Please touch the art: Derek Sullivan at The Power Plant and Jane LowBeer at Loop Gallery

Over the past few weeks we’ve been thinking especially hard about art. So hard, in fact, that recent encounters with art that foregrounds the physical experience have been a hugely welcome relief from all that heady cogitation.

The first such encounter got us out of our chairs and walking up stairs as part of Derek Sullivan’s recent Power Plant show, Albatross Omnibus. Comprising three industrial-sized stepladders and 52 print-on-demand artist books suspended from the ceiling, Albatross Omnibus conceptually echoes Yoko Ono’s well-known 1966 installation, Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), whereby viewer initiative and participation is required to experience and complete the performance of the exhibition. However while Albatross has similarly playful, meditative, and uplifting moments, Sullivan’s books collectively embody a much more idiosyncratic and energetic profusion of words, images and ideas rather than a singular (albeit profound) experience. This is not to say that Sullivan’s work is superficial; in fact the many humourous concrete texts and visual koans which make up the body of Albatross belie a deeper love and engagement with the history of reading, print, and the book itself. Steering a ladder through space, ascending the steps, and stretching up to page through each slim volume in turn, one enacts a physical experience of the pre-digital library, wherein books occupy positions, not always easy to reach, in a specific place and time. At a moment when books are rapidly beginning to disappear into the cloud, we are reminded not only of the sheer pleasure of touching and turning a page, but also of the importance of preserving and protecting the printed format as one of the still-unsurpassed achievements of human social, political and cultural expression.

Derek Sullivan’s Albatross Omnibus closed last week, but copies of the 52 limited-edition books will be available for continued viewing and purchase at Art Metropole. Below, selected spreads from two of the books, as featured on the wonderful Stopping Off Place blog.


In her current Loop Gallery exhibition Shelf Life, Jane LowBeer’s unique and engaging works provide an entirely different, yet equally interactive, physical experience of the art.

Mounted within handmade frames on spindles which the viewer is invited turn, the playful assemblages resemble a form of hand-cranked “medieval TV”. However the stories LowBeer tells are visual and experiential rather than strictly narrative or sequential. As one winds his or her way through collaged, monoprinted, and painted scenes replete with form, colour, and movement, the image within the frame changes in each passing moment, offering up a multiplicity of possible views on which to linger. Below, two different passages within one of the works illustrate how the format is an animating fresh take on the traditional still life. Shelf Life is on view at Loop Gallery through December 4th, concurrently with Mark Adair’s The Honourable Blood of Mr. E. Pussy, also worth a look. Learn more about both LowBeer’s and Adair’s work during a Q&A Session at Loop on Sunday, December 4th at 1pm.

Information on Derek Sullivan’s Albatross Omnibus at The Power Plant website
Review of Albatross Omnibus at
Derek Sullivan’s website
See some of Sullivan’s newest work, on view through December 23rd at Jessica Bradley Gallery
Searchable website of Art Metropole
The Stopping Off Place blog

Information on Jane LowBeer’s Shelf Life on the Loop Gallery blog
Jane LowBeer’s website

And just because we love her so, here is an image of Yoko Ono’s Ceiling Painting (YES Painting) from the 58th issue of ArtAsiaPacific, “The Artist in Her Unfinished Avant-Garden: Yoko Ono,” linked here.

images, from top to bottom: Derek Sullivan, Albatross Omnibus at The Power Plant (installation view), September 24–November 20, 2011, photo by Toni Hafkenscheid; Derek Sullivan, selected spreads from two of the 52 books comprising Albatross Omnibus, featured on the Stopping Off Place blog; Jane Low-Beer, three works from Shelf Life at Loop Gallery, November 12–December 4, 2011, photos by Shani K Parsons; Yoko Ono, Ceiling Painting (YES Painting), 1966, from ArtAsiaPacific, Issue 58.

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