2024 calendar

903 Lansdowne Ave (Laneway garage)
Toronto, Ontario


Alyssa Alikpala: Tracings: in situ

September 21 - October 8, 2023

Joys is pleased to present Tracings: in situ, a solo exhibition by Alyssa Alikpala developed through an experimental two-week residency at the gallery. Through a variety of techniques and materials, Alyssa’s work champions a framework for interpreting unspoken connections between the built and natural environments. Inspired by ecological, seasonal, and corporeal cycles and rhythms, the body of work in this exhibition incorporates plant materials sourced from the laneway just in time for the Autumn Equinox. Alyssa’s work is powerful in its ability to fuse form and concept. Her material engagements, crafted through hours of cyclical tasks and methodical labour, are a testament to patience and process. Works in Tracings: in situ are as much a product of doing as of undoing, finding humility and hope in indeterminate states as well as mortality itself.

Tracings: in situ is the first edition of Tracings, an experimental and infrequent residency that invites artists to respond to the Joys laneway in whatever fashion suits their practice. With this exhibition, Joys is proud to participate in Gallery Weekend Toronto (AGAC).

Exhibition text: 

Each year at the peak of the Melt time, Button and Twig flew the neighbourhood. Braving mercurial temperatures and short-lived snowfalls, the siblings always looked forward to that first soar of the year over the familiar boxy streets and patchy rooftops of Wallace and Lansdowne.

Though they were both adults, Button was older, which she never let Twig forget during their mid-Melt jaunts. “Watch out for the ice!” Button would say, causing Twig to roll her eyes and click her silver beak in frustration. Button loved the rediscovery of forgotten garden boxes and feeders in which you could sometimes find a scattering of seeds left over from the last Warm time. Twig loved watching the Walkers, enjoyed their different gaits and the funny ways they held their limbs. 

The reward for Twig and Button’s early trips into the neighbourhood airspace was that they could choose the very best perch points without much competition. This year, they settled on a laneway spot on a power line with a perfect view into plenty of boxes and pavement.

The pavement was well used by Walkers on two and four legs, as well as several Rollers. One rolled her baby down the laneway every day, singing lullabies that Twig tried to learn by ear and interpret in her own style. Backyard gardens waxed and waned. The siblings were often the first to sample the ripening fruit their neighbours tended to.

Near the end of the Warm time, Twig noticed a Walker coming and going from the building with the archway. Of all the bizarre Walker activities Button and Twig witnessed at that building, hers were the most interesting. For days and days, the siblings watched the Walker navigate the entire length of the laneway, sometimes a few times in a row, pausing to look at the plants poking out between concrete or climbing wire fences. After some contemplation, she would carefully remove a few strands, and carry them back to the building with the archway.

What intrigued the siblings about her behaviour was that it seemed so familiar. She wasn’t using the laneway for travel. Button noticed that she never took more than she could hold in one hand and always left plenty behind for her and Twig to gnaw at if hunger befell them. They admired her moderation. “She must be building a nest,” Twig thought aloud.

Most days, the Walker would leave the big door open, allowing a host of sounds and smells to trickle out into the airspace. Twig looked forward to these interruptions to her daily routine, which had grown stiff and monotonous over the past few months. One afternoon, a long, appetizing line of Goldenrod appeared along the front wall. She appreciated the gentle discordance the Walker seemed to propagate. Button was the more dubious of the pair, but her desire to understand was quickly outgrowing her apprehension.

One quiet evening, as the blue moon rose, Twig’s curiosity overcame her. A cold light shone from the building’s archway. She was still inside working. Twig gave Button a daring look and swooped down to the pavement near the building. Button followed closely. Together they hopped toward the archway and peeked around the corner. They couldn’t believe the scene of the nest inside. Twig had to get closer. When the Walker wasn’t looking, Twig and Button darted into the building, flying directly toward the upper landing of the loft. Their hearts were racing.

Before they could plan their next move, the lights switched off. The siblings heard a mechanical hum and the door began to close. Frightened and satisfied in equal measure, Twig and Button turned to face one another.

Alyssa Alikpala is an interdisciplinary artist, designer, and researcher working across sound, sculpture, fibre, installation, and ephemeral forms. Focusing on process, cycles, and indeterminacy, her work explores the body’s interaction with, and traces left in, the environment.

Alyssa is currently based in Toronto, Canada and has recently exhibited at Open Studio, Myta Sayo Gallery, Project 107, Gallery TPW (Toronto), and participated internationally in residence at La Napoule Art Foundation (France). Her work has been included in Images Festival, Scotiabank Contact Festival, and publications such as Studio Magazine and Newest Magazine.

Alikpala would like to acknowledge the generous support of the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts.

Photos by Holly M. Chang
Artist talk: Alyssa Alikpala In Conversation (September 23, 2023)