Disturbing dusts on a bowl of cherries

At the dawn of launching the DOUBLE DOUBLE: Box-in-a-Valise exhibition, memory of a past experience triggers a lost thought. Years ago we had undergone a simpler, onsite installation similar to this one. We were running Lee Ka-sing Gallery at Candy Factory Loft on Queen Street West, and had a very different role then.

LKS Gallery participated in the inaugural Toronto Alternative Art Fair International (TAAFI 2004-2006) in 2004. It was run in parallel to the Toronto International Art Fair, but staging venues in two small, beautiful and historical hotels - The Drake and The Gladstone. Though both hotels were just a few blocks from our gallery, we opted to present work in the more contemporary and chic Drake Hotel.

Flipping through boxes of dislocated photographs we rediscovered a few images taken from the Drake Hotel. Some memories surfaced, and we could begin to pick up dusts to reassemble the exhibition at Drake Hotel in the Autumn of 2004. For four days, from September 30 to October 4, we had transformed a lofty suite in the hotel to a small photography gallery. Besides bringing a roster of remarkable artists there, we focused on two thematic exhibitions: Body Language, a group show, and Unanswered: witness, a solo by P. Elaine Sharpe.

The room door was opened for guests to walk through a short and narrow corridor into the suite. On the right wall of the corridor, we mounted posters of the two curated shows: one image by Sadegh Tirafkan, and the other by P. Elaine Sharpe. Immediately we entered the light filled, comfortable sitting room, where a couple of sofas and a long desk were in place. Despite the generous natural light coming from the windows, we had to block them to avoid lights reflected from glass of the framed works. The Body Language exhibition was situated here. Besides Sadegh Tirafkan, the other artists were Enrique Mendez De Hoyos, Xing Danwen, Diana Thorneycroft, Almond Chu, Mamoru Horiguchi, Michel Campeau, Simon Glass and Nobuyoshi Araki.

There was only a linen curtain serving as a wall partitioning the sitting room from the bedroom. In the bedroom P. Elaine Sharpe displayed her series of Unanswered: witness (2002). They were large size acrylic dibond prints. Places photographed  were twentieth-century crimes scenes, where Elaine 'investigated' and 'dramatized' through the deliberate use of out-of-focus lens, the truth left unanswered. We met P. Elaine Sharpe in the early 2000s, and interested in her conceptual photography approach. This series of work was shown earlier at Le Mois de la Photo in Montréal (2002). Lee Ka-sing had brought Elaine and this body of work to show in Hong Kong just a few months prior to the Fair, in the broiling month of May 2004.

On the bed was some work by Diana Thorneycroft. Her provocative bodywork was quite well-known in Canada and internationally. At that time, she was also developing a series of work on “Doll Mouths”. A box of 8”x10” colour photographs of this series was shown to the public at Drake Hotel.

Taking a step back from the bedroom, on the right was a nude 16”x20” photograph by Almond Chu. Almond is noted for his portraiture and using body forms in his art. Back to the sitting room, where we’d placed different photographers’ work in the Body Language theme, an unfortunate and unforgettable event occurred. Simon Glass, a Toronto photographer, whom we’ve first got acquainted with from Gallery 44, was among the artists of this show. We had brought his series 72 Names of God, a suite of 8”x10” black and white silver prints to the venue. Some of these photographs, along with some from the Doll Mouths series were stolen during the opening night. The organizer could not do much for us and those prints were never recovered.

Sadegh Tirafkan (1965-2013) was an Iranian photographer known in his country and the Western world. He worked from photography to performance to video installation and collage. We knew him shortly after 2000 and had been following his work. After we relocated to 50 Gladstone, we had the chance to organize a solo exhibition (Temptation, 2006), including a video presentation of his work. We did not get much in touch after that, he was pursuing his career full speed, splitting time on projects between Tehran, Toronto, the US and Europe. And in 2013, we heard the sad news that he passed away with a brain tumor. After his death, Tirafkan's artistic heritage is preserved in the archive and museum of the Tirafkan Foundation in Tehran, which contains a huge number of photographs, short films, videos, installations, scenarios and multimedia pieces. In our book shelves, we are still holding a number of his monographs.

It always amazes us to look back, to find so much had happened in the past, but can only be accessed through the present moment, which is in a continual process of passing. DOUBLE DOUBLE: Box-in-a-Valise gathered dusts from our past, which again will accumulate dusts in the future. For the moment we’re disturbing dusts, only to discover more.  

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