Material games: Exhibition turns hand signals into two-fisted art

Wondering Where Alice Is by I-Chun Jenkins is now on view at L.A. Pai Gallery as part of the exhibition Rock, Paper, Scissors.

I’ve never played Rock, Paper, Scissors, which may explain my puzzlement over the popularity of the game, but an exhibition that’s titled Rock, Paper, Scissors — and made with them — well, that’s a hand worth playing.

The exhibition at L.A. Pai Gallery in the ByWard Market includes work by artists I-Chun Jenkins, Anna Jane McIntyre and Maria Moldovan, and in this case the titular materials don’t beat one another, but work in a pleasing harmony.

“Rocks” are represented in the stone used to create McIntyre’s prints, and the clay from which Moldovan fashions the bases of her whimsical porcelain sculptures. Scissors were used to cut the thin strips of paper that Jenkins’ delicate sculptures are made of, and to cut the paper for McIntyre’s prints, and they’re “also felt in the finely-incised sgraffito lines” on the surfaces of in Moldovan’s sculptures,” the gallery notes say. Paper is the basis of the work from Jenkins and McIntyre and, with some imagination, are “suggested by Moldovan’s illustrative surfaces on her porcelain sculptures.”

This sculpture by Maria Moldovan is called Fear and Joy.

Moldovan’s sculptures, seen as a group, seem like surreal visions of a happy childhood, perhaps on a farm, and with a lot of things on wheels. In the sculpture Boyhood, the artist, who was born in Romania, built a stocky rooster with a fancifully dotted comb, and set it upon a small, four-wheeled cart. On the rooster’s back lies a small boy, comfortable and contented.

In The Way We Carry Each Other, she has another (the same?) small boy of apparently Herculean strength, as he hauls behind him a tall, narrow barn on wheels. Perched atop the barn is what looks like a giant pheasant, being almost half the size of the barn.

In Find A Place, Moldovan sets a cat, with a collar like a wilted Elizabethian ruffle, on its own wheeled cart, this one equipped with a soft pillow. It is a cat, after all.

Farm animals are another link between the sculptures of Maldovan and Jenkins — which, side by side, demonstrate how broad the meaning of “sculpture” can be, from the solidity of the former’s porcelain to the latter’s breathtakingly fragile paper.

Jenkins’ sculptures are hung on the wall in boxed frames. The paper looks as if it’s been put through a shredder and then carefully kept in position, so the images on the paper are still visible, albeit slightly refracted. A hare sits next to a carrot patch, a horse stands amid a collage of disparate imagery, a sheep looks out at the viewer as if through a palisade of twigs.

The distortion is unstable. Sometimes it looks like a fence, sometimes it’s more active, like static on a television screen. On Wondering Where Alice Is? a rabbit, perhaps the March Hare, and a grey tabby cat gaze over what could be the straw bones of a colourfully beaded Native American belt. The distortion, and the overall works, become gleefully bountiful, the sort of piece that you could look at for years and still see something new.

Anna Jane McIntyre has produced a series of prints about an adventurous witch. This is one of them.

There’s also movement in Anna Jane McIntyre’s prints on paper, which reveal an oblique narrative about “a witch who goes on an adventure.”

Twelve prints, each 11 by 11 inches, are arranged in a grid of three vertical rows. Simple tones are dominated by a varying blue, and a rubyish pink. Our adventerous witch, in black of course, seems to play some cards, ride what may be a winged horse, and stop for a lipstick touch up. A pair of large, floating eyes stare out from several prints, creating an uneasy sense of being surveilled. Here is a story that demands time to be deciphered.

Rock, Paper, Scissors continues to Sept. 27 at L.A. Pai, 13 Murray St. For more information, please see

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.