Edwin Isford

You’ll grow into it. Pop Montreal Art Pop. Montreal. 2018.

Exhibition text by artist:

An angular, effeminate, boney-boned boy wearing a Big Dogs t-shirt. “You’ll grow into it”.

Amulets. The Lily. Calgary. 2018.

Exhibition text by artist:

While I have mostly come to terms with the appearance of my tall thin body, my mind is still occupied with thoughts of inadequacy when comparing my physique to the muscular male I idolize as having an ideal body shape. The fantasy of embodying a shape that aligns with the exaggerated physical forms promoted by organizations like the International Bodybuilding Federation has mostly transferred from a body image issue to a facet of exploration within my studio practice as an artist. I often work with materials that I have ingested at some point thinking they would help quicken my efforts to change my body composition through weight training. Within the frame of “art”, I am allowing such fitness products to exist in ways that go beyond their typical use.

Contemporary bodybuilding has come to a point where bodies are grown to sizes that require more than conventional exercise and nutrition. To achieve their avant-garde muscled bodies, bodybuilding practitioners will often supplement their routine with a carefully designed regimen of consumables that imbue a certain magic into the users ability to push the limits of muscular corporeality. My interest in this arena comes invariably from an unpacking of my fraught relationship with the image of muscled men, but I am also celebrating the milieu of bodybuilding as a platform to consistently explode the icon of the muscular male archetype into exciting new forms of hypertrophy.

With Amulets, I’d like to propose that fitness supplements are charged with potential independent of simply being consumables to aid the growth of human muscle tissue. An amulet is typically a
piece of jewelry worn for it’s magical properties, and for this exhibition I’m positioning fitness supplements as having similarly supernatural abilities that enhance human performance. The artworks focus on the ornamental and mystical properties of materials that are ingrained with a potential for growth by presenting them outside - and in connection with - the human body.

Une Tombe Peu Profonde Pour Un Homme Élancé. Vie D'ange. Montréal. 2017.

Exhibition text by artist:

It’s about health and not about health.

I'm a 32 year old man who weighs roughly 140 pounds and stands 6 feet tall. My body composition appears to be mostly long muscles, barely any fat, and a lot of bone. Food and eating elicit negative responses from my psyche. Taste is a sensation I appreciate (don’t get me wrong) but it would be nice to not have to actually eat. 

I'm also an artist who works with materials and subject matter that are often related to a yearning for muscle growth. My own body does not reflect this curiosity. I seem to be looking at things like creatine or other fitness supplements as alchemical ingredients that can build a bigger and better body, but I am not using them in that way. They are instead used outside the body as components for artworks.

The muscular men who manage to win professional bodybuilder status do not reflect a common beauty. The ancient sculptures that dictated masculine perfection look small in comparison. People like me – muscle fanatics, let’s say – have a push/ pull relationship with hyper muscular men: most want to look like those guys, but do not have the means or genetics or will to actually embody their desire. So we obsess. 

The powders, drinks, and proteins used throughout my practice attain their own importance as individual entities separate from human bodies. 

One could suppose the materials are harmful if swallowed due to their seemingly artificial qualities, however being infatuated with them is not necessarily healthy either. This is and isn't about health. My eating disorder is not life threatening, and my practice helps me come to terms with my failures in increasing my body mass. The mystery of these muscle making materials dissipates as they become compatriots in discussing the plurality of ways bodies are altered through fitness, consumption, and desire.

Impersonal Matter. Bunker 2. Toronto. 2017.

Exhibition text by Veronica Ivanova:

“The octopus is the only animal that has a portion of its brain (three quarters, to be exact) located in its (eight) arms. Without a central nervous system, every arm thinks with total autonomy, and yet, each arm is part of the animal.”
— Chus Martinez, “The Octopus in Love”

“If all we are is matter, and if the matter of which we are made is neither originated nor controlled by us—as persons or as a species—then what sense can it make to speak of human beings as critical, creative, or free?”
— Melissa A. Orlie, “Impersonal Matter”

In celebration of the primacy of process and matter, “Impersonal Matter” is defiantly opposed to the anthropocentrism that would privilege the subject over the object. Speculating the agency of matter, the work steers a path between scientific naturalism and social relativism. Drawing attention to things at all scales, the exhibition puts things (rather than human beings) at the heart of studying what it means to exist. The work asks of it’s audience, what is an object? Or rather, where does the object end and the subject begin?

Responding to the idea of material agency, the exhibition features works framed by their physical properties of growth and process based transformation: a rubber that grows when it’s in contact with water; dried alginate sculptures that take their form from the location where they’re poured, solidifying into atrophied versions of themselves; and cyanotype painted onto found materials that is then exposed as a photogram.

Loni Beach. Manitoba. 2016.

Project text by artist:

My father and his sisters inherited a cabin house in Loni Beach, Manitoba – a neighbouring community to the Canadian Icelandic settlement Gimli, Manitoba – which will eventually be passed down to myself, my sister, and our cousins. Not far from the cabin is a beach from where the community took it's name. With a desire to relate material practises with an experience of the beach itself, I began intervening on the beach by integrating indexical records of the environment back into the sand and rocks. Clay was pushed into a rock then pulled out, while a photograph of a sunset was sunk into the sand. Cyanotypes were made in collaboration with my sister Lindsay using dirt, rocks, feathers, and sand as matter to interact with the UV sensitized papers that were then processed in the lake and dried on the beach. None of the works were left behind. Instead they acted as moments of research, play, and connection to the beach that my family and I have been enjoying for decades.

A COURTYARD w/ Lorna Bauer. The Loon. Toronto. 2016.

Exhibition text by Stephanie Creaghan:

“It’s like those flowers take steroids or something,” Tommy said.
They were looking at an enclosure of water hyacinths, one of those silly-looking polystyrene frames, kind of like a window in the water.
To Paul, the flower-pen was more symbolic than utilitarian, like those courtyards in Kerala, demarcated by nothing more than a difference in floor material; nothing in particular was dividing the two seemingly distinct areas; a figurative line drawn in the literal sand.

Despite this, Paul knew this was not the case; these seemingly arbitrary barriers efficiently prevented one environment from spreading into the other. He thought about invisible systems of control, he thought about Deleuze, he thought about his big nose and his eyes always full of tears. In the hyacinths’ case, the barricade served to deter their rampant and relentless growth. They could not be stopped (because of this, they were soon to be banned); they would keep growing until they gobbled up an entire body of water.

Like a florid disease’s consumption of the mind.

Paul thought about how Tommy was just like a water hyacinth, sucking the air out of any room he walked in, his body swelling and growing with all its stolen strength (instant synthetic growth, his glowing limbs dusted in some kind of psychic whey powder). Paul’s stupid little Gilles-eyes would well up as his heart jumped to his throat. Whenever he saw Tommy.

A hideous-beautiful love-weed.

“Whatever,” Paul said, “the stupid things are illegal now. They’ll all be gone soon.”

the form reveals my mind The Valley. Montréal. 2016.

Exhibition text by Lauren Chipeur, Zoë Wonfor, and artist:

“It’s like those flowers take steroids or something,” Tommy said.
its hard to know
the shape of a body, but
we learn it through routines.
maintaining certain shapes and
measurements in our daily rhythyms.
sometimes routines change
and we adapt to their schedule.
the forms that we keep
are read by those around us
our shapes,
more familiar to others than to ourselves.
we notice the bodies that we don't have.

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