, that image stuck in my head,” he said.

Battikha placed the blasting mats in a large mass standing in the centre of the small hall of  Fonderie Darling. Sounds from construction sites permeate this dark scene, and hydraulic pumps placed under the structure move part of it up and down, as if a creature were breathing beneath it.

The movement of the pump recreates the moment of explosion under the mats. With this installation, the artist reflects on the constant shifts in the architecture found in cities and the sounds related to it. Reflections on the place and effects of sounds in everyday life are central to Battikha’s artistic practice. He is particularly interested in the idea of sounds as contaminants. “As a sound artist, I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between in and out. And sound has this ability to traverse those boundaries of what is presented in the inside of things and what is on the outside,” he said.

Artist Philippe Battikha’s exhibit Someone’s Always Listening at the Fonderie Darling in Montreal, Quebec on November 12 2021. KAITLYNN RODNEY/ THE CONCORDIAN

Objects are also central to Battikha’s artistic practice. He described being particularly attracted to specific ones. In recent years, he converted an old bingo machine, a hairdresser’s chair, and an old player piano, amongst others. “I had been collecting objects my whole life, and living with them and lugging them around, and so the other avenue of my work is to recontextualize these objects to give them a new life.”

Someone’s Always Listening is the continuity of the artist’s ongoing reflections. He sees the material aspect of his installation as an anchoring point for the audience to situate themselves in an enveloping and destabilizing sonic environment. The dark lighting in the room adds to this otherworldly feeling that he aims to generate.

The exhibition acts as an invitation to reflect on the relationship we share with the urban sounds and materials that surround us every day. Instead of critiquing, the artist creates an opportunity for each visitor to derive their own meaning from the installation. “I think we need to redefine our relationship with the things and environments around us in order to move forward […] in a way that is less destructive and more sustainable for the future and that is central to a lot of the work that I am doing specifically with objects and sounds,” he said.

Someone’s Always Listening is being presented at Fonderie Darling until Dec. 19. For more information, visit the gallery’s website.


Photos courtesy of Kaitlynn Rodney

Exit mobile version