Heartlab Re-surface: Anita Levesque and Bradley Smith
Curated by Jessica Demers
heartlab is an ongoing collaborative project between artists Anita Levesque and Bradley Smith. Effectively a ‘relationship laboratory’, heartlab explores the connections between the visual arts and writing, as well as the dynamics between the two artists, who have been a couple for over 15 years. As the two respond to one another’s creative vision, the essence of words and sound are translated into form and image and vice versa, inspiring a kind of synesthesia of the senses.
The most prominent repeating element in Re-surface is the lower case “a”. Drawn, stamped and brought into radiating sculptural forms, it is the leading voice in their typographic landscape. The first letter in the alphabet, and one of the first utterances an infant makes, the sound “a” is perhaps the most simple and universal of human expressions. This points to the core of heartlab’s work: to express the initial impulse behind communication itself.
heartlab’s elaborate dioramas are also rooted in landscape, exploring the place-based nature of human experience and expression. Language emerges from their constructed environment and is shaped by it. The playful, colourful landscapes are reminiscent of children’s pop-up story books, and as the viewer moves in the space, they become a character in the narrative.
An evolution of previous installations (Noticed Growth, Oxygen Art Centre, Nelson, 2009, and Resonance, Stride Art Gallery, Calgary, 2010), Re-surface reveals Smith and Levesque’s increasing comfort with their collaborative relationship. As they refine their sensitivity and responsiveness, their individually created elements begin to mimic one another. In the past, Smith ruled the domain of text, while Levesque was in charge of drawing. Now the lines have blurred as they share their artistic territory, even teaching one another how to work in the other’s style. Like the theatre game Mirror, in which partners take turns leading movements, heartlab’s two voices move from discord to harmony as they seek a unified voice.
Levesque and Smith refer to the work itself as a third element in their collaboration, as it defines their parameters and provides a feedback system for their creative impulses. It seems fitting that at this time the couple is expecting a child, bringing a third voice to the collaborative work of heartlab.
Heartlab will also be offering a hands-on collaborative art making workshop, where participants will playfully explore the creative dynamics between text and image, and between one another as collaborators. No experience or materials are required. At the end of the show, there will also be an interactive online component, which will be launched at late September, hosted on the Touchstones Nelson website.
Images from Oxygen and the Stride Gallery