Esker’s three art shows all explore the environments we live in

Esker Foundation is exhibiting three detail-packed shows that at first don’t seem to have much in common.

The simplest of the three is Concrete Logic by Cedric Bomford a series of black-and-white photos of air vent structures in Prague. While air vents might sound dull and utilitarian Bomford has captured a startling array of bizarre graffiti-decorated buildings that are both perplexing and oddly alluring.

“I thought they were really interesting just in terms of a series of photographs in terms the use of material the absurdity of them” says Naomi Potter exhibition curator. “They have a purpose but they’re camouflaging what they’re for.”

Shauna Thompson exhibition curator for Vele another of the three shows running until May also comments on Bomford’s photographs. “He’s really concerned with spaces and what built objects do in spaces in terms of power” she says pointing out one of the themes that runs through all three shows as being “the folly of the built environment or the folly of materials.” She describes Bomford’s air vents as “these neglected sad little spaceships that had a utopic architectural vision.”

Folly is evident in Vele which includes a film and a series of photographs by Tobias Zielony of a Brutalist housing estate in Naples. The enormous tiered complexes were built between 1962 and 1975 to address housing needs but were overrun by crime syndicates and squatters even before the project was complete. Zielony’s photos capture the darkened hallways of this crumbled dream with people passing through like ghosts.

“It was one of those artworks that was really upsetting in some way and really impactful in terms of what it was documenting formally” says Thompson. She explains that the film isn’t actually a video but thousands of still photographs stitched together. She describes it as “jittery hallucinatory kind of disorienting… kind of nightmarish in a way…. It adds to that really strange way of seeing a place.”

If you need something calmer than the film a few of Zielony’s still photographs of the building are displayed outside. “The photographs are a way of pausing that film and being able to spend a moment really exploring that space” says Potter.

Spread throughout the gallery is the work of Peter von Tiesenhausen in an exhibition called Experience of the Precisely Sublime . The artist lives and works in Demmitt Alberta and in 1995 he copyrighted his property as a work of art. “He considers his land his artwork” explains Potter. Moving through the exhibition you can see why. The materials he works with — wood tree bark chains tar stone wire — all come from his land in one way or another and he uses these materials with an artistic candour. “The material gets to be what it is; it’s not trying to be anything else” she says.

Two large pieces — a heavy bell and a sculptural wall of wood — anchor the show and the harmonics of a recent sound piece by von Tiesenhausen infiltrate the entire space. But those familiar with von Tiesenhausen’s work might be particularly interested in a long ledge of smaller pieces displayed near the entrance. Potter explains that these are mostly works from the artist’s studio that he hasn’t displayed before.

“It’s almost like they’re sketches of larger things and points of reference and things that influence things and things that worked or were tests or things that never got very far but are very representational of how he approaches [art]” she says. “It’s a really nice cross-section of the material interests that he has.”

Esker Foundation is also presenting The way air hides the sky by Tyler Los-Jones in their project space until March 16.