Nick Payne: Bean of the Gods

June 25 – July 30, 2016

263 Adelaide St. W, suit 320
Toronto, On M5H 1Y2 Canada

Here is an image: 

A playground built upon the Cartesian plane. A child, named Persephone, runs and leaps onto the monkey bars. She swings from rung to rung before dropping to the ground. She leaves the boundaries of the playground only to take a breath before turning around to charge towards the structure again – this time from a new perspective. With each approach, the child moves through the flat landscape as if it was a canvas, a series of curving contours start to emerge marking the child’s trail. The strict lines that define the proportional space around the playground start to fade, the weight of each one of Persephone’s steps impresses heavier, and heavier, lines that act as evidence of the child’s experience. 

Created between 440-430 BCE, the so-called big Eleusinian Relief was found at Eleusis, Attica – a region of Athens. The marble relief carving depicts one of the great Eleusinian mysteries concerning Demeter, the goddess of agriculture and fertility, and her daughter Persephone. According to the legend, while Persephone was playing outside she was seized by Hades, the god of death and the underworld, and brought into his kingdom. So distraught from the disappearance of her daughter, Demeter neglected the agriculture of the Greek empire and the people began to starve. The Eleusinian Relief, and all the copies and reinterpretations that followed it, depicted these events through a series of narrative tableaus – void of any perspective. Artworks from this period were primarily concerned with the depiction of individual objects, which failed to represent the space in, and around, the objects. A millennia before Alberti would publish, Della pittura, the first study of perspective in painting, the Eleusinian Relief relied on the spirit of the young female child, or Kore, in order to create narrative depth in the absence of visual depth. The concept of the Kore was important throughout Grecian society. Statues and carvings depicting young women in relaxed poses with a kind, and gentle, disposition that lined the streets of cities like Athens in an effort to promote the good will and boundless spirit of the child. 20th Century Dutch architect, Aldo van Eyck, had a similar understanding of the importance of the child’s spirit within the city. Van Eyck constructed playgrounds throughout the Netherlands in order to create a world in which man could rediscover what is essential, in effect allowing the city to rediscover the child. Similar to the Eleusinian Relief, van Eyck’s playgrounds rely on an arrangement of elements that are, for the most part, fairly flat and geometric; however, when observing the totality of these elements it becomes clear that a world is created in the spaces between – only by way of embracing the social potential of the child’s spirit. 

By the graces of Zeus, Persephone was freed from Hades, under the condition that for four months out of the year she would return to the underworld. During each one of these periods, Demeter would become consumed with longing for her daughter, creating an annual summer drought. During these months, the Greeks were forced to eat reserves of fava beans until the fall when Demeter, and the Greeks, could rejoice in the return of Persephone. 

Parker Kay

* Images courtesy the artist and Roberta Pelan, Toronto