Sailing the Sky

at first glance, Erin Corbett’s art show, Flying With Paper Boats, appears rather simplistic.

The latest installation of art at Baked Cafe, the show appears to have a fairly minimalist structure; anyone already late for work might only have time to register a few strings of colourful origami boats dangling daintily from a spindly mobile, or perhaps the few instructional watercolours that dot the walls.

However, those who stay to enjoy their morning lattes will doubtless find themselves pleasantly surprised upon a more leisurely perusal of the gallery. Closer inspection reveals patterns, complexities and even mediums that aren’t necessarily hidden, but simply require a second look.

PHOTO: Erin Corbett

Simple, folded paper boats are the focus of the show; in pastels, painted, metallic silver or plain white, they hang delicately on threads from overhead lamps, the potted tropical tree and the airy wooden mobile overhead, ethereal and wistful.

On the side wall, a small space is covered in pieces of translucent and lightly coloured paper held down with tape, creating a textured surface. Beside and across it, a small fleet of paper boats swoops in a graceful fixed arrangement, accenting the place across which, during the dark of morning and evening, a projector will be playing images of sky and clouds.

On the rest of the walls, simple black frames enclose pen-and-ink watercolours of boats. One reads like an instruction manual, with drawn and written instructions on how to fold boats. Another simply shows the folded papers through each step.

Others are less instructional – one piece depicts a single origami boat in the process of sinking in water, while the picture beside it features a sketched boat through various stages of deconstruct.

Corbett’s inspiration for the project sprung from a story about Peter Pan and the English Romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley. She also likes to work with the concept of multiplicity.

“These things that we assume are boats can be lots of other things as well. There’s a lot of multiplicity in my work,” she says.

“Boats are transportation, usually by water, but why by water? Why not by sky? Which is where the projector comes in… I wanted to create a situation where these boats have wings.”

For Corbett, the combination of the projection into her other mediums is essential to the gallery, adding realism to the display as well as an added element of light and shadow.

“The projection is just videos of clouds shot from an airplane, which gives it that magical kind of feel,” she says.

“That’s projected on the back wall, all that paper is translucent and textured with tape, colour or layering, or on the boats that are on it. Also, the projection hits the mobile, which creates the effect of boats in the sky.”

Corbett’s goal for the show was to make it accessible and fun for the audience by using familiar materials and imagery, as well as to add a little light-hearted silver lining to the mid-winter blues. So far, she says, the reception has been good.

“I think people are getting the fun and playfulness, which is what I wanted,” she says.

“I mean, it’s inspired by Peter Pan and a Romantic 19th century poet. And it’s winter, we all work a lot, so I wanted to bring a little more light and magic to the winter, to celebrate the beauty of it.

“I’m just hoping that when people come in and see it, they get a little bit of brightness added to their day.”

Flying With Paper Boats will be showing at Baked Cafe until the first week of February.

Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.

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