For his first solo show at Narwhal Contemporary, Toronto-based Noel Middleton presents an immersive mixed media installation of site-specific sculpture. Skillfully fabricated from found objects cast from a variety of collected construction materials, the works offer viewers an intriguing entry point into Middleton’s creative commitment to chance.
Middleton’s practice is instinctively multidisciplinary, driven by circumstance, process and a strong sense of materiality. The works in Order of Operations are the result of a disciplined approach to fabrication that maintains a strong connection to imagination and play. Middleton performs his practice through an intuitive building up of layers that combines found and collected objects with material largely sourced from renovations of the gallery itself. It is this genuine attraction to a wide range of materials, coupled with an impulse for story telling, that determines the conditions of production. Whether cast, reconstructed or recontextualized, there are seemingly endless varieties of objects and textures to be discovered within the works.
As a principle for his approach to creation, Middleton sources his materials almost exclusively from his immediate surroundings. Works emerge organically and concurrently over time, sharing ingredients in the process, so that each piece inevitably contains elements of the other. In a sense, Middleton has adapted his role as author into that of guide – someone who lets go of control in favour of navigating the emergence of the work. Of course, planning and editing do occur, although they are never implemented with the intent to eliminate accidents or annoyances. Even upon leaving the studio the works are as yet incomplete. Middleton’s approach to installation is to let each piece settle in to – and indeed continue to grow out of – the gallery space itself. In the end, viewers can expect a cohesive aesthetic and strong vision alongside a palpable sense that the installation may yet continue to evolve.
Three central figures, or busts, act as driving forces for the narrative of the exhibition. Concurrent with the overarching trajectory of Middleton’s greater practice, these busts have personalities born from a combination of human history and present context. With a clear nod to Greco-Roman traditions of myth and sculpture, coupled with characteristics and talismans from the contemporary labourer, the narrative is as internalized as it is open. Conscientious viewers will find their curiosity rewarded in the numerous ways that these works can be navigated. As a whole, the exhibition functions like a repository for contemporary artifacts engaged in a free play between history, process, location and material. The result is a unified composition of controlled roughness that both hints at, and playfully distorts, its own origins.
Text by Alex Bowron
From Jan 10 – Feb 7, 2015
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