Elizabeth MacKenzie, Unlikeness. Installation documentation, Teck Gallery, 2020. Photos: Rachel Topham Photography.

Elizabeth MacKenzie: Unlikeness

August 31, 2020 – April 25, 2021
Teck Gallery
Tuesday – Thursday, 12 – 5PM
Book Gallery Visit

Elizabeth MacKenzie's extensive drawing-based practice examines the psychological interactions that occur between images and their viewers. Unlikeness, a new installation for Teck Gallery, emerges from her ongoing drawing series of the same name. Within these drawings, MacKenzie uses a brush to animate graphite pigment as it floats upon small sheets of stone paper (a paper-like material made from calcium carbonate bonded with resin), creating numerous ambiguous images that evoke human faces. As she pushes and pulls the brush, the artist conjures features that appear and disappear, playing with the tension between mark making and the illusion it creates. The face-like images created through this particular method are ambiguous, but call to mind a range of races, genders, ages, and expressions. 

For Teck Gallery, MacKenzie uses high-resolution digital images of small drawings to create beyond-human-scale digital prints on watercolour paper that are torn out of larger sheets. The black and white images are ambiguous and surreal; they confront and disturb the viewer, inviting them to face their inner selves. The organization of features may call to mind a specific likeness for the viewer, depending on their state of mind, personal experience and memory. These images depend on pareidolia, the psychological phenomenon that describes our human tendency to interpret a range of vague stimuli as something familiar, such as seeing shapes in clouds or faces in inanimate objects, or hearing hidden messages in music. Unlikeness challenges us to confront the complexity of recognition through images that float between the familiar and unfamiliar. Through these works the artist considers how far a face can be abstracted and still remain legible as a face. How much do we project onto the images we encounter, and from where do these projections arise?

A conversation between the artist and curator on the conceptual and practice-based lineages at play in Unlikeness is available on the SFU Galleries blog.

Elizabeth MacKenzie is a Vancouver-based artist whose current work in drawing interrogates portraiture as an ambiguous, shifting field of interaction and interpretation. Her works have been presented in numerous screenings and exhibitions across Canada, the United States and Europe. She maintains an ongoing commitment to collaborative and community-based art practices, critical writing and teaching.

Makiko Hara is an independent curator, born in Tokyo, Japan, who lives and works in Vancouver. Hara was the chief curator at Centre A from 2007 – 2013. Her curatorial practice aims to create platforms for dialogue and exchange across the Pacific Ocean. Her ongoing, long-term research project considers the transformation of women artists' art practices as they age with wisdom. 

Curated by Makiko Hara

Described Tour

This described tour of Unlikeness is offered as a point of access for people who are blind, people who live with vision loss or sighted folks who are interested in how meaning is made from looking.

This tour is designed and delivered by Stephanie Bokenfohr, an independent producer focused on performance and access. Opening music and sound editing by Jean Brazeau.

Video Documentation

Video by Samwick Productions

Support Material