Brie Ruais: Plant Dreaming Deep

Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto, Canada

November 12, 2022 - January 14, 2023


COOPER COLE is pleased to present Plant Dreaming Deep, a solo exhibition of the work of Brie Ruais. This is the artist’s third exhibition at the gallery.


Plant Dreaming Deep features a series of new sculptural and video works that meditate on the transformational effect of “putting down roots.” In this context, we cast the 130lbs of clay that Ruais uses for each sculpture as a plot of land mapped by her own body, and the encircled locations, torn holes, and peeled back surfaces as metaphorical openings for seeds/growth.  


Employing gestures like spreading, pushing, scraping and peeling back clay, Ruais’ large-scale circular wall works address dualisms between absence and presence, internal and external, trauma and healing. Reflecting this, the exterior of Scraping the Surface, 130lbs is heavily glazed, marked, and tread upon, while the peeled back swathes are nude, or unglazed, pink and terracotta clay, recalling a raw bodily interior.


The land is imbedded in Ruais’ work both conceptually and materially. In addition to the foundational role of clay in her practice, pieces from the land—such as dirt or sand—are often visible on the surfaces of the sculptures. Many of the circular works contain holes, or imprints of the artist’s hands pulling clay out from the centre, referencing the act of digging and planting seeds in the earth for restoration and healing.


The monumental work Intertwining Bodies, Roots, Hair (three times 130lbs) inquires into the interdependency between bodies like water, plants, and animals, as something that is ongoing and reciprocal. Ruais’ practice has a history of negotiating the relationship between bodies and land, this is reflected in her use of her own body weight as the measurement for the amount of clay that constitutes each piece. 


The title of the exhibition Plant Dreaming Deep is borrowed from a novel of the same name by May Sarton, published in 1968. In it, Sarton speaks about how creating a home can nurture growth in art, community, and the natural world. This text is pertinent to Ruais, who recently settled in Santa Fe on a piece of unceded, overgrazed land, with plans to build, plant, and nurture in the ways she explores in her works. The video piece in the exhibition, Plant Dreaming Deep depicts the artist on her land making an earthwork out of clay embedded with native seeds.  Sarton describes that her “…house [felt] like a ship.  I did not know where the house would take me, but I knew it was snug and beautiful, and I knew that its passenger was both inward and outward bound.” Ruais’ work is not only about contact, but also the relationship between our emotional interiority, and our corporeal exteriority.

November 12, 2022