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'Building Confidence for Dummies Ashtray (with Cigarette)' , glazed stoneware, 2023. Courtesy of Erica Eyres

solo exhibit by Erica Eyres

August 26 - October 8th, 2023

'Dancing for Dummies'

We are very pleased to present “Dancing for Dummies”, a solo exhibition by revered artist, Erica Eyres. The exhibition opens on August 26 at 7 PM and runs until October 8th, 2023.

Over the last two decades, the ever-prolific Eyres has developed a consistent practice characterized by her oblique and idiosyncratic figurative drawings, paintings, ceramic sculptures, and performances in her video works. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Eyres’ work, which often eludes exacting interpretation, has been informed by the city’s own enigma, and the broader pop culture she grew up in. Personal histories have also worked their way into her work, even if allusively. The familiar is often seamlessly synthesized with the strange or becomes strange and off-kilter through her intricate painstaking handcrafted works. Real life is rendered slightly artificial if not rendered utterly lifeless. 

Like she’s done before as a starting point, in this selection of new ceramic and painting works, Eyres dredges up obsolete, seemingly innocuous pop-cultural ephemera she would have encountered growing up in Winnipeg. They include ubiquitous instructional literature like the ‘for Dummies’ how-to book franchise which the exhibition's title riffs off of as well as the candy-coated world of teen soap opera book series like Sweet Valley High. The ‘for Dummies’ how-to guide franchise reached its peak cultural saturation in the late 90s and early aughts promising confidence in any given subject to the average amateur. With its culturally antiquated name--a lighthearted albeit, clearly patronizing term of endearment--the franchise casually guided many through complex life problems as any charming self-help bible professes to impart. Often unintentionally hilarious, these high-selling manuals provided a fast and easy-to-digest guide to handling anything from divorce to depression, to sex, to self-confidence, and in Eyres' iteration here, dancing. It was the book-length near equivalent of a Wikipedia page in the pre-internet era. 


The likes of Sweet Valley High–a microcosm of the prosperity and upward social mobility gospel–advertised unattainable albeit alluring fantasies to its readers. In turn, readers became socialized toward this pursuit of happiness. They were left with an itch to seek a how-to guide for achieving the aspirational and fortunately, there’s always a ‘for Dummies’ to give a helping hand.


The source images for the paintings in the show are from “before” photos of makeover beauty manuals while others are plucked from enactment photos in guidebooks for children and teens who may be facing any social situations like bullying, making friends, drugs, or divorce at home.


From the process of searching, Eyres meticulously mimics the likeness of a given artifact in clay or zooms in on a part of an image for a painting. She renders these relics with much detail until they transcend themselves becoming corpse-like duplicates, a bit unsettling, and yet still alluring for looking too much like the actual. They emanate a hunting and psychological fecundity. In the exhibition, these heavier clay replicas of food, books, and cigarettes are strewn across a sterile mantel-like shelve that outline of the gallery. Together with the portraits that hang above them, we find ourselves in a curious, defamiliarized domestic tableau. It's simultaneously intimate and alien, somehow inscrutable and precisely vivid. Not much context is provided but this leaves them open for us to project on them. 


In the basement, viewers will be met with Learning to Dance, a new single-channel tutorial dance video projection. Set against a campy 80s backdrop, it sees the artist transformed into a series of characters with monologues appropriately written using language from a ‘Lacan for Beginners’ instructional book.  Eyres wrote, shot, edited, and performed all the cast of characters on a surreal quest to build self-confidence through dance. 

As an extension of the exhibition, we've teamed up with Winnipeg Film Group for a screening night of Eyres's earlier short films. This associated program will launch on September 2nd 2023.

More details to come.

Erica Eyres (b. 1980 in Winnipeg, Canada) lives and works in Glasgow, UK. Through videos,drawings, paintings and sculptures, Eyres' work uses found images and objects to explore the unreliability of autobiography and the artist’s subjective truth. Solo shows include Do I Have to Love You? at OTP Copenhagen (2023); Family Meal at Norberg Hall, Calgary (2022); Another Dirty Room at Celine, Glasgow (2022); and Too Shy to Party at Plaza Plaza, London (2020). Group shows include Secret Signals with Keith Boadwee at OTP, Copenhagen (2021); Lunch, curated by Panel Glasgow for London’s Kitchen (2021); and Private Behaviour at White Columns, New York (2021).

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