NEWS / Particles for the Built World

Particles for the Built World

March 26, 2019

Exhibition Tour | May 16 | 7−8:30pm
Free exhibition tour led by Omer Arbel of his work at Surrey Art Gallery

Particles for the Built World forms the basis of Omer Arbel’s artistic interrogation into the physical properties of concrete: a material that has long held uncompromising notions of solidity, permanence, and strength. The installation, partially performative and partially static, serves as an introspective exploration into the materiality of concrete whilst simultaneously mapping an insight into Arbel’s modes of working. Housed in Surrey Art Gallery, the objects and artefacts are remnants of Arbel’s challenging of the capacity for concrete to retain elements of its native state; liquid.

The installation is formed of several elements which, together, realign the viewers’ perception of concrete. It also seeks to build a vision of Arbel’s approach to experimenting with materials and his innovative approach to design and architecture. In Gallery 1, the centrepiece of the exhibit takes the form of large concrete discs—slices of a larger concrete column cast and created offsite as another component of the installation.

The exhibition commences with the slow process of filling a full-scale fabric cast mould, built in a warehouse in Vancouver. Left to cure for 29 days, the column is available to view by appointment – a polarising display of the immense power of concrete in tandem with the delicate fabric form it’s been poured into. Following this, the formwork is stripped during another performative public exhibition – with the column sliced with diamond rope into thin disc shapes before installation in Surrey.

Particles for a Built World concludes in Gallery 2, in which the discovery of the fabric forming process is discussed as a part of a real architecture project currently under construction in South Surrey. This space deliberates how Arbel’s work—a mixture of design, art, and material experimentation, has the ability to transcend into the realms of architectural application. A video by Fahim Kassam accompanies this section of the exhibit and explores the aesthetic ambiguity of construction sites. At certain stages throughout the process of construction, they almost resemble archaeological sites or ruins. This idea relates to Arbel’s concept for the new the new house in Surrey, in which he treats the concrete pillars as artefacts placed inside a modernist shell.

The walls are adorned with portraits of objects, which are a result of studies into materials such as glass and copper mesh— displaying a further component of Arbel’s creative practice. Some of the pieces photographed will appear familiar, as they mirror techniques found in Arbel’s Bocci lighting designs.

As is the case with much of the work created by Omer Arbel Office, Particles for the Built World questions ideas of duality, intersection, and process. Stark monolithic structures contrasted with elegant beauty; solidity colliding with fluidity. The nature of the exhibit demands attention to the process of creation— perhaps most notably marked by the dissection of the concrete column. The anatomy reveals unpredictability, experimentation, and a beauty in the processes of conception over the final outcome. By facilitating how two materials interact, Arbel relinquishes a measure of control. However, it is without the enacting of external forces that allow materials to show their true beauty.

Based between Vancouver and Berlin, Omer Arbel cultivates a fluid position between the fields of architecture, sculpture, invention and design. Focal themes of his work include investigation of intrinsic mechanical, physical, and chemical qualities of materials and exploration of light as a medium.

Internationally recognized for its award-winning programs, Surrey Art Gallery, located at 13750 88 Avenue in Surrey, is the second largest public art museum in Metro Vancouver. Founded in 1975, the Gallery presents contemporary art by local, national, and international artists, including digital and audio art. Its extensive public programs for children through to adults aim to engage the public in an ongoing conversation about issues and ideas that affect our communities and to provide opportunities to interact with artists and the artistic process. Admission is free. Surrey Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance of the City of Surrey, Province of BC through BC Arts Council, Canada Council for the Arts, and the Surrey Art Gallery Association.

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