Kathy Slade: As the sun disappears and the shadows descend from the mountaintop
Kathy Slade, Study for Sinking in the West, 2022. Photo: Alejo Duque.

Kathy Slade: As the sun disappears and the shadows descend from the mountaintop

Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, BC - To May 7

by Michael Turner

Popular culture is rife with stories of scientific discoveries – enough to prolong the misconception that discoveries come to us in an instant, like Newton’s apple, and not on the shoulders of those who came before us. Discoveries in the humanities and social sciences are less talked about largely because they are less tangible, difficult to commodify. Vancouver artist Kathy Slade’s current exhibition is based on a discovery of sorts – philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s “truly abyssal thought,” his notion of “the unconditional and infinitely repeated circulation of all things.”

The material narrative of Slade’s exhibition begins with a research trip she took to Sils Maria, Switzerland, where Nietzsche summered for most of the 1880s. Of particular interest for Slade is Nietzsche’s walking route along the path of Lake Silvaplana and the large pyramid-shaped rock that provided the inspiration for his doctrine of “eternal recurrence,” as discussed in his four-volume work of philosophical fiction Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883-85).

Slade’s exhibition is comprised of two sections. The first is a wall-sized tapestry depicting the rock at scale. On the opposing wall is a porthole-sized obsidian mirror, and on a plinth to the left of it, a compilation publication entitled Loneliest Loneliness. The second section features a series of four-foot-high graphite rubbings taken from the entirety of the rock’s surface. Together, the two sections speak of what is seen, but also of what is touched, felt, and what is produced visually through touch: an abstraction rooted as much in thought as it is in hands-on experience. Whether these rubbings exist as an exorcism of Nietzschean despair or its extrapolation is for the viewer to decide.


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