Omer Arbel’s new “Particles for the Built World” exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

ART

PHOTOS: Fabric-formed concrete strengthens new Surrey gallery show and house under construction

Designer Omer Arbel’s work in ‘Particles for the Built World’ exhibit and at South Surrey home

What do Surrey Art Gallery’s new feature exhibit and a house under construction in South Surrey have in common?

This spring, everything.

The gallery’s main space focuses on concrete-themed work of Omer Arbel, who also designed a unique new family home taking shape in the Hazelmere area.

The Vancouver/Berlin artist’s “Particles for the Built World” show opened Saturday (April 13) and involved Arbel in a standing-room-only Q&A session led by Jordan Strom, the gallery’s curator of exhibitions and collections, in the arts centre’s studio theatre.

Essentially, Arbel wonders this: What if we poured concrete into fabric forms rather than plywood boxes or tube columns used in most building construction?

Arbel’s solo exhibit, his first at SAG, features several sections of a large, cone-shaped concrete slab he created with the help of a “giant fabric sock” at a warehouse in Vancouver in January.

CLICK HERE to see video of the concrete being cut on March 5.

“It’s almost like a loaf of bread cut into slices,” Arbel told the Now-Leader, “and by doing that we wanted to give people insight into the form of the concrete. By slicing the pieces, it’s almost like giving the viewer X-ray vision, to perceive what the structure of the form was inside.”

The exhibit includes the concrete pieces and, in an adjacent space, an architectural model, drawings and video of the home construction site in South Surrey.

“That gives the audience an ability to understand the architectural ramifications of this technique,” Arbel noted of his concrete work.

On the afternoon of Saturday, May 4, from 1 to 4:30 p.m., Surrey Art Gallery will host a bus tour to the site of the South Surrey house, dubbed “75.9” in line with Arbel’s use of numbers as titles of his work.

The house is on a lot adjacent to another home Arbel designed about a decade ago.

“The owners (of the newer house) fell in love with the idea,” said Arbel, who won’t publicly name the home owners.

“This idea was a serious question mark due to costs and some other factors. It’s a roll of the dice for everyone involved.”

His process allows for the “soft and voluptuous curvature of concrete” to take shape, as a more accurate reflection of the material’s once-liquid state.

“It’s sort of born out of a critique I have about conventional concrete construction,” Arbel explained.

“Conventionally, concrete is poured into plywood form work and predominantly rectilinear geometries, and my critique of that is, first of all, it’s very expensive, and most of that expense comes from labour, and it’s materially wasteful because most of that plywood is downgraded if not discarded after the pour. And it’s time-consuming too.”

CLICK HERE for a look at Omer Arbel’s work, on omerarbel.com.

The method is one Arbel has been developing over the past five years or so.

“The basic principle of it is to use ribs of a rigid material – it could be anything, and for the house project we’re working on, they are made of plywood but in the future we do envision something like steel rods, bent steel rods, and the interesting thing there is that steel could be reused.

“The rods are deployed in a radial pattern, with some space between them – they’re flared,” Arbel continued. “And then what amounts to a giant sock, essentially, is placed inside of it, like a giant fabric sock made out of geotextile, an inexpensive, very tough tarp-like material used under road beds, that kind of thing. You can get a whole roll, hundreds of linear feet of it for, like, $300 or $400. So these giant socks are placed inside these sort of cages, and then concrete is very slowly poured in, and the fabric responds to the pressure of the concrete and wicks the water through the material.”

At the South Surrey house, three years in the works and not yet ready for occupancy, the result is concrete pillars that look like giant martini glasses.

“At the gallery,” Arbel noted, “we’re presenting more of a sculptural investigation using the same technique. At the construction site I don’t get to cut these things, so there they remain a little bit mysterious. In the gallery, I wanted to sort of break down that mystery.”

Saturday’s event also marked the opening of the gallery’s other spring exhibits, which include “The Way Things Go” (a 30-minute film documenting a chain reaction of objects set up inside a warehouse, made in 1987 by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss) and Steve DiPaola’s “Pareidolia” (an artisting rendering of Surrey Arts Centre “through the eyes of a machine”).

Arbel’s “Particles for the Built World” is on view at SAG until June 16.

He’ll give a free exhibition tour of his work on Thursday, May 16, starting at 7 p.m. The gallery is located at 13750 88th Ave., at Bear Creek Park.

Those who join the May 4 bus tour of the “75.9” house in South Surrey must pay a fee of $39.

To register, visit surrey.ca or call 604-501-5566.

The sprawling rancher offers “sweeping vistas of Surrey farmland,” according to an event advisory from gallery operators. The concrete pillars “add curves to an otherwise modernist rectilinear house and are hollow to hold the roots of rooftop trees.”

The tour will also include a look at Arbel’s “23.2” home next door.

The sprawling rancher offers “sweeping vistas of Surrey farmland,” according to an event advisory from gallery operators. The concrete pillars “add curves to an otherwise modernist rectilinear house and are hollow to hold the roots of rooftop trees.”

The tour will also include a look at Arbel’s “23.2” home next door.

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Under construction, the “75.9” home designed by Omer Arbel in South Surrey is connected to the artist’s current exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery. A tour of the home is planned for May 4. (submitted photo: Fahim Kassam)

Artist Omer Arbel (left) and Surrey Art Gallery’s Jordan Strom in conversation at the arts centre’s studio theatre on Saturday, April 13. (Photo: Tom Zillich)

Concrete forms used for Omer Arbel’s “Particles for the Built World” exhibit at Surrey Art Gallery, in a warehouse in Vancouver prior to installation at the gallery at Bear Creek Park. (submitted photo)

A look at the concrete used in construction of the “75.9” home designed by Omer Arbel in South Surrey. A tour of the home is planned for May 4, leaving from Surrey Art Gallery. (submitted photo: Fahim Kassam)

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