Patel-Brown gallery, Toronto, MAY 14 – JUNE 18, 2022
In Night Blossoms, Montreal-based artist Katherine Melançon invites us to see nature as living and blooming everywhere, close to us, and never separated from culture or technology. The body of work presented here started more than ten years ago, when the artist lived in London, UK, and walked throughout the city scanning flowers and plants growing in private gardens. She would walk at night with a portable scanner and stop at Burghley Road, for instance, to capture a series of vermilion small flowers (Nightlife 1, Burghley Road London NW5, 2012-2022).
In the gallery, there are traces of Melançon’s personal encounters with wild and not so wild vegetation in London, the suburb of Saint-Bruno, QC (St-Bruno 1, 2020) or the biodiversity growing in one of Montreal’s wastelands (Champ des possibles 1, 2017). We can follow the artist’s gestures, the performativity involved in slowly scanning each plant and flower individually, in all directions, left and right, around, or bringing them closer or far away from the scanner. The superimposition of images gives rise to these collages. Further, the work’s closeness to familiar colors, textures, and objects reminds us that we are interconnected to life growing in well-kept gardens and even hostile and toxic environments.
The central work in the exhibition, Nature morte – Epiphyllum (2018-2022), encapsulates the artist’s interest in biodiversity, image-making processes, the passage of time, and the deployment of digital technologies to extend our engagement with living systems. The work consists of a Epiphyllum Oxypetalum cactus, a species that seldom blooms, but when it does it is at night, wilting slowly before dawn. Melançon worked with this plant, patiently waited until it bloomed, and scanned both plant and flower. Employing a digital Jacquard loom, she created a fabric that incorporates electrical wires, which form three flowers that change color from gray to yellow at different speeds, depending on outdoor lighting conditions – a cloudy moment, or when the sun is bright. A sensor installed in the gallery window measures light and communicates with the tapestry, which makes the flower bloom and fade. This process of animating an inanimate object engages with the life-and-death cycle of the cactus, allowing us to see the process, but only in relation to the world beyond the gallery.
Melançon uses living and non-living materials that unfold in time. The movement involved in scanning wild vegetation in Rivière-des-Prairies (2019), exemplifies the artist’s conceptual and image-making process of creating something that seems still, but evokes the aliveness of the flowers and plants depicted and the passage of time. In this image, we observe young, mature, and dying plants, simultaneously moving, almost blooming. Together, the works in this exhibition open a space for us to delve into our world and stop for a second to enjoy it.
– Erandy Vergara-Vargas
Thanks to Canada Council for the Arts
With thanks to:
Jacquard tapestry: Sophia Borowska, Jacquard weaver and artist
Electronics: Pascale Tétrault
Pascal Dufaux (structure), Denis Lebreton (Garderner Vivaces solutions horticoles), Samuel St-Aubin, Daïmon Center for early stage development (Martine Crispo et Michael Caffrey), Galerie Diagonale (Chloé Grondeau)
More on the augmented tapestry:
With the invention of punch cards to make the jacquard weaving process automated (circa 1800-1815), one of the stepping stones of digital technology was laid down. I have been invested for many years in cycles of mutation between the natural, the digital, and the material – as if digitized natural specimens could morph into digital seeds that I then plant in physical materials – all this often with the still life genre in mind. Here, an Epiphyllum Oxypetalum cactus and its flowers – they bloom for only one night – were captured with a scanner. The collage that I created with these images was then weaved with a Jacquard loom bringing back its image to the source of its existence. The tapestry is also weaved with color-changing threads that fluctuate between gray and yellow to replay the birth and death of these “event-flowers”. In the library next to the gallery, a luminosity sensor sends the current light intensity in real-time; the data influences the speed at which the flowers bloom or close themselves. The short lifespan of the flowers captured by the scanner is reenacted for the time of a cloud or the night that rises. .
Finally, the printed works Nightlife 1 and 2 were created at night with a handheld scanner while I was walking in my neighbourhood at the time, Kentish Town in London UK. I captured the urban flora directly where they grew, in front yards, and on the streets. Digital tools, in dark settings, often have a hard time capturing a clean image, adding all sorts of artifacts. These recall the weaving structure, the same ones at the origin of the digital.
This exhibition has received the support of the Canada Council for the Arts