Galerie Deux Poissons is delighted to present our first project with Montreal artist Lorraine Simms. A longtime professor of art as well as professional artist, Simms has exhibited in many of the most prestigious spaces in the city over the course of her career, as well as elsewhere in Quebec, across the rest of Canada, and internationally. She is well known for her highly skillful and visually powerful approach to figurative painting and drawing, and more recently, for her sculptural work as well.
Entitled Phantom, this solo exhibition is the result of a comprehensive research project coupling depictive drawing with natural history and environmental science, executed by Simms over the past year. As with all of Simms’ work, a high level of formal perfectionism and virtuosity is present, and as with much of her overall production, this body of work was also done from observation. In 2018 Simms went to New York City to do a residency at the American Museum of Natural History, where she spent weeks working in the Mammalogy Department with the remains of numerous North American mammals. Each of the animals she has depicted is a member of an endangered or vulnerable species – and can also be understood as an iconic, symbolically powerful kind of animal, an archetype in our cultural consciousness. These animals are identified by Simms as distinctive metaphors for the health of our biosphere as well as for the state of our own species and society.
The works begin by meticulously tracing the cast shadow of each creature’s preserved remains, sometimes from parts of their bones and sometimes from skins. She then draws in with surgical precision, in graphite or conte, a ghostly demarcation of the animals’ forms, bringing to mind a haunting index of that species as well as a direct representation of a specific animal, in its particular individual dimensions. In effect she summons a generalized symbol of that species, through the casting and capturing of a shadow of its real body, invoking a conceptual spell of psychological protection and insight. Although these drawings are immediately striking as images, their slow, quiet power only fully reveals itself over a period of time of looking and thinking. While their spectral beauty is clear to see, these drawing are haunting evocations of presence and absence on several levels – and in some sense Simms in fact demonstrates that those seemingly diametrically opposed states are more overlapping than they appear – using a process that is on the one hand empirical and scientifically-minded, and the other a form of mysticism, or magic.