On now at The Surrey Art Gallery, The Deep and the Shallows by Diane Roy is a sprawling gaze into the depths and dangers of our oceans.
The show exudes a tactile sense of mystery as if Roy had plunged into the water herself and brought back a physical account of what she discovered there.
A collection of crocheted, knitted, and woven sculptures from her four-decade-long career, each piece shows how Roy has achieved a mastery of textiles in that time. The show’s centrepiece, The Magnificent, is a staggering testament to this progression of craft. Created over three years, the piece is a life-sized tapestry of a blue whale’s head. This colossus boldly hangs on the main wall, giving the feel that you’ve entered its den when you walk into the gallery. Her most ambitious piece to date, it was made by hand, using reused foil plastic. The salvaged materials are Roy’s means of showing the threat that this type of debris continues to pose to the world’s largest mammals and countless other marine species.
This theme of preservation runs throughout the show as Roy has pivoted towards more environmentally-focused work in recent years. Using the waters off the West Coast for inspiration (especially the Salish Sea), her passion for the ocean can be felt in every piece. Although the bold presence of her work accurately shows the majesty and beauty of underwater life, the soft materials of each piece also allude to their fragile nature.
Recreations of blossoming coral and sea anemones dot the room, while black fabric sea kelp hangs on the far wall. It’s a stark contrast to the more aggressive and solid forms of sculpture, such as steel and bronze. Here, there’s an element of flux as each work remains malleable, much like the ebb and flow of the waves.
Further into the space, Roy again shows her technical prowess with Curtain of Death, which all but fills up an adjacent room. Suspended from the ceiling, the installation hovers above the viewer like an ominous cloud. Ropes intertwined with buoys and knots, it speaks to the chaos and destruction that industrial fishing has caused throughout our waters. It’s hard not to follow each line with your eye and try to unravel the clutter, but at a certain point, you’re left thinking that only cutting each tie would offer an actual resolution. It speaks to how deeply embedded these imperfect practices are in our oceans.
It’s a stern warning that gives a grounded balance to Roy’s natural sense of playfulness. Walking back through the space after seeing Curtain of Death, I had a new appreciation for Roy’s communication of her perspective. Sadly it often takes seeing the destruction of something to truly appreciate the beauty of it.
The Deep and the Shallows runs until September 3, 2023
For more information, visit surrey.ca/arts-culture/surrey-art-gallery
Surrey Art Gallery: From King George Skytrain Station, take the R1 Newton Exchange bus to 88th Ave. It’s about a 5-minute walk from there!
To easily plan the route for your next artistic outing, you can use the TransLink Trip Planner.