Cindy Stelmackowich, Fleshed Out, 2015, plastic mannequin, medical dictionary pages, Fisher Scientific red rubber tubing and natural latex rubber tubing, cotton gauze bandage/wound dressing, epoxy, ceramic tile, wood, 216 x 75 x 101 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Montreal.


October 2, 2015 – February 7, 2016
Rachel Kalpana James, Cindy Stelmackowich, Norman Takeuchi, Howie Tsui
Curated by:  Ola Wlusek, Curator of Contemporary Art

The human body is laden with a fraught history. It is a vessel for language, recorded memories and events that form a particular story about one’s identity. Once this story is released into the world, it reveals itself as part of our collective consciousness. Truth of the Matter explores the imperative role fiction plays in coming to terms with traumatic events, finding meaning in suffering and historicizing one’s own personal narrative.

Drawing from the foreboding tales told by his family members, research into Asian folklore, and his own world of make-believe, Howie Tsui populates Mount Abundance and the Tip Toe People I (2010) with idiosyncratic characters, all the while upholding the intricate painting tradition of ancient Chinese and Japanese handscrolls. The menacing figures resembling ghosts, goblins and horned woodland creatures, with elongated limbs and grimaced faces, tip toe conspicuously around a bustling village on a mountainous landscape. This mixed-media work satirizes the conflict and fear that are so persistent in contemporary culture.

Arcade fun and the gaming industry meet the War of 1812 in Tsui’s Musketball! (2012), an outfitted pinball machine that invites visitors to launch metal balls into the fleshy anatomy of an army Redcoat. Dissociation and a competitive nature, which are both required to play/shoot to kill, transcend time.

The illustrated diagram of the soldier’s innards corresponds to Cindy Stelmackowich’s sculptural workFleshed Out (2015), in which pages from outdated medical books substitute flesh and blood inside the cut-up plastic limbs. Fragmented body parts resembling luscious rosebuds form a fetishized offering atop a sterile ceramic surface, all the while questioning the way in which scientific knowledge of the body is pursued.

The actors in Rachel Kalpana James’ video diptych Sorry, this is long. (2014) perform selected texts from online sources, where disclosure coexists with anonymity. The actors speak to an ambiguous audience akin to a social media public, and offer consolation in response to their own dramatic monologues. The distraught subjects’ need to confess their personal traumas mirrors the sharing culture of virtual life.

Surviving the trauma of a forced uprooting informs the work of Norman Takeuchi who combines elements from his Japanese and Canadian heritages to reshape misfortune. Dynamic paintings, includingCelestial Guardian No. 3 (2009) and Waterfall (2015), fuse collaged imagery from Japanese literature, memories of trips to Japan’s historical and religious sites, and recollections of adolescence in British Columbia. The work abides by principles of abstraction rather than traditional Japanese composition, evoking an emotional response of reconciliation and healing.

The Truth of the Matter considers trauma’s profound impact on the emotional landscape associated with the culture of our time. 

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