The front corridor at Wall Space Gallery & Framing invites the viewer in, building anticipation before the entire space opens up with the two current exhibitions: Nate Nettleton’s Bright Before Me and Florence Solis’s Doppelgänger, which are open to the public until June 30th.
“There is an interesting relationship between Nate’s 3D scribble sculptures and the flat, almost digital construction of Florence’s paintings,” says Curator Tiffany April. “There are visual similarities in the movement and colours of the pieces which is one of the reasons I put these two artists together.”
Nate Nettleton is a visual artist exploring possibility, progress, and the importance of simplicity through abstract sculpture. I had the pleasure of chatting with Nettleton in person at the opening reception of the exhibition on June 11th.
When asked how he came up with the idea of a massive scribble sculpture, Nettleton says, “When I first started, the idea was to take something small and overlooked and blow it up so it HAD to be noticed. While researching ideas, I decided the scribble would be a good symbolic representation of this and so my scribble sculptures were born. They evolved into other sculptures.”
The notion of a scribble sculpture is playful and gets us thinking about the value we place on art — a scribble is often our first creation. Quick lines drawn mindlessly on a notepad while talking on the phone. Children scribbling on walls, car seats, and tables with any and all materials they can find. It is all art and Nettleton puts it front and center in Bright Before Me.
“Most of the sculptures are made from imported Baltic birch plywood — it’s a strong sturdy wood to use for large format work. I used to hand-cut and now I use an industrial CNC machine (a giant wood-working piece of equipment that prints the design). The shiny blue acrylic pieces are made using laser,” explains Nettleton about the nitty-gritty process of actually making the work. “Wood was the most accessible material at the time and the one I started out with.”
When I ask about the eco-friendly aspect of making the art, Nettleton responds, “For the wood panel pieces, it’s all found and reclaimed wood. I found it myself in various places, I am always on the lookout.”
The notion of simplicity shines in Nettleton’s vibrant and energizing work — it has a calm surfer vibe to it (and so does the artist himself, happily surrounded with his supportive family and friends at the exhibition). “With two young kids, I’m trying to keep life as simple as possible for me and my family, everything is so hectic!” says Nettleton. “We often get caught up in new tech and trends, and I just don’t buy it.”
I love the contrast of fluid movement shapes symbolized in the scribble sculptures with the hard edges and roof-shingle feel of the wood panels, interspersed throughout the gallery space.
In Bright Before Me, there’s one colour that appears more than the rest — a deep indigo blue. This is not accidental. “I was inspired by Yves Klein,” says Nettleton. “He was famous for his trademark blue and covering an entire canvas with this unique colour.”
“Klein was a 1960’s Nouveau Réaliste artist, whose blue-monochrome works were an extension of his desire to capture the sky in the boundlessness of colour,” reads the artist’s statement on Wall Space Gallery’s site.
While I didn’t have a chance to chat with Florence Solis, the exhibiting artist alongside Nettleton, I was struck by her acrylic paintings.
“Solis’s paintings ask the question, ‘What’s real and what’s fake?'”, says April (the curator). “The hard shapes contrast the fine portrait details.” The debut solo exhibition for the artist, Doppelganger is a beautiful collection of works that explore our multidimensional personalities. An immigrant myself, I resonate with Solis’s exploration of her different identities. The artist moved to Canada at the age of 12 and seeks to highlight intersectionality as a woman, a member of the Filippino diaspora, and an artist in her work.