Shadow of the Hollow

Opening reception
Fri Apr 26 | 5 - 7 pm
Artist in attendance

Apr 26 - Jun 8

Accompanying exhibition text by author Dr. Kaitlyn Purcell

Shadow of the Hollow

Accompanying exhibition text by Author, Dr. Kaitlyn Purcell


Shadow of the Hollow is a series of tactile meditations on the poiesis of caves and stalagmite formations. Playfully idolizing the hidden bodies of earth with bronze and graphite, Taal immortalizes its darkest and most shadowy forms.

Under the earth lives the speleologist’s dream, the formation of stalactites and stalagmites appear like the entwinement of two forests, underneath the earth above becomes below. Some call this a devil’s church, but no man-made church is exempt from harbouring evil. The earth is both beautiful and grotesque. To embrace what is below is to become beautiful despite it all. When we say we understand the poetics of going for a walk, or putting our bare feet into the below, we create the teeth of this hole. Darkness gets grounded in these water roots. Here, the fear of texture does not exist, and we learn the practices of honouring the dead.

Get yourself grounded in a new way, beyond the surface, beneath the root systems of flora there is a place for water and spirit to rest. The stones are alive, never forget. This formation of ghosts takes place slowly over millennia. Adore and respect this process, and the lightless parts of ourselves. If we can learn to appreciate our darkest places, we might find our way home.

Maybe we need to get grounded like objects of interest on these waterways. The dome ceiling becomes alive again. No man-made church is exempt from depictions of people that meant something grotesque. To embrace what is below is to become the political state of that world.

A slow kiss between above and below create the teeth of this hole. Darkness becomes so loud it forms pieces of a looking glass. There is a fear of texture that exists. In this world, texture is the most wonderful thing. The fear of becoming textured and imperfect reveals a kind of depravity of our world. We are all haunted, and our fears are fed detachment, delusions, and concealers, filling this world with a wasteland. What if we could learn to play inside our horrors?

Our fears are animate beings. This is an observed standard that fills our world with a wasteland and wonder. We immortalize the bodies of places, and these formations create water that means something. Without pausing at any of these places, where water and mineral have created these giant coffins, we crawl through the hole behind our fear of caves. Our fear is a bottomless pit that limits our journey. Our fear is a bottomless map. After passing from under with all the ways we are taught to perceive rocks, the path becomes sinuous and rough. This wonder is called the valley of humiliation. It is created from water and minerals, and some curious formations of ghosts. We did not explore it but turned right to process the lightless part of the world.

To immortalize the hollow, Taal introduces viewers to his poetic human-like forms. Contemplating a fear he had imagined, Taal’s work is deeply embodied and theoretical of solitude. This part of the cave is imagined, eventually transforming the haunting into a more rude and irregular character. Here, the ceiling exists. We learn to experience its texture. When you look down into its edges, its imperfections reveal a kind of depravity within yourself. We play in the dark until the world becomes whole again.

Aiming to create atmospheres of uncertainty, Sean Jena Taal blurs the dichotomy between comfort and discomfort, real and imagined, observed and observer. Meticulously detailed graphite drawings render fictionalized spaces of psycho-karstology that question what’s looking back from the depths and what forms grow in hostile spaces. The drawings focus on exploring caves as psychological landscapes of living beings through pareidolia, water reflections, and wrapping stone in camouflage fabrics. They are playful proposals of caves as living altars of birth and death, growing and changing below us. Layers of growth lay upon one another to act as foundations for subsequent generations of calcification and deposits. Hairs forming strings of keratin, smoke soot bunching to be visible, flowstones and stalactites crystalizing. They grab onto one another to form communal bodies hidden away in troglophilic worlds. Dripping fingers reach down in birth canals towards erect mounds. Gushing water gurgles and sprinkles falling into pools of soft rock and acid, flowing through hidden landscapes where bodies are annihilated and reborn.

Sean Jena Taal is a visual artist from Mohkinstsis/Calgary, Alberta. He graduated from the Alberta University of the Arts with a BFA in drawing in 2015. In 2012, he attended the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design’s New York Studio Residency Program. In 2022 he attended the Gil Artist Residency in Akureyri, Iceland and the Banff Centre for Arts & Creativity in 2023. His most recent solo exhibition Witch’s Fingers was at the Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Maansiksikaitsitapiitsinikssin, Lethbridge in 2023.

Art Inquiry