Covering the ecstatic body: the objects of improvisation, Michelle Forsyth at Papier 2022

4 - 7 August 2022
Covering the ecstatic body: the objects of improvisation is an installation of sculptural works and photographs by multidisciplinary artist Michelle Forsyth. Using paper and drawing as the starting point, the project includes a selection of clothing, sculptural pieces, and fashion drawings from Forsyth's series, Improvisations, furthering her interest in reproduction, pattern, and repetition.

The work of Michelle Forsyth explores notions of time, memory, and resilience in the everyday domain. Over the past ten years, the artist has evolved her fascination with domestic objects to understand the varied stages of her life. After Forsyth was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson's disease in her mid-30s, she developed her work around her belongings as a way to connect with her persona before the degenerative disease.

The artist examines the challenging relationship with her body through a meticulous craft-making process that spans sculptural objects, hand-painted backdrops, pattern design, and fabric printing. In Improvisations, Forsyth appears in the work for the first time, staging private performances in front of the camera with her body wrapped in clothing made by the artist’s hand. The result is a vibrant composition of layered coloured patterns that engulf her own form. Through close inspection, small traces of skin appear in the positions of her body. Hands, nails, or tattoos can be traced through the interweaving of colour and shape, revealing the artist's identity.

Michelle Forsyth is interested in handcrafts as they pertain to irregularity, inefficiency, and as the manifestation of haptic knowledge. The physical rhythms of reproducing patterns are time-consuming, and the meticulous action highlights the preciousness of time for the artist, who lives with a progressive disease. As her physical capabilities decrease, each mark or stitch is cherished as a record of the moment.

Forsyth holds an MFA from Rutgers University (New Brunswick, NJ); and a BFA from the University of Victoria (Victoria, BC). She currently holds a tenured position at OCAD University (Toronto, ON).
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