Photos courtesy of the artists and Projet Pangée
Review by Esmé Hogeveen
Between Here and the Stratosphere: Ultraviolet Postcards From Home in Ozone Gleaners
If gleaning involves ascertaining, or, more literally, collecting information or materials, gleaning ozone, an unstable gas, seems hella scary. Ironic, then, that Tiziana La Melia and geetha thurairajah’s show “Ozone Gleaners,” at Montreal’s Projet Pangée, produces an atmosphere of pastel repose. In the press release, an excerpt from La Melia’s OAKWALKDRONE poem refers to “gamma rays on everyone’s marigolds,” and indeed a slippery proximity between twee habitats (two paintings are even shaped like gable-roofed houses) and sinister, electromagnetic undertones permeates the show.
Seen together, thurairajah’s and La Melia’s paintings and co-created objects and installation give the impression of nature regarded through a surrealist lens. Motifs of rural life and decor recur, but always obliquely. A subtle dissonance amongst the iridescent-tinged works leads me to imagine flipping through the lifestyle magazine, Kinfolk, while tripping on psilocybin. In Gwyneth Paltrow’s wildest dreams, this is what a kickass episode of The Goop Lab would feel like: equal parts intoxicant and stimulant. A simulacrum of calm domesticity unfolding in spite, or perhaps in response to, the smouldering natural world.
Tiziana La Melia, Visitors (2020), teinture, soie et billes de céramique/ dye silk and ceramic beads, 45 x 24 pouces/ inches
Upon entering the gallery, one is greeted by La Melia’s Visitors (2020), comprised of two peach silk panels loosely stitched together, one atop the other. Decorated with feminine figures and foliage loosely rendered with watercolour-like smooth lines and dye blooms, Visitors combines folk art whimsy with feral farm premonitions. Are the titular visitors from another place, or potentially even another time? Some of the painted women hold cats and pitchforks, and I am reminded of university acquaintances who aspired to postgrad futures in agricultural cultivation. I always wondered if these would-be homesteaders were more inspired by 19th-century philosophies than the realities of churning out CSA boxes in anticipation of the sixth extinction, but what do I know? La Melia’s vision makes me wonder if pitchforks might be equally suited to hay lifting and self-defence during the coming apocalypse.
geetha thurairajah, Onement (2019), acrylique sur toile/ acrylic on canvas, 40 x 16 pouces/ inches
There is an equally tenuous balance at play in thurairajah’s Onement (2019), which features a pair of languid shapes, each with a quasi-humanoid head and four trailing tendrils. The two figures float in opposite directions on either side of the canvas, drawing the eye alternately up and down. With the quadrupeds arranged thusly, a sense of equilibrium is conjured and eerily intensified by the painting’s bright, inorganic palette. A gleaming orange streak runs down Onement’s longitudinal centreline and shimmering blues, greens, pinks, and violets glow around the ghostly outlines, whose multi-tendrilled kin reappear solo in thurairajah’s other works, Convergence (2019), Neophyte (2019), We Work to Pay Bills (2019), and Subtle Exchanges (2019). thurairajah’s paintings favour abstraction and graphic lines more than La Melia’s, but the artists commonly consider respite within cacophonous atmospheres, a challenge facing all mere mortals as “Ozone Gleaners” rightly insists.
Tiziana La Melia, Country Mouse, City Mouse – No Point de Capiton (2020), huile et émulsion vinylique sur panneau de bois/ oil and flashe paint on wood pannel, 36 x 29 pouces/ inches
One of the aforementioned gable-roof-shaped paintings is La Melia’s Country Mouse, City Mouse – No Point de Capiton (2020), which offers one of the show’s most direct links to the question of homeyness. Rendered in vivid oil and flashe on wood panel, Country Mouse, City Mouse initially recalls a childhood valentine: all pinks, oranges, and purples, with hearts, a two-story house, crosshatched strips like aerial views of roads or train tracks, and “COUNTRYMOUSECITYMOUSE” in mauve, all-caps bubble letters. Refreshingly, traces of sentimentality and nostalgia are distilled rather than disavowed in this work, as in the exhibition as a whole. The result is a more compelling invitation to consider the strange subject of home than the more straightforwardly cynical takes often seen in contemporary work.
The hazy boundaries between forms, places, and people (Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie lookalikes even pop up in La Melia’s Country Mouse, City Mouse – The Simple Life !) suggests “Ozone Gleaners”’ interest in the elusive nature of a rustic or agrarian life. A low-level tension between simplicity and complication is likewise evidenced in The Stoner’s Dilemma (2020), a maze built by thurairajah and La Melia out of local clay and chia seeds on the floor of the gallery. While there is a grounding impulse at work in the incorporation of natural objects, including calendula petals in La Melia’s Emo Cloud Tracking Stress (2020), the shimmery hues of thurairajah’s and La Melia’s paintings inevitably point viewers towards more extreme ends of the molecular and light spectrums. Ozone is made up of three oxygen atoms; in the stratosphere, ozone’s instability permits it to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun. On the ground, however, ozone is created via automotive and industrial pollution, and is harmful to plants and animals. Both a protector and a poison, ozone is between a rock and a hard place. At Projet Pangée, thurairajah and La Melia offer paths away from, and back to, the earth; it’s oddly comforting to discover there’s no guarantee of where we’ll stabilize and rest easier.
geetha thurairajah, Subtle Exchanges (2019), acrylique sur toile et cadre en bois/ acrylic on canvas and wood frame, 90 x 34 pouces/ inches
Tiziana La Melia, Country Mouse, City Mouse – Love Wisteria (2020), huile, pastel et verre coloré sur panneau de bois/ oil, pastel and stained glass on wood pannel, 30 x 24 pouces/ inches
Tiziana La Melia, Wand (2020), veilleuse, ruban, objets trouvés/ nightlight, ribbon, found object, 4 x 4 x 2 pouces/ inches
Tiziana La Melia & geetha thurairajah, A Stoner’s Dilemma (2020), argile locale et graines de chia/ local clay and chia seeds
geetha thurairajah, Convergence (
geetha thurairajah, Neophyte (2020), acrylique sur toile/ acrylic on canvas, 40 x 16 pouces/ inches
Ozone Gleaners is on view in Montreal at Projet Pangée until February 15th.
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