“Overflow Chart”
June 3–July 16, 2022

Working across a depth of materials and modes of making, Overflow Chart is an exhibition by Natalie Purschwitz. The work in Overflow Chart charts a line across a series of traces, or an imprint through various material iterations. What emerges is an amalgamation and blending of various processes, forms, and materials.


The ongoing process of collecting is an integral part of Purschwitz’s practice.
Accumulated materials (natural and manufactured) are sorted and arranged via typological likeness. Purschwitz undoes these methods of collecting, sorting and arranging, through various applications that transform the materials.


These material shifts rely on an alchemical manipulation of elements (fire, water, air, earth) at various stages. This is evident in her processes of carbonizing plant matter to create charcoal, firing hand built ceramic objects, and making paper or inks from various plants and organic matter. Purschwitz makes these gradual material shifts evident by presenting the same material in different forms. Geological undertones offer connections between works traced across human and geological time periods. In Overflow Chart, we can start to sketch out the material connections. The Horsetail plant from the Devonian period is imprinted within fossils, plastic is made from oil, and the carbonized plant matter gets closer to the composition and form of fossils by way of an accelerated process.


An element of chance remains pervasive in Overflow Chart. Through different processes of making, material configurations are determined by a particular confluence of time and place. Giving material over to the whim of an algorithm, for example, can greatly expand the horizons of particular material possibilities, rendered beyond the artist’s intent and impulse. Through Artificial Intelligence programs (Artbreeder and GauGAN), selected traces of various materials, matter and form are offered to the algorithm to discern and reproduce alternative configurations. In some ways, utilizing AI in this manner does not feel dissimilar to a process of divination. A somewhat circuitous process, Purschwitz then takes the AI generated images and grounds them physically by creating drawings with ink made from foraged plant matter (invasive species, or non-native to this region).


Overflow Chart brings together a series of works that chart material transformations through very different apparatuses. A glimpse of the underlying serialized approach (typological and diagrammatic visual schema) is ruptured. What becomes most discernable is the sense of multiple thresholds being simultaneously breached and crossed. Whether virtually or physically, insight can be gained from an approach to making that encourages a sort of leaking, seeping, and blending which cannot be contained.


A demonstration of the artist’s charcoal making process is available here.

Artspeak is a non-profit artist run centre established in 1986. The mandate of the gallery is to encourage a dialogue between visual art and writing. Artspeak actively contributes to cultural communities through our commitment to artists producing challenging, innovative work in diverse media, our affiliation with like-minded organizations, and the public interest we generate in contemporary art.

Artspeak is located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw, and səl̓ilw̓ətaʔɬ First Nations.