“I challenge existing formalities within architecture through a flirtatious act, inherently both aggressive and accommodating.”
Figure-Ground perception is often the driving logic of visual composition. But within this assumed clarity there are loopholes, strange aporia, and spaces that defy categorical definition. For Kyla Chevrier, these fraught tensions become all the more apparent at the scale of architecture. Indeed, historical dualities distinguishing subject from space define architecture and viewer as mutually exclusive. Yet, in Chevrier’s work, this threshold—at once material and perceptual—is more reflexive than it appears. Trained as a mezzo soprano prior to studio art, Chevrier uses elements of set design and theater to transform the gallery into a stage that elides viewer and performer. Using inexpensive construction materials associated with quotidian interiors—both domestic and institutional—her work evokes the uncanny by at once recalling familiar spaces while inflicting unexpected disruptions. Surface, geometry, and memory constitute Chevrier’s repertoire for destabilizing architectural space as contingent to embodied experience. Floor, ceiling, and wall planes are angled into abstract formations, with skewed geometries and jarring colors that suggest urgency yet invite sustained viewing and interpretation. It is on these surfaces—vast empty slates—that one’s subjectivity is writ large.
Less a wall than an opaque mirror, Chevrier’s painted surfaces refract the viewer’s perception into a rich spectrum of associations and possibilities. In her new installation, “Let’s Get High, Eat Steak, And Go Fishing,” a raised stage projects inward from the frame of the gallery storefront, lit aglow by a painted fluorescent shape overhead. These colors are lurid and severe, but over time soften into a palette that is affective and uncannily familiar, although never arriving at semantic conclusions. Likewise, the work’s title disorients the aesthetic intensity of Chevrier’s installation by suggesting other sensations and uses of the body, corporealizing one’s memory as though it were a phantom limb. It is within this continuum between perceived and actual, remembered and experienced that we inhabit her work, turning personal history into an occupiable present—an ongoing performance never to be codifed into script.
David Sadighian 2010
Kyla Chevrier’s work is both nuanced and dramatic. Throughout her practice she seeks to explore the immediate relationships between interior and abstract spaces through the perception of the body. Using the same materials and processes found in everyday construction techniques, her site-sensitive architectural installations challenge audiences by distorting the standardized format and conventions of constructed spaces, alienating the ‘space’ from its utility as a ‘room’ and exposing the ideologies and histories that serve as a foundation to our relationship to architecture.
The awkward, abrupt and sometimes jarring forms are contrasted by the lyrical use of colour, evoking emotion and suggesting a subjectivity; enveloping the façade of what may be a floor, ceiling or wall simultaneously.
Chevrier’s installations force the viewer to navigate architectural spaces in a realm where rules and practical divisions don’t exist; where boundaries are constantly in flux. Parallel feelings of disorientation and familiarity urge the viewer to treat each moment in the space as an active negotiation.
Kyla Chevrier was born in Richmond Ontario and received a BFA from Concordia University. She received her MFA in Sculpture this spring from Yale University, where she was the recipient of the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship.