The Presence of Absence
Towards Gallery, Toronto, Ontario
September 9 - October 14, 2023
Three metal sculptures hang on a wall accompanied by four paintings. The works hold empty space, voids that can be filled with experience, memories or grief. Absence is of course about loss, not only for what is missing, but also a longing for what could have been. An unknowable future of endless possibilities.
In her 2013 essay Seeing Absence, philosopher Anna Farennikova discusses how the perception of absence presents a paradox. In it, she writes “On prevailing models of perception, we see only present objects and scenes… So, we cannot literally see something that is not present. This suggests that we never literally perceive absences; instead, we come to believe that something is absent cognitively… But this cognitive explanation does not do justice to the phenomenology. Many experiences of absence possess immediate, perceptual qualities.”
These perceptual qualities inform Yellin’s most recent work. Using absence and it’s framing, she examines highly personal yet universal questions. How does one begin to process grief? What does it mean to carry the psychological weight of loss? Her works hover back and forth, oscillating between their rigidity and their softer more organic elements. This duality is a hallmark of Yellin’s practice: structures and systems are created, and then diverted. Hard metal braces against soft silicone. Industrial materials reveal traces of the handmade.
Uniting Yellin’s larger practice is an examination of such fundamental themes as psyche, memory, the body, and grief. To this end, the works within The Presence of Absence are less about what is missing, and more about what remains.