Telegraph-Journal Art Review: Sky Pape


Art-making upside-down and over: Canadian-born artist Sky Pape exhibits her work
at the Yellow Box Gallery in Fredericton.

by Shannon Webb-Campbell
The Telegraph-Journal, January 12, 2013, p. S6

New York-based visual artist Sky Pape began her art career as a painter, but when her house went up in flames and she lost everything, she grieved canvas, paint and colour.

“(It all) changed when the intrepid efforts of 225 firefighters couldn’t save my studio and home from the blaze set by a mentally unstable neighbor. Coinciding with the deaths of half my immediate family, having lost about 15 years’ of my work, in shock and homeless, I turned away from paint, canvas, and colour, eliminated figuration, and sought my bearings through abstract drawing.”

Originally from Ontario, Pape’s first Canadian solo exhibition, Selections from the Bellagio Suite, a collection of nature-related, abstract ink drawings on Japanese handmade paper, opens January 17 at St. Thomas University’s Yellow Box Gallery, in Fredericton.

“This exhibition offers a selection connected to my residency fellowship at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in northern Italy,” Pape says. “The work stems from an exploration of water as a source of inspiration, as well as a substance in itself, and the ways water can be used as a creative material.”

The Bellagio Suite is a series of drawings exploring texture, contours, mood and tone. With cascading ethereal qualities and haunting overtones, Pape toys with vantage points and landscapes. It is awith intricate complexity, soul and exploration that Pape offers an insight into nature, water and its perplexing functions. Water soothes, perpetuates and sustains.

For Pape, she notes there are eight steps to her creative process: 1) Show up; 2) Put a beautiful sheet of paper on the ground; 3) Look; 4) Leap; 5) Make a mess; 6) Turn things upside down and over; 7) Stand, stretch, furrow brow. Curse, if necessary; 8) Repeat steps 3 through 7 until done.

“For some people, words are the best way for them to communicate,” she says. “Me? I stumble on my tongue, but art is a language I’m fluent in – it’s my way of being, of making a few small discoveries, my attempt to savour a tiny crumb from the big pizza pie of it all.”

Pape has exhibited all over the world, including: Milan, Barcelona, London, Dublin, Brussels, Copenhagen, Vienna, Zurich, Japan, and across America.

Her work can be found in the Museum of Modern Art; the Guggenheim Museum, NGBK, Berlin; Brooklyn Museum of Art; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C.; the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Pape is now working on a solo exhibition for fall 2013, in New York.

“The relentlessness of the city makes every leaf, droplet, and flutter more noticeable and precious,” she says. “The cost of living in New York is so grossly ridiculous, that being here demands a magnitude of commitment to one’s work that trumps all else. The community of artists here is in itself inspiring – a robust, multi-headed beast, formidable yet tender.”

Shannon Webb-Campbell is an award-winning writer, photographer and journalist. She hangs her hat in Halifax.