Fact or Fiction, 2021

2021/06/18 - 2021/07/24


Cooper Cole is pleased to present Fact or Fiction, a solo exhibition of the work of Toronto-based artist Vanessa Maltese.

In her practice, Maltese is interested in questions of visual and cognitive perception, specifically pareidolia— the psychological phenomenon in which recognizable patterns are identified in unrelated contexts. Each of her new works in Fact or Fiction—which include painting, sculpture, and video—deploy varied forms of visual trickery as a way of questioning the relationship between perception and truth.

Maltese’s painterly images combine both trompe l’oeil and flat planes of colour, a technique that challenges the desire for illusion associated with the history of painting. Using familiar patterns and shapes, Maltese explores the psychoanalytic connections between pattern recognition and the subconscious. In her Desk series, the artist’s paintings resemble messy table tops and are framed by table legs mounted to the walls. Her emphatic play between realism and the absurd provides an opening for viewers to understand her inquiries into the concept of truth. In addition, Maltese provides moments that acknowledge the psychological aspect of cognitive perception, for example by reproducing Joseph Jastrow’s ‘Duck-Rabbit’ and Edgar Rubin’s ‘Vase Illusion’, in some cases uncannily appearing to be on taped up sheets of paper.

These inquiries extend into Maltese’s sculptural practice, in which the artist creates realistic replicas of mundane objects. For Fact or Fiction, Maltese has created a series of slightly larger than life-sized house flies made of oxidized silver and adhered them sporadically onto surfaces in the gallery. Referencing the famous story of Giotto’s fly—which was considered a symbol of death and plague at the time— Maltese taps into the visceral effects of visual trickery, gesturing to its sensationalizing potential for better or worse.

In her video work The Sky is Blue, Maltese switches to sound, exploring the manual creation of everyday sound effects using props unrelated to the visuals they are trying to emulate, also known as Foley exercises. The Sky is Blue explores pattern recognition processes to suggest that our brains are not truly objective, as Maltese synchs one sound with two images. Maltese is interested in the plasticity of the brain, and how conflicts of perception have the power to change our methods of thinking, even in common everyday experiences. Her questioning of the relationship between what we see, and what is true, is increasingly resonant in a world where anyone can search for the truth they desire. Maltese suggests that, in fact, nothing is completely knowable.

Trompe l’oeil device, 2021, oxidized silver, enamel, wax - edition of 28 + 2 APS

Bird Rock, 1994-1996 (estimate), paint on rock

The Sky is Blue, 2021, single channel video, 5 min 17 sec    
Click here to watch the video online 

The artist acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Support for this exhibition was provided by the Ontario Arts Council, an agency of the Government of Ontario, Canada.


Copyright © 2023 Vanessa Maltese