The Bedrock Gardener (detail).
Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, found plastics, chalk, charcoal, reflective insulation, pigments. 2019. Photo by Denis Ogrinc.
March 6th to April 10th, 2021 Wil Aballe Art Projects | WAAP 1129 East Hastings St. Vancouver, BC V6A 1S3 waapart.com
Polyurethane rubber, florescent pigment, brass stem, glass beads, charred wood. 2021. Courtesy of Wil Aballe Art Projects, photographs by Mike Love.
Exhibition Press Release: Geophilia is a solo exhibition of new work by Liljana Mead Martin that queries the possibility of ever fully knowing the places we seek to love. Martin’s works are visceral in their tactility and bear the trace of her hybrid interests in sculpture and choreography. Hers is a practice of coming to know and unknow through touch, by probing limits and testing the pliability of the world around her. An examination of traces and fragments are key to this new series, which continues the artist’s investigation into the circulation of energy and the erosion of time.
The Listener (2021) is a charred tree trunk laid horizontally, knotted on one end by a tightly bound root bundle. New growths appear to be sprouting forth out of this nurse log in the form of brass stems and surreal fluorescent petals, with delicately flowering heads cast from the artist’s ear. Feeders (2021) is an accumulation of spiny pinchers, fingery protrusions amassed in a crowded formation that resemble barnacles. Conical mounds budding skywards, Drifting flex (2021) consists of bent elbows poised as though readied to unfurl. Throughout Geophilia, the body is understood as a tool that creates an imprint on the earth, whilst simultaneously assuming postures that mimic various forms of life. Disinterested in anthropomorphizing the botanical or the geological, Martin is instead devoted to new ways of being in relation with the surrounding environment. If terraforming is the process of making earth habitable for humans, Martin proposes an opposite action: remaking humanness in order to accommodate the feeling world. Her works directly challenge any presumption of the world as unfeeling, inanimate, or unconscious.
The sculptures are gestural in their grasping, caressing, overflowing, caving inwards or hollowing out. Frequently, Martin casts hands that evoke digging movements, but she also buries things inside her casts: sand, soil, juniper, and dried flowers, as well as insulation, plastics, fungicide and scrap metals. This process of worlding is not purist, but grapples with the contemporary realities of toxicity and contamination. Taken together, the complex material accretions are attentive to overlapping and entirely incompatible lifespans, contradictions that can make a place so difficult to know.
The Listener II. Polyurethane rubber, florescent pigment, brass stem, charred wood. 2021.
Photo by Steven Cottingham.
the ground doesn’t wander.
Heat warped tinted-acrylic. 2021
Hydrostone, ink, iron oxide, black sand, soil, powdered pearl, on wooden base. Variable dimensions. 2021
Feeders. (Detail) Hydrostone, ink, iron oxide, black sand, soil, powdered pearl, on wooden base. Variable dimensions. 2021
Transmutations. Hydrostone, plaster, soil, ink, iron oxide, black sand, dry pigments, wooden base. Variable dimensions. 2021
BIOMASS looks at art through the lifecycle of material and energy. Artists consider their practices in highly dimensional ways, BIOMASS brings these realities and nuances to the fore through featured works and dialogues on practice.
The term biomass is used most often within the energy industry, typically to describe forms of burnable “waste” material used to create heat and electricity. The term’s origins are more overt, bio means life, mass means volume. From these two meanings we find a charged yet expanded perspective through which to experience art and its making.
Interview Excerpt: “ This year I began a new body of research, stemming from a curiosity in west coast forests and some zoning terminology called the Wildland Urban Interface or WUI zones. It’s basically a transition zone between what is considered wildland and new areas of human development, often these are on the fringes of more densely populated areas, in wilder areas. Communities in these zones are very vulnerable to wildfires and in simple terms their presence disrupts an existing ecology. But it’s complicated, because as cities become more expensive people want to have their own space - causing drift and sprawl in areas that can’t necessarily sustain that many people. I mean, it takes tons of energy and resources to extend the grid. I was drawing from that research to create these works that suggest architectural shapes, specifically thresholds to homes or buildings.”
Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, Liljana Mead Martin. Curated by Jesse Birch at Nanaimo Art Gallery.
The Bedrock Gardener. 2019.Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, reflective insulation, found plastics, dry pigment.
Exhibition text by Jesse Birch.
“In rocky mounds, boulders, and cliffs, when shadows fall, where lichen grows, where cracks appear, we see faces. However grotesque, we see ourselves. This desire to be reflected in the stony landscape also has scientific grounding, as we are made of minerals. But this empathy with the land has limits. What do shareholders and mine operators perceive as they level entire mountains? How are we reflected in tar sands operations that move more sediment in a year than all of the world's rivers combined? How do we understand the discrepancies between those who profit from extraction and those who feel the effects? Who is burdened with the role of witnessing and how much can they endure? We project our visages onto the land, but a Stone Witness sees it differently and can give testimony for millennia.
Through drawing, video, and sculpture, artworks by Abbas Akhavan, Tanya Busse, and Liljana Mead Martin consider human cultures of extraction in relation to geological time. Works in the exhibition include paintings made with organic light sensitive materials on paper made of stone, a video installation that conjures resistance to the resource extraction that fuels the military industrial complex, and sculptural works that trace connections between the body and the violence of the endless excavation and construction in the built environment.
This exhibition is set in a place with a very specific relationship to geology. Nanaimo, BC is a former coal mining town on the territory of the Snuneymuxw people, marked by petroglyphs carved in stone that speak to origin stories and cultural rights to the land, and undercut by mine shafts extracted through one hundred years of subaltern labour. That Nanaimo rides the northern edge of the Cascadia subduction zone makes the site of this exhibition even more resonant.”
The Bedrock Gardener. 2019. Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, reflective insulation, found plastics, dry pigment. Expansive Bind (background). 2019. Hydrostone, sand, salt, dirt, plaster, burnt cedar, charcoal, dry pigment.
Just A Scratch (III) 2019. Hydrostone, dirt, sand, plaster, charcoal, gauze, dry pigment, tinted acrylic shelf.
The Bedrock Gardener. 2019. Gypsum, plaster, hydrostone, cement, black sand, red sand, juniper, reflective insulation, found plastics, dry pigment.
Night Blooming Cereus; Queen of the Night
2020. Hydrostone, black sand, iron oxide, dried cactus flower, charcoal, ink, cement, 8’ x 2’ x 1.5’. Shown in Jelena and the Magic Flute, curated by Dan Starling. Courtesy of CSA Space.
Exhibition details and accompanying writing by Dan Starling here.
2019. Photographs, paper, pigments, cement, plaster, flagging tape. Photographs by Denis Ogrinc.
Liljana Mead Martin is a visual artist working in mediums of sculpture and choreographed performance. Her artwork explores the material ecologies of digging, cultivation and deep time. Martin’s research is focused on the ways by which we grow sensitivity and resilience within dark ecologies and toxic habitats.
In recent work Martin considers the reciprocity between bodies and land, both natural and constructed. Materials gathered in the studio for sculpture are often recycled and repurposed to form an alchemy between the body and environmental conditions.
Born in Nova Scotia and raised between North America, Australia and Europe. Martin’s parents were students of the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. The surrounding community of writers, artists and teachers whom she grew up with had a profound impact and these early influences heightened questions pertaining to impermanence, phenomenology and exchanges with the natural world.
Martin’s work has been exhibited at The Klondike Institute for Arts and Culture (Dawson City Yukon Territory), Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island ON) Dynamo Arts Association (Vancouver), CSA Space (Vancouver), Recess (NYC), the Nanaimo Art Gallery (Vancouver Island), and BIOMASS (worldwide). In 2021, Martin’s solo exhibition Geophilia is showing with Wil Aballe Art Projects, Vancouver.