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flight2 takes wing – virtually – at the Aurora Cultural Centre

December 10, 2020   ·   0 Comments

Muhammad Ali once famously once likened his moves in the ring to a butterfly – before going in with the sting. For him, the winged insects were a symbol of grace and movement, almost like a dance.

The Aurora Cultural Centre is using the butterfly as another basis of comparison, this time with professional dance, with the continuation of their virtual “flight2” exhibition, which has now been extended through February 27.

flight2 brings together the work of award-winning artists Gordon Becker, who is presenting evocative sculptures of dancers, and Grazyna Tonkiel, whose drawings of butterflies show exactly why she refers to them as “mystic creatures.”

“Both butterflies and dancers may seem delicate but their endurance skills are incredible and they find the strength to go beyond what might be expected,” said curator Clare Bolton in a statement. “The exquisite artwork in flight² is the perfect example of artists testing their own limits of expression and striving for what seems impossible. It is my hope that this exhibition will inspire you during these challenging times and make you aware of the beauty and joy all around us in both Nature and in our own abilities to go beyond the expected.”

Going beyond the expected is something Becker very much strives for in his work.

He first remembers a passion for carving and sculpture at the age of 11 living just outside Waterloo where he was fed a steady diet of films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. One particular film charted the creative process of an Inuit sculptor who took “an ordinary lump of stone and just started bashing away with axes, hatchets and files.”

“At the end, he held up this image just loaded down with magic and power,” he says. “I went home and told my parents, ‘I’m going to be a carver,’ and that Christmas I got a little set of carving tools as a gift. That is when I started and it has never really stopped.

Although he has studied in stone, bronze and steel, wood is Becker’s preferred medium

“It is a living material and it is also unpredictable,” he says. “It also has a certain fragility that others don’t.”

The grace of dancers on stage might give the suggestion of fragility, but significant strength is there below the surface.

“Every movement [the dancers] make is absolutely at the limit of what they can possibly do as a human being and the butterflies live their entire existence at the edge,” he says. They are moving at the very limit of what they can do. In fact, they go way beyond what we think they should be able to do looking at how fragile they are. It is a similar kind of dynamic where the dancer is going to what we call ‘threshold.’ There is nothing left when they finish their dance, or when they come down from a leap and they land. They think, ‘that’s it. There’s no more energy left,’ and off they go again.”

He is drawn, he says, to images of dancers caught in extraordinary and impressive positions that last just for a fraction of a second. “Then the work starts,” he says. “In the case of this particular series, it is my own innovation in trying to use materials nobody has ever done before and I don’t think anybody is going to try again either, because it is so bloody difficult.

“I hope they walk away with a sense of having witnessed something that is beyond what you would normally expect a human being to be able to do. Dancers do that. How do they make those moves? How can they possibly do that? Butterflies do the same thing. How can they possibly do that?”

Next week, Ms. Tonkiel helps address that question.

For more on flight2, the virtual and interactive exhibition, and a full gallery of works presently installed at Town Hall and up for sale, visit

By Brock Weir
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter



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