Ehryn Torrell: The Pink House


February 22 – March 22, 2008
Opening on Friday February 22, 6pm (tour of the exhibition followed by a reception, with artist Dil Hilderbrand)
The artist will be present during The Montreal All-Nighter on Saturday March 1st from 7pm to 5am

Project Description

“We’ll pull it down” so declares T, as he leads the gang in Graham Greene’s The Destructors through a systematic disassembly of the last well-kept building in a bombed out post-war English neighborhood.  Within any city or municipality there are Pink Houses, liminal zones where ownership is unclear and societal rules are suspended.  These derelict sites fall in between situations, encircled by dueling social and economic values.  In their state of flux, derelict sites question, neutralize and invent relationships within neighborhoods and the people that encounter them.  In the North end of Halifax, Ehryn Torrell found her sitea highly visible corner property where a modest house sat with its back opened up, sitting tenuously between a state of repair and collapse. Through an intimate exploration of the house and its eventual demolition, Torrell collected the building materials necessary to reassemble a new site for further invention and reflection in a series of paintings, where the viewer is simultaneously trespasser, witness and destitute inhabitant.

Whereas T’s gang ultimately works to bring a house down, Torrell’s investigation of a neglected house allows for it to be re-built and cared for.  As boards are overturned, layers of wallpaper peeled, holes peered into and dust kicked up, the scattered materials are marked and fused together with memories and associations in an effort to locate and assign a meaningful experience within a site devoid of its own.Focusing on the central act of collapse, Torrell’s actions, like those of the gang’s, are guided by a contemporary anxiety – a sense of danger, displacement and moral ambivalence upon the border-zone between public and private. Torrell follows an earnest but tense desire to record the collapse even as the subject becomes increasing indecipherable and unstable. Disowned, the pink househosts andreflects the tensions shared by both its marginalized and developed neighbours, a discreet vessel run aground and rocked between two forces until an upsurge breaks it down.

Through her large format paintings and drawings, Torrell explores the visual and psychological impact of the built environment. The rubble of the pink house populates the exhibition space.  Each canvas presents a circulating perspective as debris spills forth; dusty piles of materials heave with lazy force; jagged obstructions and questionable surfaces push the viewer back as clearings draw out new paths within the collapsed homestead.  Through its subject matter, composition and scale, these works attempt to break out of the expected flat visual field of painting and into the creation of a place – a visual, mental and physical environment. Torrell’s paintings place the viewer in a position similar to that of Greene’s gang.  During a break from their rigorous disassembly of Mr. Thomas’ home, they pause, finding themselves in a “ room crowded with the unfamiliar shadows of half things, broken things, former things.”