Tracking fleeting thoughts and knowledge accumulated over a lifetime is a daunting task, but Colette Laliberté has applied her interest in concept-based abstraction to do just that. In the past, she has examined similarly intangible subjects such as speed and instantaneous communication through abstraction and a strategic address of the gallery space. “Constructs,” at Katzman Contemporary in Toronto, featured ink-and-graphite paintings on paper alongside a singular three-dimensional wall work made from thin sheets of steel. Laliberté is known for works on paper, canvas and walls, and her first sculptural installation further developed her exploration of ephemeral terrain.
While the images in “Constructs” were diagrammatic in their sensibility, they were also defined by their fluidity. Laliberté manages to contain movement in her 12 centrally composed paintings, simplifying the complex notions of knowledge accumulation and loss. She chose ink as her primary medium specifically for its ability to flow; the artist likened its use to ideas themselves—coming and going with the possibility to reconsider and develop. As the ink was applied, every stroke resulted in a different value; it darkened as it dried, and was made darker with additional applications. The artist responded intuitively to each mark within each of the Constructs (2012), building multi-sided and multifaceted forms that toy with three dimensions. Some are tightly executed with clearly delineated lines and shapes, while others are more dense and web-like. Titled with words or phrases describing states of information, they also describe characteristics of the images themselves. Compartmented is laid out as its title suggests, with black and grey tones concentrated as a metaphor for entrenched knowledge, while a collar of white tab-like forms suggests less rooted information, its loss traced by broken lines.
Conceptually connected but distinct in form and material, Shadows … like thoughts … they come and go (2013) made an elegant addition to the series on another wall. It features five vertically stacked black sheet-metal components that hover above the floor and extend to the ceiling. Inspired by the light and shadow cast by the skylight in Laliberté’s studio, the undulating Shadows created a striking contrast in size and orientation to the small works on paper, while possessing a likeness to folded paper. I had to pull back to take it in, unlike the close and intimate viewing required by the Constructs. Its singularity in the overall exhibition was a curiosity, but an intriguing one. Shadows distilled the exhibition’s concepts into one streamlined outcome, offering a lead into new territory I hope Laliberté will follow.