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Artists challenging perception in new Okotoks exhibition

Works by Laura Payne and Sinéad Ludwig-Burgess on display at Okotoks Art Gallery through March 31.
Artist Laura Payne stands in the light of her installation 'HYPERRADIAL' at the Okotoks Art Gallery on Jan. 14, 2023. The exhibition is on display until March 31.

The Okotoks Art Gallery’s new exhibitions examine the interaction of humanity and artifice.

HYPERRADIAL by Okotoks newcomer Laura Payne features three different installations exploring the mixture of colours often seen in the big skies of the Prairie provinces.

“I started this kind of light body of work – I'm also a painter – and I started getting fixated on these line paintings and I did a light installation very similar to these with just planks of painted wood and that was the beginning of this sort of projecting light on paint,” said Payne, originally from Ontario.  

“Shortly thereafter I moved to Saskatchewan, and living there really impacted my perspective on natural light phenomena; it’s totally different being further north than living in southern Ontario.

“I’m not just talking about the Northern Lights, but also those subtle-but-vivid spectrums of colour in the cloudless sky at dawn or dusk, or the way that hot pink light in November hits the buildings in the city.

“What I guess I wanted to do is synthesize, artificially, this sort of feeling of witnessing an ephemeral light phenomenon in nature – I want to bottle it, put it in something.”

At the centre is a large piece initially deceiving to the eye. What seems to be simply a projection of light and colour onto a wall is actually the intermingling of physical paint with a projected pattern of light.

The pattern of vibrant colours is painted onto the wall, and then a facsimile of it projected over top in alignment, with the added twist that the projection shifts slowly and subtly, causing the colours to change as light and new tones emerge as the two intermingle.

Accompanying the centerpiece are two other installations, one featuring three bands of shifting light, facilitated by coloured translucent material backed by shifting coloured RGB diodes, the other a tartanesque pattern challenging the perception of sight.

“Of course it’s square, which is not typically what you would think of kaleidoscopic, but I wanted to disorient the viewer – there's not necessarily a horizon here – it's almost more portal-like,” Payne said.

“You can never really see what the pure colour is coming through, everything is colour filtered through colour, so it creates this kind of ephemeral hue.”

The Embodied Self, a series of sculptures by Calgary-based Sinéad Ludwig-Burgess occupies the main gallery space.

Possibly the most striking pieces in the space are part of a smaller series by Ludwig-Burgess, named Ephemeral Romances: Love & Attachment, with isolated human features bound by chain, yet adorned with butterflies.

“I was juxtaposing hard and soft material, man-made and natural materials such as clay, then obviously the steel – kind of man versus nature themes,” said Ludwig-Burgess.

“Also this was also playing with concepts revolving around love and fear; having love-based thoughts and fear-based thoughts and how those limiting beliefs can kind of block us.

"I was using abstract representations of the figure to kind of show those areas in the body, in the core from the stomach to the head, where we can get blocked in those areas when it comes to fear."

Artist Sinéad Ludwig-Burgess' series of sculptures, titled 'The Embodied Self' sits on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery on Jan. 14, 2023. The exhibition is on display until March 31. Brent Calver/OkotoksTODAY

Front and center on the gallery’s stage area is another piece of entwined metal work forming a bridge, upon which two figures meet.

“It represents a spiritual bridge, connecting to people coming into each other’s lives,” Ludwig-Burgess said. “That doesn’t necessarily have to mean romantic, but just the impact that people have that they come into your life, whether that be a teacher or friend or a peer, and how that sets the tone for other areas in your life.”

While different themes and styles are explored, they all share the concept of a human reshaping of inhuman objects.

“I use organic influences to make reference to nature, and how things come across organically,” Ludwig-Burgess said. “I like to use natural materials and man-made materials to push that concept that we’re always going to be embodied by nature.”

The exhibitions are on display at the Okotoks Art Gallery until March 31. For more information visit


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