Sep 16 — Nov 25, 2023



Vitals was a solo exhibition by Rachelle Sawatsky, a multidisciplinary artist whose practice spans painting, drawing, ceramics, and writing. This exhibition brought together a new series of brightly coloured abstract paintings and glazed ceramic wall works, which together further the artists interest in sensory perception, cognition, and signifying systems.

For her series of small format paintings, Pather (2023), Sawatsky has applied a spectrum of fluorescent watercolor, acrylic, oil and flashe paint to canvas in successive layers through a breadth of techniques, including washing, impasto, stenciling, and expressive mark-making. Through this accumulation of details, Sawatsky creates a unique visual lexicon, which she invites the viewer in to study by the intimacy of each paintings’ scale. At close proximity, recognizable forms such as stars, love hearts, and dots appear alongside more ambiguous shapes and fluid elements, with each gesture acting to annotate—to place emphasis, commit to memory, or distill importance. Through this, each painting charts the successive events of its making, and an ongoing transit between sensing, perceiving, and interpreting without definitive end.

Punctuating the installation of paintings on canvas, were new additions to Sawatsky’s ongoing series of ceramic wall works Lexica (2014—). Placed above eye line, these works point outwards, connecting this presentation to Sawatsky’s oeuvre (in which these works appear as a recurring motif), and through the form being reminiscent of an asterisk, the typographical symbol commonly used to signal a footnote, omission, or doubt.

Parallel to the development of Vitals, Sawatsky invited the Vancouver-based musician Alexi Baris to create a new octophonic sound composition to underscore vocabularies shared in paint and sound, such as tone and texture. Produced during a residency at Western Front, Baris’s new work Firedamp furthers his interest in psychoacoustics—how the human auditory system perceives various sounds—through the spatial arrangement of a single unique patch on a modular synth. The work was presented in the Grand Luxe Hall on Sep 22 and 23, 2023.

Curated by Susan Gibb.
Three colourful ceramic shapes are hung on the gallery wall next to a wood door. On the wall opposite a window, two colourful abstract paintings hang at eye level.
A small abstract painting hangs on a white wall. Fluorescent pink, yellow, blue, purple, and green splotches, drips, and gestures cover a washed blue surface.
A small pink and red abstract painting hangs on a white wall.
A small abstract painting hangs on a white wall. Fluorescent blue, yellow, and pink shapes are layered over a  canvas surface washed with pink and blue pigment.
A small abstract painting hangs on a white wall. Deep purple, ochre, and fluorescent yellow, pink, and green shapes are layered over a washed purple ground.
A small abstract painting hangs on a white wall. A large blue rectangular shape in the centre of the canvas is layered with fluorescent pink, yellow, green, and purple shapes.
Neon pink, blue, yellow, and green splotches, and white stencil effects are layered over a wash of blue and purple pigment.
Three colourful ceramic forms hang on two perpendicular white walls.
A ceramic form hangs on a white wall. Its shape resembles two intersecting rectangles. Areas are painted in overlapping purple, blue, and yellow glaze using a masking technique.

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artist-run centre in Vancouver.

We acknowledge the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and səl̓ílwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations as traditional owners of the land upon which Western Front stands.