In the exhibition The heart can’t wait—running at Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto from June 27 to August 22—Chinese artist Steven Beckly uses photography, sculpture and installation to create little monuments dedicated to the drama of human emotion.
The title is drawn from a short story by American playwright Tennessee Williams (1911-1983) and alludes to the heart’s urgent and relentless impulse for life—and meaningful bonds. As a vital organ, it pumps and circulates blood, providing oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body. Psychologically, the heart links mind and body, intellect and emotion. Culturally, it has been a prevalent philosophical, political and spiritual symbol since the time of the Ancient Greeks.
In The heart can’t wait, Beckly cultivates poetic readings of the heart’s chambers, channels and connections to give content and form to matters of the heart: love, desire and loss. Suspending in the gallery space and protruding from the walls, Beckly’s works heighten the tension between attraction and friction, force and vulnerability. Through acts of rupture and repair, The heart can’t wait addresses the heart’s capacity to illuminate loss and heartbreak while holding love and compassion as conditions for personal and collective transformation.
“Soft Spot” shows the tender print of a palm below a photo of cardiac anatomy, hinting an initial impression of one person upon another. A white torso is caught within tight red ropes in “Sub Rosa”, indicating the pain, impatience, a certain tightness and suffocation that come with desire. But chains hold and keep the torso from falling off—perhaps the link of love, no matter how distressing, is precisely what prevents decline? In “Star-Crossed”, two legs point to different directions, as if bound for different destinies—but remain connected by red ropes—seemingly incapable of being too independent, in the end.
In “Turning Point”, a fingernail reaches for a little ring with chains emerging from its sides. Maybe it symbolises that moment where an entire life was changed—after an encounter with someone new. Other pieces refer to the gravity of love, queer attachment, violence, tears and fire. Together, the works of the exhibition give us an unusual perspective into the very phenomenon that makes us human—our capacity to feel for and want another.
Steven Beckly obtained a BSc in Psychology from the University of Toronto in 2009, which was followed by an MFA in Studio Art from the University of Guelph in 2016. His work, he writes, “explores the messy affairs between optics and haptics, materiality and sensuality, self and community”. Considering the essential elements that link the individual and the collective, Beckly’s practice uncovers the ways in which living and loving intertwine. The artist carefully sets up situations in which the viewer can have intimate encounters with images and objects. He lives and works in Toronto.
Recent and upcoming solo exhibitions include Lightbringer at Stride Gallery, Calgary (2020); Love S.O.S. at Centre3, Hamilton (2019); and Meirenyu at Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto (2018). Beckly’s work has been included in exhibitions at the Remai Modern, Saskatoon (2019); The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (2019); and the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal (2017).