Vancouver artist Gailan Ngan’s From the Studio Floor presents a collection of works that are playful and inviting despite their weighty materials. The exhibition, on view at the Esker Foundation in Calgary until Dec. 18, brings together found materials such as chunks of clay and a cactus, with a series of ceramic sculptures collectively titled Moon Orbit, which Ngan describes as “blobs.” They look like colourful boulders from outer space but are mostly made of clay from British Columbia.
Moon Orbit, laid out on the gallery floor, is painted in a range of solid colours, including purple, pink and red, as well as more muted stripes. I wandered around each form, imagining myself in an otherworldly maze, watching myself turn as the rounded surfaces and jutting nubs of each form gently sculpted the gaps between them. Ngan’s consideration of both time and negative space is deeply felt.
In a text accompanying the exhibition, Ngan writes: “Clay comes from the ebb and flow of glacial movement, the grinding of stone over millennia into fine particles, depositing into areas.” This durational aspect is apparent in the surprisingly shiny lustre of the sculptures, which draws out dips, craters and grooves in the clay.
On some works, Ngan has painted thick stripes that resemble contour lines on a map. They are expressive of the essential form – a rounded sculpture takes a web-like lattice, while a tall one has vertical stripes. Works in solid bright colours are smaller than the neutral-toned ones, creating a dynamic of shadowing through adjacency, making visible various connections based on colour and scale.