Canadian Art

See It

Emily Vey Duke & Cooper Battersby: A Place for Everything

gallerywest, Toronto Jul 4 to 28 2012
Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby <em>In Winter</em> 2010 Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby In Winter 2010

Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby <em>In Winter</em> 2010

Emily Vey Duke and Cooper Battersby are currently without gallery representation in Toronto, which makes their new show in the city, at the recently opened gallerywest space on Queen West, a unique viewing opportunity. (The duo last showed in Toronto with their former gallery, Jessica Bradley Art + Projects, in 2010, the same year they were shortlisted for the Sobey Art Award.)

The name of the show is “Pain Shall Be No More,” and it is a mini-retrospective of sorts, following, according to Duke, a “difficult last few years” that included a “midlife crisis”—the artists recently turned 40—in which they questioned “whether or not we wanted to keep making art anymore.” Works-on-paper and photographs dating back to the mid-1990s in “Pain Shall Be No More” signal a mindful return to their earliest efforts, recreating pieces they did for zines when Duke was an undergraduate student at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

“Pain Shall Be No More” also contains two sculptures from this year, part of a series entitled Cabinet of Curios, the standout of which is a memorial to two recently deceased housecats. (Duke and Battersby are vehement cat lovers, to which their work has, for decades, attested.) Turbine and Ellio, skinned by the artists with the guidance of fellow sculptor and filmmaker Dani Leventhal, lie on top of a plinth made by Battersby from a felled black walnut tree in the couple’s yard. The odd, poignant conglomeration is topped with a china bowl—full of mouse, possum and chipmunk teeth, as well as a beetle carapace—that is closed by a glass lens.

A new video work, Here Is Everything, runs in the gallery's back space and similarly explores the meaning of aesthetics within the life cycle. It is, Duke says, “a trailer… not a finished piece,” and those who saw the version of the artists' Lesser Apes at Jessica Bradley Art + Projects in 2010 will recognize parts—ones that were cut from later versions of the video, which Duke considers “a kind of failure for us” because it “was quite literally fictional. Other stuff that was not explicitly autobiographical had at least been true.”

Here Is Everything begins with a quote from a young Dostoyevsky on his first novel, Poor Folk: “What matters is that my novel should cover everything. If it does not work, I will hang myself.” The statement, brimming with earnestness and ambition, seems understood by Duke and Battersby as a challenge: both in its absurdity and in in its ingenuousness, the combination of which lies, perennially, at the heart of their practice.

This article was first published online on July 19, 2012.


  • Toronto Curating Itself: An Unhistory

    For many years, difficult questions have haunted the Toronto art scene: Why is Toronto unable to make an account of itself? When will a strong regional survey be mounted? In this provocative essay, Sholem Krishtalka examines these ongoing problems.

  • 2012 Preview: The Future Files

    As 2012 dawns, thoughts turn to what’s next in the Canadian art scene, and there’s already a number of key events—both at home and abroad—that promise to make a major impact. Here’s a bit of what we’re looking forward to.

  • Sobey Art Award 2010: The Party and the Prize

    The crowd in Montreal was anything but quiet last week as Jeanne Beker—yes, that Jeanne Beker—got ready to announce Daniel Barrow as winner of 2010 Sobey Art Award. Isa Tousignant reports on the raucous festivities and the talents they celebrated.



[an error occurred while processing this directive]


  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem