One space meets another at the Owens

I had the chance to see Leah Garnett’s exhibition “When One Space Meets Another” when it was at the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown last April. I remember the height of the exhibition. Tree-like structures made of tarp stretched from the floor to the ceiling twenty feet above. A stud wall towered over the installation. “It felt much more like a sculpture show, more like sets, whereas here it feels much more like an installation,” said Garnett, commenting on how the exhibition was lit and the qualities of the gallery space. Not only this, but the dimensions of the room gave the exhibition the feeling of an enclosure, enhanced by pink flagging tape that wrapped around the edges of the gallery.

At the Owens, “When One Space Meets Another” is much more of an environment than an enclosure. You are walking through a construction site in a forest. The double-high wall and tarp-trees that had stood so tall at the Confederation Centre are split apart and scattered throughout the gallery. It’s as if the exhibition has been skewed and stretched. It sprawls throughout the gallery, but still feels as if it towers over the viewer.

“When One Space Meets Another” is all about the artist’s studio and forms of making, utilising locations specific to Garnett’s experience as an artist. These include construction sites, the woods behind her father’s house in Maine, and studio spaces from Garnett’s residencies in Dublin and Cobh, Ireland. These locations have all come together at the Owens.

Garnett’s show is not a typical traveling exhibition. “It is a collaborative effort between the Confed Centre and [The Owens],” said Gemey Kelly, director of the Owens. There is a catalogue in the works which will include two essays written by the exhibition’s curator Pan Wendt, and one by a guest writer Rebecca Duclos. Kelly adds, “It is a nice collaboration because our two institutions are obviously supporting the artists, but we can also pool our resources for the catalogue.”

Students admire her exhibit. Gillian Hill/argosy

On top of being beneficial for both institutions, I think the collaboration enhances the work. Garnett compares constructions sites with more traditional studio spaces, so adding the comparison between a traditional “white cube” and a space with tall ceilings and few reachable walls fits within the logic of the work she is making.

If you caught the exhibition in Charlottetown, there is still more to see in Sackville. Several new sculptures are included and a new audio piece plays throughout the gallery, blending recordings from all of the referenced spaces.

A great kick off to this school year’s exhibitions and a must see, Leah Garnett’s “When One Space Meets Another” goes until Oct. 25.

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