SEED SOWERS ARTIST CATALOGUE
Text by Isabelle Riendeau - Art critic, curator and art historian
Translation : Liza Beaulieu
My first encounter with Susan Edgerley's work took my breath away. In the early 80s, at a Student and Faculty exhibition at the gallery, her graduation piece was a touchingly thin and fragile form of frosted white glass precariously balanced on a stone. It contained a small amount of water and was spanned with a strand of rusted barbed wire. That piece gave me one of the rare and priviledged moments of my professional life. I had witnessed the birth of a remarkable artist.
Since this beginning, Susan Edgerley has steadfastly followed her own path. Experimenting with the traditional glass techniques, she has continued to innovate and adapt to her very personal sculptural vision with striking versatility.
With her first series, Les Berceuses, in 1984, she revealed what were to be her prominent and central themes : the contradictions found in all existence, the ephemeral quality of life and the passage of time. In her vision, glass is used as a metaphor, fragile yet enduring , unfolding in her works in astonishing eloquence and poetically combing with many different materials.
These essential themes, woven through and into her oeuvre over the years, are picked up in the Seed Sower Series, 1994-2001, to join a new and dominant thread : the cyclical nature of life, where both life and death are seen as an inseperable whole. With installations like From the One, individual and community are expressed in an abstract manner as a metaphor for humankind, while in works such as Vau, Echo, Metamorphoses and Cella, Susan Edgerley seems to place the individual within the larger universe. She uses light on hundreds of flameworked glass elements, to create one half of the whole compositions; the other half is unexpectedly created using only their reflected shadows. These captivating creations are sensual, yet austere, and challenge the viewer to decipher the array of underlying meanings and associations.
When looking at Edgerley's work as a whole, it becomes obvious why glass is her principal medium; it is richer than any other material in its inherent characteristics and contradictions and in all its associated symbolism. Although used through the centuries as a material of choice for functional and decorative pieces, only recently have we seen sculptors like Susan Edgerley unlock its unparalleled potential, capturing the essence of things and interpreting them in a uniquely poetic manner.
'FERTILE GROUND' Text by Isabelle Riendeau
Drawing on universal themes stemming from existential questioning, Susan Edgerley's oeuvre remains resolutely feminine and singular through her daring treatment of glass with the formal organic language which has been at the heart of her work since the beginning of her career.
The perpetual cyclic nature of life, evolution and the transformations provoked by the passage of time are expressed in her installations and sculptures and bear witness to these natural rhythms. Although her artistic sensibility lies in dealing with issues of birth, fertility and continuity, Susan Edgerley does not hesitate to confront materials that appear irreconcilable. Fragile delicate elements co-exist with solid masses. Glass, sometimes translucent, at other times obscured by sand, is almost always accompanied by copper, forged steel, and recently, a return to handmade paper.
In the Seed Sower Series begun in 1994, the glass artist treats, by repetition and the use of multiples, themes of continuity and the relationship between the individual and the larger community. By creating works in a series, where pieces are placed side by side and are created at times using the same model, Susan Edgerley evokes the infinite possibilities that exist within a form, a cell or a seed. Therefore, in a symbolic manner, the original matrix of From the One would also bear many distinct yet interdependent elements. But, far from losing their identity and distinctiveness, these ovoid glass forms which are cast into sand affirm their unique character in a vaster world. Through a process echoing cloning, Susan Edgerley's installations disassociate themselves from this premise through the strength with which each element is treated, strongly emphasizing their original and singular states. The identical forms personalize themselves through details of copper and steel and remain differentiated while still functioning as a whole composition.
Sparser, more discreet and translucent than her coloured sandcast works, the installations titled Echo, Vau and Hive illustrate by their circularity, the cyclical quality of nature in perpetual evolution. The rhythmic placement of the delicate glass shapes in spirals or in concentric circles evoke the vulnerability and fragility of existence. A vital energy emanates for Echo, shining forth and carried along each glass filament. This impression is further reinforced by the dynamic and sinuous treatment of each flameworked element, similar to the manner in which branches of a tree unfurl and grow, encouraging its life substance, the sap, to freely flow through it.
The predominant use of paper, in works such as Vau, Hive, Metamorphoses, acts as a protective layering for the delicate glass shapes implicitly referring to the blossoming of life and fertility. In Vau, the use of paper evokes cocoons sheltering the metamorphoses of chrysalises. In Hive, the texture and treatment of the curled linen forms allude to a nest or a hive where eggs are laid, cared for and thrive. As in the series From the One, each element in these installations contributes to underscoring the unique character of the individual within the larger collective.
The artist's fascination with the concepts of appearance and paradox is predominantly treated in Vau, Echo, and Metamorphoses through the interactions created by the encounter of the physical work with its projected shadows. As the effects created by light contribute to reinforce the dynamic movement of the multiple elements in these installations, the reality of the superimposed shadows confronting the physicality of these pieces allow the viewer to reflect on issues of appearance and reality, presence and absence, real and perceived.
From the beginning of Susan Edgerley's career glass has continued to be her material of choice for portraying with sensitivity and poetry, her personal vision of existence and for expressing her reflections on meaning, evolution and creation.