June 26 to August 31, 2014
Koffler Gallery
Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw Street
Curator: Mona Filip

Tuesday to Friday, 12 PM – 6 PM
 | Saturday & Sunday, 11 AM – 5 PM
Closed Mondays and statutory holidays | Admission is FREE

Penelope Stewart’s beeswax art is worth the buzz” – Toronto Star
The bee’s knees” – NOW Magazine

Click here for the exhibition digital publication featuring an essay by Jenn Law

The trans-disciplinary practice of Toronto artist Penelope Stewart encompasses architecture, in situ installation, sculpture, photography, drawing and print. In recent years, Stewart has created a series of installations exploring the beehive metaphor in utopian architecture.

Throughout entire rooms, high-relief beeswax tiles are placed on the walls, floor to ceiling, to create imaginary landscapes or cityscapes. Designs reference the ideas of modernist architects and landscape designers who were fascinated by the social model of the beehive, which began to represent a democratic ideal that could be used as a blueprint in the creation of the utopian city. The large beeswax maps enfold the rooms and transform them into sensory spaces. The smell of honey and the colours of the wax trigger both memory and imagination.

For the Koffler Gallery, Stewart creates a site-specific installation that takes her practice into new directions, exploring her beeswax work three-dimensionally and transforming the gallery space into an immersive environment.  Beeswax-cast bee skeps (man-made straw beehives) lead the way to a central architectural-scale hive, covered in large tiles. Prominently featuring the grid as a modernist reference, the structure alludes simultaneously to Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation and to the rational beehive box used in apiaries.

Accessed through a door, the interior of the hive contains an overflow of baroque beeswax surfaces excessively loaded with floral forms layered with household objects forming a mysterious forensic geology. The objects and flora disrupt and expand the interior until it spills outward.  Constructed beeswax vines hang from the top of the hive and from the ceiling into the expanded space of the gallery. This dense overgrowth can be seen from the inside and the outside, and further builds up around the exterior with cast domestic materials and household detritus.

The luscious excess coalesces into a grand still life – a vanitas – a modern ruin reminding of the life and death cycle, the ephemeral nature of all things, and the fragility of our utopian aspirations of transforming nature through culture.  The installation speaks of loss but also about expectations. Nothing stays the same, everything is in a constant state of transformation, and ultimately, that is profoundly hopeful.

Monday, July 14, 2014 | 6:30 – 8:30 PM | FREE
Begins: Koffler Gallery, 180 Shaw St.
Ends: Portlands Energy Centre, 470 Unwin Ave.

RSVP: kofflergallery@kofflerarts.org | 647.925.0643 x221
The bike tour portion of the event is now at capacity. Please RSVP to be put on a waiting list. You can still enjoy Penelope Stewart’s guided tour through Vanitas at the Koffler Gallery. We look forward to seeing you then!

From rooftops to waterfronts, Toronto’s downtown beehives produce delicious honey and link a community of apiarists dedicated to protecting bee colonies and their many outputs – environmental as well as artistic. The tour begins with an artist-led tour through Penelope Stewart’s beeswax installation Vanitas at the Koffler Gallery, and travels east by bicycle (lead by William Huffman) to the Portlands Energy Centre beehives for a demonstration by beekeeper Brian Hamlin and a sampling of local honeys by sunset.

Rain date: Monday, July 21, 6:30 – 8:30 PM

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 | Artist-led Tour 6:30 PM | Panel 7 PM | FREE
Panel Discussion with Penelope Stewart, Diane Borsato, Panya Clark Espinal
Moderated by Jenn Law

Penelope Stewart’s ongoing artistic investigations mine the rich metaphoric and poetic associations of the beehive, viewed as a democratic model and symbol of idealism –particularly by Modernist architects and designers. Visual artists Diane Borsato and Panya Clark Espinal join Stewart in a conversation moderated by artist, writer and researcher Jenn Law, to examine connections between their respective practices and explore shared interests in the relationship between nature and the built environment, utopian constructs, social interaction and ecological impact.

Born in Montréal, Québec, Penelope Stewart is a site-sensitive installation artist working across the varied media of sculpture, installation, photography, printmaking and architectural interventions. Central to her practice is an engagement with space and place; its architecture, history, politics, ideology and environment. Whether it is her large scale beeswax architectures or her trompe l’oeil photographs, Stewart brings a sensory intensification, a haptic quality to the encounter.

Stewart received an MFA from the State University of New York and in 2010 was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of the Arts (RCA). Her work has been exhibited at such notable institutions as Ganna Walska Lotusland, California; The Albright-Knox Art Gallery, New York; Musée d’Art de Joliette, Québec; Musée Barthétè, Boussan, France; Oakville Galleries, Ontario; Tom Thomson Art Gallery, Ontario; ACT Design Museum Canberra, Australia; Poimena Gallery, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia.