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Venice Biennale

Past Exhibitions

Scream: Ed Pien and Samonie Toonoo

June 10 – August 21, 2010
Opening: Thursday, June 10, 6:00 to 8:00 pm

Curated by Nancy Campbell

Samonie Toonoo Image

(Left to Right): Samonie Toonoo, Skull, 2008. Courtesy Feheley Fine Arts.  Ed Pien, After the Meal, 1999. Courtesy Birch Libralato Gallery.

Edvard Munch’s well-known—and much written about— painting, The Scream, was created in 1893, and is widely considered to represent the universal anxiety of modern man. It depicts a screaming figure with a skull-like face, who appears to be in the throes of an unknown emotional crisis.  This image is now one of the most familiar in art history, having been adapted and reused in the popular arts in a myriad of ways. Undoubtedly, our continued fascination with The Scream reflects the universality of anxiety in contemporary life. The exhibition Scream explores this ongoing fascination through the work of Ed Pien and Samonie Toonoo. 

Samonie Toonoo, an artist from the remote community of Cape Dorset, Baffin Island, has likely not seen The Scream or heard of Ed Pien.  However, although it is a stretch to compare Inuit soapstone sculpture to contemporary drawing, let alone late-nineteenth-century Symbolist painting, the similarities between the two artists's interests are striking. Toonoo was born in 1969. He has been carving for a number of years and his art typically represents transformation scenes drawn from Inuit folklore and nature. In an interview Toonoo describes his sculptures as a release of the “stuff in his head”; hence their sometimes cryptic and often frightening quality. His most recent body of work is highly personal, seeming to reflect the different aspects of his life. Like his contemporaries, Toonoo has broken out of the prescribed expectations of Inuit art, forging a new vocabulary to interpret and represent the world. 

Established Toronto-based artist Ed Pien was born on the other side of the world in Taiwan in 1958 and immigrated to Canada when he was eleven.  Pien’s ghosts of Taiwanese folklore and his representations of western Hell also play to the anxieties of contemporary life. Pien has continued to make use of a quick and prolific mode of drawing he developed, sometimes assembling multiple drawings into composite works or employing the wet ink as a mono-print to start a new image. These drawings, some taking three minutes, others intricately constructed over time, are immediate and intuitive, exploring primal fears and otherness. 

The exhibition Scream: Ed Pien and Samonie Toonoo follows last summer's critically acclaimed exhibition Noise Ghost: Shary Boyle and Shuvinai Asoona, continuing curator Nancy Campbell's interests in spinning the expectation of Inuit art by positioning the work alongside contemporary work from the south.

Please note: The Justina M. Barnicke Gallery will be closed from Thursday June 24 - Monday June 28.


Installation Views

Scream: Ed Pien and Samonie Toonoo @ Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Toronto, 2010

Installation View
Installation View
Installation View
Installation View