Underneath the Surface: Cycles of the Sun and Scenes

This Friday at Gallery Fukai showcases work by Christopher Kowal and Scott Massey. The show is curated by artist Ian Skedd.



A mere different arrangement of the particulars of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps to annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression. – Edgar Allan Poe.

Underneath the Surface: Cycles of the Sun and Scenes of Morbid Fascinations showcases the work of two Vancouver artists, Christopher Kowal and Scott Massey. The exhibition focuses on the parallel narratives in each artist’s works that highlight an intersection between artifice and reality. Staying true to the narrator’s dictum within Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”, this exhibition foreshadows deeper and darker layers of meaning, representation and reasoning through techniques of production. As the statement serves to show, a change of visual perspective can alter a given impression, and thus alter a momentary reality. As points of departure, the works in this exhibition symbolically embrace the cycles of the sun as a catalyst through which our perceptions of cultural, social and aesthetic norms are subverted and redefined.

As seen in Jeff’s House (2011), Christopher Kowal explores image production using a process integral to film, advertising and architectural practice: three-dimensional imaging. The subject of the print and accompanying animation, the childhood home of serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, is meticulously rendered through the creation of a physically accurate digital set and sun system. Referencing documentary films created in the aftermath of Dahmer’s trial, Kowal’s depiction of the Dahmer family bungalow in Ohio reflects popular preoccupations with true crime and on his own interest in this genre. The fabrication of a photorealistic image using 3D technology prompts questions about the relationship between the real and the constructed, and about the possibility of engaging a contemporary vernacular in the production of fine art imagery.

Whereas Christopher Kowal uses photorealistic 3D imagery to render the constructed environment, Scott Massey’s Torture Box (145,071 kms in 1:21:03 @ 1676 kms/hr) (2009) creates an actual environment for pain, utilizing the concentrated rays of our sun. His work references a scene from Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction novel “Dune,”  in which The Queen of Atreides produces a “torture box” in order to determine if her son Paul, heir to the House of Atreides and thus control of planet Arrakis, is worthy of the responsibility. The durational video work depicts the sun focused through a magnifying lens – in much the same way a child would burn to death an insect. Taking 1 hour, 21 minutes, and 3 seconds, this disc of hot light slowly makes its way across the width of his palm, notating the length of time the earth has traveled around the sun; 145,071 kilometers rotating at 1676 kilometers per hour.  Accompanying Torture Box (145,071 kms in 1:21:03 @ 1676 kms/hr), Massey’s photograph, Hydro Poles Shadowing (After Muybridge) (2002/2010), references the pioneering fast-motion photography of Eedweard Muybridge. The photo depicts a sequence of eight photographs taken from the same spot every hour during the winter solstice. As the sun makes its way across the sky the pole’s shadows “run” across the building, indicative of the earth’s movement through space.

The works in this exhibition are examples of the tensions inherent in the dichotomous relationship between the real and the constructed. What lies underneath the surface serves to problematize assumptions on authenticity, and that which is left to the imagination.


Christopher Kowal is a Graduate of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (2002) and has worked in architecture and 3D illustration, often incorporating strategies from these disciplines into his photographs, drawings, sculptures, and videos.  Previous exhibitions include Every Letter in the Alphabet, Vancouver; The Works Gallery, Edmonton; The Western Front, Vancouver; SFU Fine Art Studio, Vancouver; and collaborations featured as part of New Forms Festival (Vancouver), Contact (Toronto) and SWARM (Vancouver.) His architectural models, depicting scenes of catastrophic events, were most recently exhibited at Chernoff Fine Art (Vancouver).

Scott Massey is a Graduate of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design (2003) and works in photography, sculpture and video. Previous exhibitions include Luminato Arts Festival, Toronto; Werner Whitman Gallery, Montreal; Artspeak, Vancouver; Contact Photography Festival, Toronto; Arte Laguna, Venice, Italy; Columbus College of Art & Design, Ohio; Surrey Art Gallery, Surrey, BC; Gallery 44, Toronto; Helen Pitt Gallery, Vancouver. His exhibition, Topologies and Limits, was recently at CSA Space (Vancouver).

Ian Skedd is an artist and holds an MFA from Chelsea College of Art and Design, London UK (2009). His practice focuses on psychological and conceptual relationships to space, incorporating a wide reaching interest in performative actions, and an interest in the psychological process of decoding information, focusing on the trigger that identifies relationships between language, thought and subject matter and how words, sounds and images slip into an audience’s media-saturated, cultural unconscious. This is his first, official, curatorial endeavour.


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