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Erika DeFreitas

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Almost, always, at once

After that and have forgotten the falter (detail). Hand embroidery on linen.

ANGELL GALLERY is pleased to present Almost, always, at once, a suite of new embroidered works by Toronto-based Erika DeFreitas. The exhibition runs from November 10 to Dec. 1, 2018, with a public opening on Saturday, Nov. 10 from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Painted in 1882, Yellow Roses in a Vase is a still life by Gustave Caillebotte that depicts a lush impression of a vase of roses in full bloom, set on a marbled tabletop against a dark background. Held in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, it was included in the 2014 exhibition Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse. Toronto-based Erika DeFreitas, who happened to be in Dallas showing in a group exhibition at the time, says that the exhibition left a lasting impression on her, but not just because the paintings were beautiful. What struck DeFreitas was how many of the paintings, including the Caillebotte, pictured petals that had dropped from the flowers. “They were constant reminders that flowers, like us, live and die,” she says. “Everything is subject to a life cycle and the passage of time.”

DeFreitas’s multivalent practice – encompassing textiles and needlework, performance, sculpture, video and, quite recently, painting – often engages the theme of time, linking it to a broader range of concepts, ranging from labour and slowness to the domestic realm, memory, and bodily presences and absences. For Almost, always, at once, the artist has created a series of embroidered works inspired by the Bouquets exhibition, but based on photographs she has taken of fallen petals from floral arrangements in her own home. Using thread in a skillful painterly way to convey subtle gradients of colour, the artist’s delicate, floating forms have the air of memento mori, parts that have become separated from the whole that defined them. The artist likens her process of creating the pieces to the work her grandmother put into making doilies. “Each stitch and knot is a record of the time she spent making them and are a reminder of her presence in the world,” DeFreitas explains. “I find something beautiful in spending that much time with materials and creating something from them.”

This summer, DeFreitas spent two months in Europe, conducting research for future projects. While in Paris, she visited – three times – the Musée de l'Orangerie, which houses, within its oval rooms, Monet’s Nymphéas series of decorative panels. (The paintings prompted her to make the trip to see Monet’s gardens, as well.) Despite the crowds at the gallery, she found the experience extremely moving. “I teared up when I entered the space,” she says. “It’s rare to have the experience of art enveloping and overwhelming you. It reinforced how important it is to me for my work to make people feel deeply.”

– Bill Clarke