curated by Na’ama Freeman

an exhibition of artworks by
Fehn Foss and sarah koekkoek

February 16 — April 18, 2024

list of works

Ghostly objects, things once there, bodies in motion, the sun. Grief renewed as a constant, whirling, and inescapable worry. How does one take and transform it into something with hope?

SOLARITY presents new and recent work by Fehn Foss and sarah koekkoek in which the artists expose the human relationship to the Earth and our collective responsibility to it at a time of ecological crisis. The duality of the sun is considered: an essential life-sustaining force and an entity agonising global heating. Both artists harness sunshine as a tool for creation through which they begin a relational process of transformation.

sarah koekkoek’s Sola(r)stalgia (2023) explores “solastalgia,” a neologism that describes emotional distress resulting from negatively perceived environmental change.[1] The work mirrors the sun’s movement across the sky, reflecting the amount of time each pose was held in stillness beneath the sun. The cotton rests across plinths built to the height of the artist’s shoulder, hip, and knee. This creates a visceral connection between ghostly impressions of the artist’s body and the viewer.

Delicately embroidered phrases punctuate certain junctures on the cotton, drawing attention to physical contortions evocative of grief’s internal manifestation. Sola(r)stalgia thus prompts reflection on our collective impact and responsibility towards the Earth amid profound environmental shifts, while also acknowledging the existence of ecological grief within oneself. It grants one permission to move up and through towards other possible and hopeful futures despite changes outside of our control.

Grief is also central to the work of holding and exiting (2023) by Fehn Foss. Lumen prints, found-object sculptures, and bronze spills are carefully arranged, reflecting concerns about overconsumption and material waste within late-capitalist systems. To work through what Foss calls “preemptive grief–[a] mourning for losses that feel inevitable, on the horizon, and already past,” scavenged items of discarded synthetic materials are pulled into the work and, with the help of the sun, imprinted onto photographic paper.[2]  

Overwhelming feelings of ecological grief are channelled into the lumen prints, showing up in hues of pinks, browns, purples, and yellows. The discarded objects placed atop the paper, once legible for consumptive use, transform into something new with a distinctly ghostly presence despite their inability to ever disappear from the environment. One might interpret the fleshy colours as a metaphorical bruising of the Earth, the objects impressed onto the paper creating a direct causal link. Yet it is in the ephemeral nature of the prints where a transformation occurs from a material exploration into a question of how we might begin to work with these materials and within local ecologies to open up new storylines.

Foss and koekkoek question our collective role in establishing new ways to envision shared alternative futures in a time defined by our response to a rapidly changing climate. The careful collection and care for discarded synthetic objects to embodied movement are archived in a more-than-human collaboration with the sun. These processes begin to build a new language to understand and move through grief and achieves poignantly beautiful and urgent moments of ephemerality and contemplation of a complex entangled existence. Together, Foss and koekkoek urge us to transform our thinking by turning toward an embrace of feelings of fear, dislocation, and environmental anxiety. They cultivate embodied relationships between themselves, others, and the Earth to transform grief into a call and response that is at once soft, beautiful, and inviting as it is urgent, unavoidable, and non-dismissible.

With thanks to Bryce Zimmerman (installation and fabrication support), Shawn Freeman (fabrication support), Al Barrett, and Lawrence Berardelli (software support).

[1] Albrecht, Glenn. “Environment Change, Distress & Human Emotion Solastalgia.” TEDxSydney presented at TEDxSydney, CarriageWorks, May 22, 2010.

[2] Foss, Fehn. “Don’t Let’s Go: Preemptive Grief, A World, and Others.” Master’s of Fine Arts, York University, 2023, 1.

About the Curator

Na’ama Freeman is an independent curator and researcher based between Toronto and Montreal. Her practice is rooted in intentional community-building and collaborative curatorial processes. Na’ama completed her MFA in Criticism and Curatorial Practice at OCAD University (2022), where she focused on the expansive possibilities and relationalities that walking and walking art can form. Currently, Na’ama balances between the corporate art sector, where she oversees art commissioning programmes in support of emerging artists, and with curatorial work in public art galleries. She has participated in the research, curation, and execution of numerous contemporary art exhibitions and public art programmes at venues including NAMARA Project Space, Dupont Rail, FENTSTER Gallery, The Power Plant, Evergreen Brick Works, AGO, Gallery 1313, among others. She is a co-founder and active member of both naka collective and Garden Creative Collective.

Fehn Foss (she/her) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and athlete based in Tsí-Tkaron:to/Toronto. She values the possibilities of art-making as a potential site for experimentation with materials and collaboration with human and non-human beings, in order to tell different stories. Foss recently completed her MFA in Visual Arts from York University (2023). Her thesis project was funded by a SSHRC Canada Graduate Scholarship and was nominated for YorkU’s Thesis Prize. Foss has exhibited her work at the Image Centre and Gallery 44 (Toronto), Knot Project Space (Ottawa), Eastern Edge (St. John’s) and the Art Gallery of Hamilton (Hamilton).

sarah koekkoek is an ecology focused multidisciplinary artist working with movement, dance, flora and biomaterials from Tkarón:to (Toronto) now based in London, England. Her research examines movement as a language that can help cultivate greater understanding and compassion with our relationship to self, others and the earth. Often, her movements are generated by nurturing the reciprocal relationships of human-human and human-nonhuman through embodied offerings such as dance, text and flora collaborations. Since 2017 sarah’s work has been exploring our punctured relationship and existence within the abused and exploited natural world, developing an environment of (physical) emotions surrounding climate change and the capitalocene.

An opening reception was held February 16, 2024 at NAMARA projects with treats by pastry artist Sidnichka