Bring on the Noise

An unusual duo create a haunting show

SHARY BOYLE AND SHUVINAI ASHOONA at Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (7 Hart House Circle), to August 23. 416-978-8398. Rating: NNNN

Shary Boyle and Shuvinai Ashoona, artists, known for opening windows into dreamlike and downright grotesque imaginary worlds, exhibit their mythologies side by side in Noise Ghost, an intriguing collaboration curated by Nancy Campbell.


At first, the idea of a joint show seems far-fetched. Ashoona, the third in a family of well-known Nunavut artists, draws on the Inuit folklore and daily life of her native Cape Dorset. Her images merge the mythical and the everyday in a quirky, naive style close to outsider art.

Boyle, on the other hand, is utterly contemporary, and plumbs murky psychosexual territory in a whimsical, faux naive style that recalls the work of Marcel Dzama and Fiona Smyth.

Their differences are soon forgotten in the cross-cultural fertilization that takes place here. In Iceberg, Boyle depicts an ice floe upon which a delicate heap of doll-like female bodies lies, turning the long-held myth of Inuit senilicide into a private fairy tale of identity and loss. Ashoona’s Monster, on the other hand, evokes Boyle more than Inuit folklore with its suggestion of personal demons and childhood traumas.

There’s no shortage of malevolent spirits, totemic animals and weird creatures of the id. The Noise Ghost of the show’s title is originally a figure from Inuit folklore, a malevolent presence that can be heard whispering around huts and igloos in the dead of night.

Their inclination toward innocence, however, helps Boyle and Ashoona address the darker corners of life without losing sight of its inherent wonder.

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