Back in his punk rock days playing with the Birthday Party, Nick Cave sang, “Junk sculpture turning back to junk” as a lament to and/or celebration of entropy. However, another way to think of it is as an earlier, and less refined, version of Martin Creed’s Work No. 232, the whole world + the work = the whole world, which is to say, art appears in the world just as it disappears from it, not by being created sui generis, but by being assembled from what’s already there. This recycling, whether in the form of junk sculpture, readymade, assemblage, or your standard painting/photo/bust, forgoes transcendence for a temporarily discrete immanence that, sooner or later, falls back into the indiscernible chaos and/or cosmos.
The upcycled remains of Narwhal Contemporary’s previous inhabitants serve as material and inspiration for Noel Middleton’s current occupation of that space. Plaster-cast debris, electrical piping, and assorted remnants from the demolition that carved out a white space to be filled with art have been completely blanched in knowing reference to the clichéd (and somewhat inaccurate) remains of classical civilization, but updated through a surreal aesthetic (triggered any time I see a disembodied nose) and the aforesaid junk sculptors who draw poetry out of the mundane and overlooked. There’s an added layer of logic here with a trio of busts representing the contractor’s holy trinity – plasterer, plumber, and electrician – ensconced amid piecemeal columns that might have been minimalist had they not been so abject. In our ruins, just as in our junk, we are witness to our discarded dreams and failed ideals. What remains is a wonderful, though unresolved, flux (see Middleton’s indiscriminate pile of casting fragments) and moments of beautiful serendipity (see the moulds of fruit-packing trays that absorb a tinge of purple fibre).
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Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.