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Interview / Kyla Gilbert – Shifting and distorting material realities

July 25th 2023 – September 21st 2023, Massy Arts will host, Here I am, in the in-between / In Process, a new show by artists Kyla Gilbert + Otilia Sabina.

Kyla Gilbert’s practice begins in chance meetings with found objects, which she modifies in juxtaposition with industrial materials. She balances disparate parts, finding connections and holding space for contradictions. Forces act on her sculptures in unexpected ways. Sections that appear bulbous and heavy are incredibly light, materials sag in a state of gentle, if not perfect, support. Each piece is caught in a moment of expansion and maturation and contains all the clumsiness inherent in transformation, like a gangly teenager. Both Kyla’s process and the pieces themselves rely on mutual support, in all its ungainly, joyful awkwardness and vulnerability. In offering attention to her environment and working from what’s around her, she’s able to create physical compositions that celebrate difference and allow it to flourish.

Otilia Sabina’s work explores the use of memory, as a vehicle to the formation of personal identity, values and beliefs. In this series of works, Otilia uses collage and digital media to create new visual artifacts which center on the transitory feelings of stories from both her life before and after immigrating to Canada in 1998. Through an iterative process of collage and digital manipulation her practice aims to bridge both the familiar and unfamiliar aspects of her history.

Otilia and Kyla share an interest in fragmentation and assemblage in relation to a personal experience of geography. Both are currently working and living on the unceded, ancestral, and occupied, traditional lands of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh and Səl̓ílwətaʔ Nations of the Coast Salish peoples, also known as Vancouver.

This project is supported by the Community Arts Council of Vancouver + First Peoples’ Cultural Council.

The Massy Arts Gallery is located at 23 East Pender Street in Chinatown, Vancouver.
The gallery is open Wednesday to Sunday, 12pm to 5pm.
Entrance is free, and masks are mandatory.

To contact the gallery, send an email to:

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To celebrate Here I am, in the in-between / In Process, Rafael Zen interviews Kyla for Massy Arts, asking how playfulness can invite viewers to question a world that is always in-process. 

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Kyla Gilbert / Shifting and distorting material realities

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Rafael Zen – What do you think the title of your show, “Here I am, in the in-between / In Process”, informs about the works you are exhibiting at Massy Arts? What does it reflect about your current artistic practice?

Kyla Gilbert – It has been very exciting to work with Otilia and get to know her through the process of organizing and installing this show. We have a shared palette and aesthetic sensibility that will come across in the material combination of our pieces but decided that it was important to acknowledge the differing conceptual ideologies motivating our practices.

We chose to retain our original titles and to place them in dialogue with one another. What I’m bringing is “In Process”. I begin with physical exploration that results in the creation of a playful object. In this show, I’ve included new work and sculptures that I’ve returned to. The latter have undergone alterations, in line with my own shifting sensibilities.

Although the works I’m showing at Massy are currently not in process, the world in which they exist and the questions they lead me to will continue to grow and morph, transforming the work itself.

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RZ – How would you describe the sculptural pieces you are bringing to Massy Arts? Could you please guide us through the process of making them? What are your aesthetic/conceptual goals?

KG – I began this work in search of equilibrium. I combined disparate objects and textures and found an arrangement that evoked a sense of precarious aesthetic harmony.

In returning to these sculptures after some time, I felt the need to modify them in line with my own shifting curiosity towards imbalance. Whereas they once felt light, my desire now is for them to feel overloaded, in conflict with themselves. These, I feel, are the aesthetics of a world that holds much too much in the way of information and stimulation.

I’m also drawn to the aesthetic of a poorly executed simulation. The materials I use are easily identifiable (wood, rebar, rope, paper, canvas) and painted over to the point of gaudiness. They are overwhelming yet basic and easily deconstructed into disparate parts.

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RZ – What do you expect to happen between the interaction viewer-exhibition at the show, and what part do your sculptures take in this affect? In a sense, what I’m asking is: what universe do you think your work, when combined with Otilia’s, creates as an environment?

KG – Both Otilia’s prints and my sculptures utilize assemblages of colour to evoke a dreamlike quality. The pieces are rooted in material reality but shifted and distorted.

In interacting with the space and the combination of works, my hope is that the viewer accesses a temporarily altered reading of their surroundings, a feeling of things being uncanny or strange. This is then mitigated through the straightforward material composition of the sculptures.

I would like the pieces to suggest a magic trick that the viewer is able to decipher. They evoke play and the possibility of differing versions of reality, but also reveal their own artifice.

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RZ – Reading your artist statement, some concepts stood out as an intrinsic part of your research: the unexpected, clumsiness, joy, awkwardness, and vulnerability. How do you think these relate to your material research?

KG – These concepts motivate what I bring in and the way I move through the studio. I approach my material making with an open mind, like a series of experiments, and surprise myself in the process.

What I hope for are moments in which something is created that I could never have thought up or imagined on my own but has come to be through a relationship with the materials, and often a series of mishaps or accidents.

I want to convey a process of moving through the world, which contains moments of joy, challenges and frustrations and moments of clarity. It all must be held in combination and taken together.

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RZ – Currently, who are artists that inspire or even influence your practice? What artists would create interesting dialogues with “Here I am, in the in-between / In Process”?

KG – I’ve been inspired by Suzanne Jackson’s “sculpted” paintings for a long time. She’s able to combine simple materials into rich, evocative pieces that hold a lot of life and contrast. I’m also drawn to Henk Visch’s playful bronze sculptures and his willingness to include colour in his bronzes and to combine them with lighter materials. I’ve been returning to Calder’s circus and wire animals and human forms and Chagall’s figurative characters in abstract situations. I’m interested in the capacity of these artists to combine figurative and abstract elements and use rudimentary symbols and forms to express a heightened, colourful, and emotional version of the material world.

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