Sarah Stevenson’s ‘Before the Storm’ explores the turbulent intimacy of stillness

When one enters the Fonderie Darling main hall, they find themselves wandering through an industrial room populated by a family of six colourful hanging wire skeletons. These grand sculptural ghosts—resembling airy animal shells, phantom produce, and woven costumes—are the manifestations of human experiences. Montreal-based artist Sarah Stevenson’s new exhibition, Before the Storm, presents the sculptures. All six phantom fishing wire figures, each differing in size and colour, present a metaphysical figuration of how people experience themselves in relation to artistic space and suspended time. Through her creations, Stevenson explores stillness before massive change, like tranquility before a storm. Her pieces evoke a sharp, almost ominous stillness that is at once soothing and deeply unsettling. The use of fishing wire as the primary medium exemplifies this notion, catching the viewer off guard as they approach the seemingly fluid and string-like creations, only to discover their rigid, contorted structure.

Stevenson’s titles exemplify abstract and organic design concepts: Spike, Spine, Bruise, Nimbus, Burn, and Bean. Displaying a mastery of spatial and colour dynamics, the hanging figurines are almost invisible from a distance, but imposing up close. Within the industrial, factory-like space of the Fonderie, the works intermingle, creating visual illusions as the viewer moves around the room. Varying in appearance but similar in style and material, each figure embodies its title: Spike is a blue ball-base culminating in a pointed spike jolting out on top; Spine is a row of lantern-like lime green fungi dropping into one another to create a cord; Nimbus is a string of large, red beads that form a hanging, cloud-like cornucopia. 

Particularly powerful is Bruise, in which the piece physically shapes space, form, and colour to evoke the experience of the title itself. The sculpture possesses the palette of a bruise—purple and yellow. The wire static shape expands outward from the angular point at its base to create a small, downward-facing cone. At its midpoint, the cone squeezes back inward, with a larger, wobbling sphere bubbling over. Then, the form tightens again like a fist, only to then expand, mushrooming out at the top with the largest segment of the triada round, flattened sphere. At last, the bruise is numb and swollen, spreading through the entire corpus. Through the piece’s drastic highs and lows—displayed in its squeezing and expanding—and the way in which a numb, spacious pain always narrows down to one, sharp point, Stevenson crafts a fascinating manifestation of pain.

Ultimately, Stevenson works magic as an architectural poet, taking individual words and bringing them into three-dimensional space through sculptures that overflow with visual and emotional complexity. Before the Storm manifests time into colourful, diverse shapes that bring viewers into a fishing-line-crafted web of artistic inspiration and creativity. 

Before the Storm is exhibiting until Aug. 22 at the Fonderie Darling located at 745 rue Ottawa Montreal.

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