Rachel Beach’s sculptures and two-dimensional works create a dialogue between form and surface, image and material, embracing geometry and clear lines, as well as colour, texture and pattern. In their use of stripped-down shapes, they recall the pantheon of modern abstraction and its distillation of representation to a formal and material basis. The elemental quality of these works is further reinforced by reference-both in scale and outline-to the human figure, to instances where colours and surfaces are derived from Greco-Roman sources, to the appearance of the face as sign in the archaic shape of a mask. While flirting with origins and the possibility of a fundamental formal order, however, the artist undermines such fixations through play, juxtaposition and staging. The title of this exhibition, Mid-Sentence, draws attention both to the way Beach’s array of shapes and surfaces function like a language, and to the direction of her use of abstraction-towards activation in the present rather than the finality of a monument. Beach’s works are derivations and delicate balancing acts of form, placing shapes with suggestions of physical weight and material reality in speculative associations with one another, employing reversal, repetition and juxtaposition to destabilize and enrich our encounter with them. The works are not only internally complex, but are placed theatrically, in groupings that emphasize their status as part of a series or even a population of elements. Each individual piece reads in relation to others; form is as much dispersed across an array of possibilities as it is distilled to an essence. There is a pleasure in such play, a pleasure enhanced by the artist’s love of colour and texture. And there is also an opening up of meaning, in which the bodily references of Beach’s paper collages and inventive sculptures suggest new outlines, new limits of being, and new forms of being together.
Curated by Robin Metcalfe and Pan Wendt
Produced in collaboration with Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Halifax