By Shannon Boklaschuk
Two University of Saskatchewan (USask) graduates are exploring the value of play through a residency and exhibition at the Kenderine Art Gallery on the USask campus.
Interdisciplinary artists Derek Sandbeck (BFA’11) and Andie Nicole Palynchuk (BFA’13) are alumni of USask’s College of Arts and Science, earning their Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees after studying studio art in the Department of Art and Art History. Now, years after their Convocation ceremonies, they are back on campus to produce an exhibition under their collaborative name, derdie. The duo’s residency runs until Oct. 8, and derdie’s resulting exhibition, entitled PLAY, will open on Oct. 8 and remain on view until Dec. 18.
Sandbeck and Palynchuk have known each other for many years and previously worked together on numerous projects, including curating and producing a variety of programming. They are also co-founding members of the Bridges Art Movement (BAM), a grassroots collective of Saskatoon-based visual artists that was established in 2014 to be a catalyst for local art and to support emerging and established artists.
Palynchuk said derdie—and its associated USask residency—is a natural progression for her and Sandbeck.
“It was time to work together in this way,” she said.
Through derdie, Sandbeck and Palynchuk’s artistic practice revolves around the exploration of play through visual, interactive and performance art. The duo sees play and art as essential for human well-being, as both encourage creative expression while developing imagination and expanding spiritual, physical, mental and emotional states. The duo’s goal at the Kenderdine Art Gallery is to construct an arena where play and art come together to create space to assess societal norms, break down barriers and cultivate joy.
“We really wholeheartedly believe that play is integral for human well-being, no matter what age you are,” said Palynchuk. “It’s a really fun way of learning and examining your environment and your relationships with other people.”
Sandbeck said the duo will convert the Kenderdine Art Gallery, located in the Agriculture Building on the USask campus, into a dynamic, colourful and playful space. The bright colours and crisp, geometric lines featured in the gallery are reminiscent of sports fields, uniforms and arenas, an aesthetic that resonates with both members of derdie.
“Play is just so vital, and we’re so opposed to it as adults; you don’t think you’re allowed to anymore, unless it’s in places like sports—where you’re a professional and you’re allowed to keep playing a game, as long as you get paid for it,” Sandbeck said. “Why can’t you keep playing anyway? It feels so nice, and it brings so much joy.”
One of the things that will make the exhibition unique is that people will be encouraged to touch and play with slip-cast sports equipment when they visit the gallery. For example, Sandbeck and Palynchuk are creating brightly coloured ceramic tennis balls that visitors can hold and hit with rackets; and if the ceramic balls happen to crack or break, that’s just fine.
“It’s OK for things to break,” said Sandbeck. “A lot of the thoughts around the ceramics are taking these very common objects used in sports and then elevating them with ceramics, but still challenging people to still play with them—to take this object and use it how you normally would and see what that does for people.”
“You can hit them back and forth to one another,” said Palynchuk. “The intention with that is to look at what we’re ‘allowed’ to play with and the fragility of ceramic art objects and how we’re not supposed to touch art objects—but we’re encouraging that.”
Exhibition curator and fellow USask graduate Leah Taylor (BFA’04) said PLAY will combine immersive sculptural installations, colourful painted murals and ceramic objects. Taking familiar forms, such as sports equipment, court lines, nets and AstroTurf, the artists have reconstructed the materials with an aim to dismantle underlying presumptions about their uses, she said.
“Andie and Derek’s unique individuality as artists is what contributes to the success of forming a duo; the artwork doesn’t exist without their ongoing, collaborative exchange of ideas and energy,” said Taylor.
“I think this exhibition is going to provide viewers with a welcomed moment of fun—a convivial, joyful, contemporary art experience. The artists are creating a dialogue around how playful connection can affect one’s well-being, and this could not ring more true than today, as our global society refigures what wellness could look like. Moreover, their practice addresses critical issues around normative associations with masculinity, femininity and accessibility found in sport. They achieve this all through their lens of play.”
The Kenderdine Art Gallery is now open for regular viewing hours Monday – Friday, from 10 am to 4 pm. Please note that everyone coming to USask campuses must follow USask’s vaccination measures and masking requirement.