Earlier this year I published a statement of intention to visit Esker Foundation more regularly. Thanks to Twitter, Instagram and Esker Foundation updates and invites (which arrive by email once or twice per month), I’ve made two visits since the summer 2018 exhibitions opened on May 25. Despite being wait listed on my first attempt to register, I was ultimately assigned a seat at a free, Sunday afternoon embroidery workshop (more on that below). And I spent a good portion of a rainy afternoon immersed in the summer exhibitions.
Three artists are showcased at Esker this summer. Vanessa Brown prompts thought by using steel to embody living, natural things as sculpture. Anna Torma uses a blend of embroidery, drawing, appliqué, and layering to combine familiar and fantastic things in colourful, multi-layered textile art hangings. And over a twelve week stretch ending July 29, Jolie Bird’s performance-based installation will transform a blank space into an 8-foot diameter representation of the Fibonacci Sequence.
Esker Foundation is located in Inglewood. It’s open Tuesday through Sunday, 11 am to 6 pm (with later hours Friday evenings until 8 pm). Admission and parking are free. Complete details are available here.
Vanessa Brown: The Witching Hour
Entering Esker Foundation, the first thing you see is Vanessa Brown’s dreamy, midnight visit the jeweller’s piercing parlour. I spent a long while studying the secrets hidden in the robes and appreciating the splash of colour from the enormous, mismatched earrings. On a return visit, I would spend more time studying the engravings on the “menu” hanging on the wall.
Moving to the right past this introductory piece, I entered the dark, walled-off space directly behind it, where I discovered the appropriately named Veils of a Bog. The sound and movement in this space are so immersive that several minutes passed before I noticed someone else in the space, lounging on one of the thoughtfully provided, giant floor cushions.
Emerging from the bog, I crossed to a grouping of pieces from a garden shed. Paint adds an unexpected layer of interest here, as does the mix of how the pieces are displayed: on simple white pedestals or free leaning against the wall.
At the far corner from the main entrance hangs a giant mobile. I couldn’t help but wonder how heavy it was, given all the steel used in its creation. The exterior windows here are covered in purple netting. I would love to see this piece in place on a brightly sunny day.
Anna Torma: Book of Abandoned Details
The detail in Anna Torma’s work is almost unfathomable. Muted, bright, reflecting reality, fantastical…it’s made more complex by incorporating multiple layers and multiple techniques. There are recurring elements, as well as unique representations. I will try to make time to get back for another viewing before the exhibition closes at the beginning of September. I didn’t run the Esker Foundation app on this visit, but would listen next visit to gain a better understanding of Torma’s work.
In one gallery, there’s a wall-mounted arrangement.
In another, the pieces are free hanging. Air currents introduced into the space cause the lighter layers of fabric to move, and the shadows dance, as well. These free-hanging pieces have different elements visible on the opposite side.
And it’s astonishing how clean and finished the “wrong side” of this tapestry looks, even when viewed up close. This piece, perhaps more than any other, made it clear to me that Anna Torma has mastered the technical aspects of her art.
For me, one of the most striking aspects of these exhibits is how they are laid out in the space. I found the juxtaposition of steel and fabric quite fascinating. These materials couldn’t be more different, but the curved forms and painted aspect of Vanessa Brown’s work beautifully sets off Anna Torma’s textile pieces.
Jolie Bird: 1597; Harmonious Frequencies
It’s easy to miss the Project Space on ground level, which can be viewed from the street or from inside the building.
In a performance-based installation running through the end of July, Calgarian Jolie Bird will create an 8-foot diameter representation of the Fibonacci Sequence made up of 1,597 golden dots. The dots are created by wrapping a golden thread around itself and adhering it to the wall. She was working on dot #830 when I visited. A couple of days each month, visitors may enter the space while she’s working, talk with her, and view her work up close. Check the Esker Foundation website for specifics.
Stitch Your Stories! Embroidery Workshop
In conjunction with exhibitions, Esker Foundation offers complementary programs (mostly free), ranging from guided tours to speakers, film screenings to workshops and even the occasional date night!
Thanks to the digital newsletter, I learned about the workshops associated with the summer 2018 exhibition shortly after registration opened. After looking through the offerings, I tried to register for the Stitch Your Stories! Embroidery Workshop with Anna Torma. The class was full, so I was wait-listed and about a week before the workshop I received an email notification that a spot had opened up.
I joined another 20+ participants in a work space on the south side of Esker’s space on the 4th floor, so there was lots of amazing natural light. That Sunday afternoon, Torma gave a bit of an overview of how she works and introduced us to the layering that’s integral to her work. We tried basic stitching, appliqués and reverse appliqués before leaving with our unfinished works-in-progress.
This workshop gave me a much better appreciation for how time intensive Torma’s practice is. By coincidence, it also provided an opportunity to spend an afternoon with another member of the Beakerhead photo crew. And I met a few Esker Foundation workshop regulars, who’ve got me paying closer attention to those newsletter updates – the workshops fill up fast!
All materials for the workshop were provided at no charge, although we had to leave the embroidery hoops behind for another workshop. I have subsequently borrowed a hoop from a neighbour and hope to finish my introductory sampler before the end of the year! 🙂
About Esker Foundation
After visiting Esker Foundation earlier this year, I wanted to understand what underpins the free exhibitions and programming. If you’re interested, this summer 2014 article from Canadian Art magazine provides a good overview of the person who founded Esker and the creative business model that sustains it.