Derek Sullivan calls our perspectives into question

Toronto artist’s new temporary installation piece is unveiled at Agnes Etherington

Crowds admire Derek Sullivan’s mural in the lobby of the AEAC.
Image by: Arwin Chan
Crowds admire Derek Sullivan’s mural in the lobby of the AEAC.

Artist Derek Sullivan is looking to break the bond between image and experience.

Spanning the entire wall above the entrance, Sullivan’s dynamic installation piece entitled “The Problems That Arise from Continually Confusing Left & Right” is the first thing viewers see upon entering the Agnes Etherington Arts Centre (AEAC).

The concept behind the artwork itself is exactly what the title suggests, according to Sullivan.

“I’ve always had difficulty distinguishing between left and right. I think it’s because left and right, and all directions, are such a fluid and contextual thing. It’s all about our perception,” he said.

Sullivan is a Toronto-based artist born in Richmond Hill. He received his BFA from York University and his MFA from Guelph University. As a practicing artist, he shows his work at prominent galleries in Toronto – like the Power Plant – and other galleries throughout Europe.

The piece, which is meant to mimic the unfolding of a hinged ruler, was created entirely using blue- and red- coloured pencil crayons. From afar the viewer may not be able to tell, but up close the sketching and detail make it clearer.

Pencil crayon may seem like an odd choice for such a large wall drawing, but Sullivan specified that he prefers to work with unexpected mediums.

“I prefer to use smaller, less over-used mediums in my work,” he said.

“I like the idea of the use of common materials such as pencil crayon as opposed to something imposing like paint. It makes the art feel almost like a ready-made.” A testament to human perception and association, Sullivan wanted viewers to question their initial reaction to the directions of the ruler and the use of red and blue side by side.

We may associate the colours red and blue with hot and cold, or the directions left and right with our writing and non-writing hand. The immediate association made with these images may be different for everyone, and what Sullivan strives to achieve is to have the viewer question “why?”

The piece is temporary. According to Sullivan, the AEAC intends to paint over it following the exhibit, which plays into the ready-made and non-permanent side of Sullivan’s work.

“We, as the viewers, are constantly making judgments from our relevant position at the present moment,” Sullivan said.

“And that’s what I really wanted to emphasize and make people think about with this piece.”


art opening, Derek Sullivan

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