Canadian Art

Review

Diane Landry: Delight, and Some Darker Arts

Agnes Etherington Art Centre, Kingston Sep 5 to Dec 13 2009
Diane Landry  <I>Flying School</I>  2000  Detail  © Diane Landry Diane Landry Flying School 2000 Detail © Diane Landry

Diane Landry <I>Flying School</I> 2000 Detail © Diane Landry

To describe Diane Landry’s work as magical would not do it sufficient justice. It would be too easy, too cute. Instead, it would seem more appropriate to conjure up darker arts using a word like “enchanted.” Because although this overview of Diane Landry’s mouvelles (a term the Quebec City–based artist uses to define her works that blend the properties of performance with installation art and ready-made pieces) presents us with a gallery full of kinetic sculptures and video works that are at once surprising and deliciously engaging, they do seem to harbour what (at times) feels like demonic possession—in the best way possible, of course.

Take the show’s most successful piece, Flying School. In it, 24 umbrellas stand on their ends—handle-side down—in a dark room. Affixed to each is a motor-driven accordion that compels the umbrellas to open and close, each movement triggering a light below along with a plaintive, atonal sigh or moan from its squeezebox. The effect is mysterious and eerie. The umbrellas, each a different, colourful personality, feel like lungs gasping for breath or sea creatures trying in vain to swim upwards (an effect helped by the beautiful shadows the umbrellas cast on the ceiling).

Wonderfully simple yet equally effective, Mandala Perrier (from the Blue Decline series), is built from a ring of wall-mounted green- and clear-plastic water bottles. A tiny light source mounted within the ring moves mechanically towards the wall and back again, casting fluid shadows. The effect is of an unexpected and out-of-place stained-glass window from an imaginary cathedral temporarily asserting itself on the gallery wall.

Two video works created from still photographs continue the theme. For The Lost Shield, the artist photographed herself every 10 seconds while relaxing on a couch. She then created a 13-minute video using 100 of the photographs, knitting them together in such a way that she appears, eerily, to be breathing in real time. Radio Silence sees the artist standing in a room where, the world brightening and darkening around her, her body appears to convulse and subtly vibrate.

Just as haunting is Landry’s The Magic Shield, in which a metal bed frame is draped in white paper, the edges of which periodically float upwards like wings, revealing a bevy of suspended keys. They, in turn, tinkle spontaneously, a bewitching beneath-the-bed carillon providing music for dreams. (Queen’s University, Kingston ON)

This article was first published online on December 10, 2009.

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