Aaron's Rod

Shayne Dark and Dennis Gill

July 22 - August 20, 2005

In a short passage in the biblical book of Exodus, an encounter between Moses and the Egyptian Pharaoh is described. Moses and his brother Aaron throw down wooden staffs (or rods) that transform into snakes wriggling across the ground. Pharaoh's magicians do likewise, but the Jewish prophet's power proves stronger, and his rods/snakes devour those of the magicians.

In Aaron's Rod: New Sculpture by Dennis Gill and Shayne Dark, the work of two Canadian sculptors describes just such transformative capacity and potency. With their art, both Gill and Dark throw down metaphoric rods, initiating meaningful and vitally pertinent aesthetic engagements with the real stuff of the world.

Dennis Gill is a northern Ontario-based sculptor whose work in large part constitutes an examination of and enquiry into cultural and mythological symbols and icons. Having himself been born and raised in a symbol - the Old Town Clock on Citadel Hill in Halifax that figures so largely in representing the city - Gill has a very personal and particular interest in the myths we hold dear. In works like Head of Medusa, Wing of Icarus, and Psyche and Cupid, as examples, his work overtly references specific mythologies, aesthetically orbiting and probing its very substance. Gill gives things an interpretive twist courtesy the use of a range of sculptural materials that includes the relatively exotic (cast bronze) and ready made items (like shoe inserts, or Tyvek wrap used in housing construction) - all part and parcel of his ongoing exploration of the cultural weight that myth still carries in this post-modern period.

Though his art generally tends toward the abstract and geometrical end of the aesthetic spectrum, Hartington, Ontario artist Shayne Dark's sculpture articulates a response to social and cultural phenomena, grappling with reactionary unease and anxiety. With the assistance of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Dark more recently explored the grisly world of violent crime, visiting police forensic laboratories to research a series of murders that occurred in the city of Ottawa, interviewing the police officers involved in the pertinent cases and documenting the artefacts of those homicides: the bullets themselves. The result is Body of Evidence, a series of freestanding sculptures that replicate the distorted remnants of the bullets used in the commission of six separate homicides, and wall-mounted panels comprising images of the original bullets overwritten with texts detailing aspects of such violent crime. Here, the aesthetic abstraction of mutilated bullets runs headlong into the larger contexts - social, political, cultural - that have a say in our consideration of the sculptural.


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