March 8 to April 29, 2007
Curator: Carolyn Bell Farrell
Reception: Thursday, March 8, 7 to 9 pm; Artist Talk 7 pm
Publication with an essay by Gary Michael Dault
Guided Bus Tour: Sunday, April 29, 11:30 to 5 pm

This solo show at the Koffler Gallery offers the first local presentation of Ed Pien’s large-scale installation, The Promise of Solitude (2005), together with a selection of recent works on paper by this Toronto-based artist. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication with an essay by Toronto visual arts critic Gary Michael Dault.

Drawing on mythical, historical, psychological and spiritual interpretations, Ed Pien explores the nature of the journey as a metaphor for human experience. Relinquishing the comforts and habits of the known, his imagery and his processes reveal the risks and rewards of traversing the territory of the unknown.

Rather than adopt an illustrative approach, Pien works spontaneously. No preconceived image is held; each line begets the next, necessitating a leap of faith on the part of the artist. The images generated through this organic process capture the immediacy of his linear gestures and the fluidity of his brushwork in a highly expressive visual field. Influenced by Asian and Western sources, Pien’s imagery conjures a fantastic and disturbing universe, recalling that of Hieronymus Bosch or Francisco Goya. His all-over ink and gouache compositions are brimming with mutant monsters, hybrid creatures and celestial beings—angelic and demonic—summoned from his subconscious. Blue giants, green-haired witches, menacing nightwalkers, shamanistic puppet-players, winged figures with bulging eyeballs, two-headed teddy bears and other similarly tragic Halloween-types inhabit these interior worlds. In each of the artist’s vignettes, an event instigated by one of the antagonists unfolds before the viewer, the activities often carrying on beyond the edges of the paper. Allusions to various forms of social transgression and power imbalances persist, accentuating the vulnerability of the body and the psyche. Playful, provocative, sensual and sinister, Pien’s drawings elicit and mirror the anxieties, fears and desires that issue from the depths of our being.

The Promise of Solitude, Ed Pien’s floor-to-ceiling drawing-installation, comprises two oval structures made from transparent and cut-work paper, suspended by airline cables. Participating in a kind of rite of passage, the spectator is invited to enter this unicursal environment. Likened to a precognitive state of awareness, a dark forest initiates the spiral path that leads towards the illuminated inner sanctum. As the artist comments, The Promise of Solitude “contemplates the possibility of what is offered when one embarks on a journey, both inner and outer. Such journeys require abandoning the familiar in order to achieve possible new encounters and transcendence… The viewer must negotiate a way through the paper-cut labyrinth, and enter into the glowing red structure located within, in order to see ‘out’. The strange beings encountered at the end of these brightly coloured tunnels metaphorically represent a new realm, somewhat frightening, as these creatures are not yet namable. However, this site is a joyous and celebratory place to be.”

Ed Pien emigrated from Taiwan to Canada with his family at the age of eleven. He completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Western Ontario in London in 1982 and a Master of Fine Arts at York University in Toronto in 1984. His recent exhibitions include those at the SPACE Gallery, London; the Drawing Center, New York; La Biennale de Montreal 2002; and Centro Nacional de las Artes, Mexico City. His work is represented in numerous private and public collections, including the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Ed Pien lives and works in Toronto and is currently an Associate Professor in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto’s Department of Fine Art. He is represented by Birch Libralato in Toronto and Pierre-Francois Ouellette art contemporain in Montreal.

Gary Michael Dault is a Toronto-based writer, painter and art-critic. He is a prolific writer of magazine articles about the visual arts, both in Canada and internationally, and the author of many gallery and museum catalogues. His art review column, “Gallery-Going”, appears in The Globe and Mail every Saturday. Dault’s most recent book is a volume of poems titled The Milk of Birds (Mansfield Press). He is also co-author of The Prix de Rome in Architecture: A Retrospective (Coach House Press). Dault is at present an Associate Adjunct Professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo.

GENERAL INFORMATION

Reception and Gallery Talk: The Promise of Solitude will be on view in the Koffler Gallery from Thursday March 8 through Sunday April 29, 2007. A reception for the artist will be held on Thursday, March 8 from 7 to 9 pm, with an artist talk at 7 pm.

Publication: A publication produced by the Koffler Gallery accompanies the exhibition and features an essay by Toronto visual arts critic Gary Michael Dault.

Free Guided Bus Tour: On Sunday, April 29, from 11:30 to 5 pm, there will be a free guided bus tour from Hart House to the Doris McCarthy Gallery, Koffler Gallery, AGYU and Blackwood Gallery, and returning to the U of T Art Centre. Please call (416) 736-5169 to reserve a seat.