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Nancy Tousley

Fictive Space: Judith Schwartz and Arlene Stamp

Canadian Art, Vol. 11 #2, June 1994.
[ 404 words ]


There was a Through the Looking Glass quality to Judith Schwarz's and Arlene Stamp's playful installation, Fictive Space. The two Toronto artists created a world in which apparent opposites — the world of empirical reality and the life of the imagination, order and disorder, illusion and reality — turned out not to be contradictory after all.

To begin with, the fictive space itself was real, a materially rich 'thing' to stand back and look at, and a 'place' to enter and explore. It could be read as a concrete model of creative thought that worked by pulling its viewers physically and mentally into the game as if they were chess pieces on a board. Both sculptor Schwarz and painter Stamp are engaged by chaos theory, higher forms of order whose complexity resembles disorder, and the ways in which habitual frames of mind put blinders on perception.

Stamp's part of the collaborative work, Ready Set, was a black-and-white tile floor, one-half the size of the entire floor area of the gallery. Its computer-generated pattern — an example of higher mathematics in which a pattern elaborated in a logical way will begin to do apparently illogical things — ruptured a checkerboard grid into dynamic asymmetrical configurations. Set at an angle in relation to the floor plan and the gallery walls, it displaced the architecture, undermining the rigid logic of its system and drawing the viewer from one side of the wall dividing the gallery to the other. The viewer choreographed a course across the tiles, in a sense performing the piece.

Schwarz's Somersault consisted of three large steel sculptures. An X and an O in the first room stood as open-ended symbols for opposites, although each form also implied its other. In the second room, another X was placed high on the wall and set on an angle, as though it were changing into a plus sign. It seemed to vault into the air, a figure combining the opposing energies of X and O to embody a leap of faith, out of the physical into the mental realm. The floating X read as a positive sign, as though the fictive space of art is the space that makes possible new ways of looking at the world.


Canadian Art, Vol. 11 #2, June 1994.


Text: © Nancy Tousley. All rights reserved.

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