Phantom Limb


Shyra De Souza


January 16 to February 28, 2015


opening Friday January 16 at 5pm



Exhibition Sponsor


Phantom Limb

A phantom is evoked by this large-scale sculptural installation where the component parts become the vertebrae of a structure occupying the entire gallery.

The installation is built from a set of found objects: wooden furniture pieces act as pedestals supporting a series of porcelain sculptures suspended and arranged in such a way that they resemble the spinal column of some unknown creature. Among other things, one might be reminded of dinosaur exhibits in natural history museums, or even the whale skeleton that hangs from Science North’s ceiling.

Acknowledging the fact that the raw materials in her work are essentially thrift-shop finds, the artist describes them as “discarded, once loved, decorative items that have lost their lustre.” The individual ceramic sculptures are in the shape of typically ornamental things such as swans, dolphins, or flowers. Arranged in close proximity, they each become less distinctive and tend to bleed into one. According to De Souza, “each item is added in such a way that they begin to erase one another, and take on forms reminiscent of mounted, overgrown deer antlers, or three-dimensional Rorschach forms.”

For De Souza, the viewer is an integral part of her art-making process. By presenting familiar mass-produced artefacts of consumer culture in new, open-ended configurations, she hopes to engage them in a process of meaning-making. Her artist’s statement insists on the central role played by the viewer. De Souza asserts that “the viewer becomes a mandatory part of the work in that the actual artwork occurs where the art object and viewer intersect.”

Phantom Limb fits perfectly in the overarching theme of the GNO’s 2014-2015 season: Mutations. As each ceramic sculpture seems a slightly altered version of its neighbour, we are reminded of evolution’s steady march through the ages. The emergent form of the spinal column also highlights themes of biology and time.


Shyra De Souza is an interdisciplinary artist based in Calgary. She attended the Sculpture department at the Alberta College of Art & Design where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts with distinction in 2006. As well as maintaining an artistic studio practice, she has undertaken several volunteer administration and board roles within the arts community, and has been awarded a number of grants and residencies.  In early 2014 she attended the Re:Making residency at the Banff Centre lead by Peter von Tiesenhaussen.  Her range of work is mainly composed of sculpture, installation works, as well as animated film, but sometimes also leads to collage and drawing works.  Her work has screened/exhibited across Canada, in the United States, and Europe.

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