‘Just Semantics’ gives a new perspective on art

The group exhibition is coming to a close after a five week showcase at Robertson Arès Gallery

The exhibition is meant to break away from homogenous and derivative artwork. Courtesy Robertson Arès Gallery

Just Semantics is a group exhibition currently being showcased at Robertson Arès Gallery. It features the works of 14 artists including sculpture, photography, painting, and embroidered typography.

Curator Alysia Yip-Hoi explained the exhibit is meant to break away from what she feels is artwork that has become homogenous and derivative. “I think that the selection at Robertson Arès is so different that it’s beyond the quality of things out there,” said Yip-Hoi. 

All of the work is for sale, and walking through the gallery feels like being in someone’s well decorated home. “Surrounding yourselves with snapshots of things you love, or with the artwork of things you love, it’s a really great way to escape within your own home setting,” said Yip-Hoi. She emphasized that this can be helpful during a time when most people are still stuck at home.

The exhibit is Yip-Hoi’s second installment at the Robertson Arès Gallery. The first show, Beyond Semantics, also took place during lockdown around this time last year. It explored the idea of semantic satiation, a literary term that describes the loss of meaning through the overuse of a word.

The exhibtion features sculptures, photography, paintings, and embroidered typography. Courtesy Robertson Arès Gallery

“[Beyond Semantics] was more a comparison and contrast show. It showed uncomfortable contrasts next to one another and highlighted those special moments,” said Yip-Hoi. “[Just Semantics] is more of a celebration.”

Artist Douglas Scholes’ featured work celebrates the beauty in unexpected places. There are a couple photos from his series Terrible Beauties in the exhibit which are pieces of garbage photographed in an abstract way. He referred to the work as “portraits of garbage” and pointed out how it almost gives the accumulation of waste an aesthetic. 

“I particularly like that fine line between awesomeness in terms of [having] so much wealth and activity that we can waste resources in such an affluent way, and this sort of disgust and terribleness of the accumulation of those things and the waste that comes with it,” said Scholes.

Artist and co-founder of the gallery François Arès also has work featured in the Just Semantics exhibition. Many of his pieces displayed are from his Inside/Out series, which explores themes of materialism and identity. Arès uses a drill bit on the surfaces of iconic, era-defining objects such as rotary phones and an eight mm camera to create a texture that appears fuzzy and draws the viewer in.

Read more: OBORO art center starts the year with two new exhibitions

‘Just Semantics’ features the works of 14 artists of all styles and mediums. Courtesy Robertson Arès Gallery

“I like this idea of having these iconic objects which are now put aside at flea markets or left in people’s basements [...] and repurpose them in a way that people are now proud to display them again,” said Arès. “I want you to recognize the iconic object from the past, but there’s something about it in its transformation that now elevates it to a piece of art.” 

Although the exhibition ranges widely in mediums and styles, there’s still a thread that ties it all together. Yip-Hoi’s love for weirdness and things that are out of the ordinary helped guide her in the curation process for Just Semantics

“Right now it’s harder to find the beauty in the everyday,” she said, adding the exhibition highlights how unconventionality is beautiful. “Everything [in the exhibition] is just so light and brilliant that it's really uplifting.”

Just Semantics comes to a close on Feb. 11. Hip-Yoi encouraged everyone to visit, even those who may be intimidated by art galleries. “I can’t stress it enough how wonderful and welcoming and thoughtful the gallerists are,” she said. “They don’t make you feel like you have to have a master of fine arts to step through their doors.”