Medrie MacPhee: Seeing is Knowing

April 1 - 22, 2023

Opening reception with the artist: Saturday, April 1st from 1 - 3pm

RSVP | Artist talk with Sara Angel, Founder & Executive Director of the Art Canada Institute:  Saturday, April 1st at 1pm


Nicholas Metivier Gallery is pleased to announce Seeing is Knowing, an exhibition of new paintings by Medrie MacPhee. The exhibition will open on April 1st and run until April 22nd. This is MacPhee’s second solo exhibition at the gallery. 


About five years ago, Medrie MacPhee began to rethink her paintings. … She started collaging parts of cutup garments to her canvases, fitting them together like puzzles, letting their welted seams define taut shapes that now extend edge to edge. She replaced a familiar illusionism with an adamant, witty physicality. They are powerfully flat, more literal than abstract.

– Roberta Smith, The New York Times


Seeing is Knowing continues Medrie MacPhee’s acclaimed series that transforms second hand clothing into an intricate matrix that acts as the foundation for her paintings. Several years ago, she had a breakthrough when she pinned a single sock to a canvas. A major breach in her sensibility, it opened up a new way of working that resisted figurative representation. Instead of looking into space like a window, the collaged fabric brings the focus to the surface. Her recent works engage with the world in different ways, including its references to the body.


MacPhee’s titles help to illustrate her intuitive thought process, connecting abstraction to reality. A rope-like, linear work titled Eva, is an homage to Eva Hesse while a monochromatic blue painting punctuated by two small yellow squares is titled, Canary, (as in the canary in the coal mine metaphor). In other works, she alludes the act of making. I’m Staying, a painting that includes a large section of exposed plaid fabric, protests its inevitable painted surface, and wins.


The exhibition also includes two of MacPhee’s garments which are also made from second-hand clothing. This is the first time these have been exhibited alongside the paintings. While not intended to be worn, they can be and are equipped with zippers and pockets. They emphasize MacPhee’s dark sense of humour, taking what was once considered an anti-feminist skill and subverting it to align with her unique visual language. 


Dark humor is core to my view of humans and their strivings that are always getting in the way of often inchoate emotions. It turns the unbearable, bearable.  I don’t make “humorous” paintings but the fact of their existence is. The “architecture” of the painting is braced by the clothing underneath. The clothing has no dignity when it’s being pawed over in a second-hand bin. There’s a kind of Beckett-ian humor in elevating these sad remainders into a new and loftier realm.      

 – Medrie MacPhee