Unfolding Elements

By Sylvie Johnson

As you approach the gallery, Reef draws you into the doorway. With light bleeding in from the windows behind it, the vibrant hue of Lava oozes onto the white walls of the space and a glowing island of magma forms before your eyes.


When I was curating the pieces and layout for Elements: The Outside Within, I was thinking a lot about the natural elements themselves—the ones that inspired the palette in both hue and name.

Each colorway in the collection was essential, and it was necessary that every one of them was featured in the exhibition. All of the colors are connected because no element can be without the other. You can’t have the green of the flora without the radiance of the sun; you can’t have the green of the flora without the blue of the water, either; you again can’t have the green of the flora without the clay of the soil. That was the genesis of this collection. Focusing on the interconnectedness of all the elements, and of life itself.

What was interesting to me was that some of these essential ingredients, essential forces, are invisible most of the time. The fire of the Earth runs in the core, unseen. And yet, this fire is the cause of Earth.

With collections and exhibitions in the past, we have had colors that synthesize and reinforce each other, of course. But with this exhibition and collection specifically, it was really about the energy.

This is why the Lava colorway, as powerful as it is, is only in the entryway to the gallery. Without the energy of lava, there is no earth; starting from one point—the core—it creates everything. So having Reef at the entrance, as the first encounter of the exhibition, it serves as the source that flows out to create the other elements within the space.

In between the Lava and the Fern piece is the water, the sky—Brook. In between are all the elements that help to create the green of Fern, the life of flora. This green is the end. Throughout the whole gallery, you have the sun, the wind, the water, the soil… all of the energy that goes into green, all of the energy that is gathered, shared, and passed on along the way. So the green is separated from all the rest, and is given a spotlight.

People think that lava destroys everything… but lava is at the beginning, isn’t it?