June 24th – September 10th, 2017

Curated by Magda Gonzalez-Mora
Special thanks to Olga Koper Gallery
Photography by Paul Warchol (unless stated otherwise)

In Ordinary Obsessions, two playful minimalists encounter the banality and mystery of material culture, lived experience, and time. Motivated by the questions of ordinary life and the mystery behind every action, Toronto-based artists Ken Nicol and Lois Andison consider everyday objects and verbal expressions that are hiding in plain sight. They explore issues of fragility, intimacy, introspection, and loss in a dialogue that is by turns unsettling, melancholic, comical and profound.



 “Ken Nicol’s work is part savant and part madness; using everyday objects to the extreme he creates work that boggles the imagination. With simple tools, like Bic pens, tape, and fine markers, he runs them through a grueling, time dense process that only ends when the pens, or rolls expire. He combines the obsessive talents of a collector, with a keen observational talent of seeing art in common things and daily life, and then is able to create the tools (his work) for us to see it too. Genuine, humble and moving.” Todd Falkowsky.


Lois Andison’s works include texts, sculptures, installations, and video projections. Lately, her conceptual interests in language as a medium and kinetic type as movement have led her to incorporate text in her sculptures. Lois has exhibited internationally, and she is the recipient of numerous grants and awards. Her work is part of both private and corporate collections. Lois is currently an Associate Professor in the Fine Arts Department of the University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario.



↑ellipsis series, 2017

dimensions variable

“a writer will insert an ellipsis to indicate that a quote has been edited. so, the symbol […] means there is something missing, which is distracting for me, but not as distracting as the actual symbol. i always get stuck on this symbol while reading, and though i continue reading, not much is sinking in because my brain is still back on the […].

originally, the idea was to make a physical sculptural ellipsis to perhaps better understand my little “obsession” and maybe be less distracted when I happen upon an ellipsis while reading. this of course has horribly backfired and the ellipsis is now something i actively look for… and collect.” -Ken Nicol.


↑field, 2001

ink on paper
50 x 100 inches

 “the same five count repeated over and over. this is an older drawing (2001) and it’s the biggest single page drawing i’ve ever done. and… it kind of speaks for itself.” – Ken Nicol.


↑flogging a dead horse #10, 2014

ink on paper (3 parts framed); pen, custom plinth
dimensions variable

The Seasons, the third major project is another time-based work. It is a mark-making action where Ken makes tally marks on a large sheet of paper with a pen until the ink begins to fade and eventually runs out entirely. The remainder of the work is finished with the inkless pen by scratching the tally marks into the page until the paper is filled. Each 100 hour work was completed within a single season and each is exhibited with the pen, or “dead horse”, that was used up in the creation of the work.


↑one hundred of the same clock, 2015

100 westclox baby ben alarm clocks, model 61v
22 x 80 inches

“these are ivory baby bens, model 61v. westclox made them from 1949 to 1955. they were the last of the nice “repairable” baby bens. the later models started using plastic parts and sealed components, moving towards replacement over repair. it’s taken me over ten years to collect 100. each one has been entirely disassembled and cleaned and (in most cases) repaired.” – Ken Nicol.


↑from the series counting, 2017

ink on paper
different sizes

Duchamp bottle rack piece, 2011 – 2015

steel, book, custom plinth
12 x 12 x 43 inches

↑accidental drawings 1 to 8, 2015 – 2017

ink and pencil on paper
dimensions variable

 “the tiny pens i use can be pretty finicky so i use a scrap of paper as a blotter-like thing and it also protects the drawing as i’m working on it. i don’t really think about the scratches and marks i make, but i keep the blotter scraps and some of them make kind of nice little drawings.” – Ken Nicol.


↑this is your life… work week, 2015 (typed, detail photo on the left)

typewritten ink on paper
30 x 20 inches, (5 pieces)

 “each drawing consists of the phase “this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” repeated the number of minutes in an 8-hour day (480). this piece represents the 40-hour work week. because there are 55 characters in the phrase, there can be 55 different patterns created by adjusting the margins one space each drawing. I use a wide carriage underwood typewriter from 1956 (model sxl50).” – Ken Nicol.

↑this is your life… work week, 2017 (handwritten, detail photo on the right)

ink on paper
30 x 20 inches, (5 pieces)

 “each drawing consists of the phrase “this is your life and it’s ending one minute at a time” repeated the number of minutes in an 8-hour day (480). this piece represents the 40-hour work week. because there are 55 characters in the phrase, there can be 55 different patterns created by adjusting the margins one space each drawing. i use a pen (pilot g tec 0.3)” – Ken Nicol.


obsessive compulsive order, 2016

ink on paper (book), pencil on photo copy paper
dimensions variable

“so, here’s the story: a couple years ago i went to the doctor for a regular check up and i accidentally answered a couple of the “how are you feeling” questions a little too honestly. with regards to anxiety, i answered: “fine, though i still need to write down that I’ve locked my door at night.” which immediately led to the questions of and the implying of obsessive compulsive disorder to which i then replied: “no, it’s obsessive compulsive “order.”

“the conversation went downhill from there and everything i said seemed to make things worse, though i think we can partially blame a certain doctor’s lacking of a sense of humor. iI left the appointment with a photo copied ocd test to determine the severity of my “disorder.” never did I intend on taking the test, but I assured the doctor i would “fail with flying colors.” and I didn’t take the test, but i read it, and i circled all the typos (47) and i checked it ten times. The accompanying book took me over six and a half years.”

“there are 93 pages each with 26 “door locked” entries per page totaling 2418 times that i locked my door (I’ve nicknamed it o.c.o.).” – Ken Nicol

↑Sol Lewitt sentences – the problem with #28, 2016

typewritten ink on paper and handwritten ink on paper
4-part piece, largest dimension – 17 x 11 inches

“conceptual art” is a term often used in relation to my work, and i’m not sure if i’m entirely on board with it. i try not to care, but I also try to pay attention so, “conceptual” is sometimes a source of confusion. i thought it might help to go back and re-read Sol Lewitt’s “sentences on conceptual art.” i then started writing the sentences, and typing, and tracing, and writing very small. while typing and tracing the sentences on 11 by 17-inch paper, i contradicted the “carried out blindly” portion of #28 and noticed several errors as well as an odd little block of words that made a nice little poem thing.” – Ken Nicol.


threading water, 2014

video projection 
actor: Lisa Birke
videography: Jason Ebanks
editing: Avril Jacobson 
assistance: Maryse Otjacques, Orest Tataryn, EJ Lightman
photo: Elsa Mora

In this video, we witness a figure swimming / performing on her own in a lake with an enormous comb – doing an absurdist act in the Canadian landscape. The woman in the water is engaged with this futile pursuit/activity of threading water – – we know that anything that passes through will redistribute itself. The presence of the comb in the lens varies – at times the comb is a type of rake – inscribing patterns in the water – other times it is acting like a weir channeling the water. Questions arise – is the water analogous to hair? Is she trying to tame the wilderness?

↑comb, 2014
edition of 4
38.5 cm x 91 cm x 0.5 cm
photo: Michael Cullen
↑moon follower, 2014

acrylic, enamel paint, LED lights, aluminum, DC motor,
gears, timing pulleys, timing belt, custom mechanics,
custom electronics
45.7 x 125.4 x 17.5 cm
edition of 2
mechanical design: Colin Harry; machining: Verifii Technologies Inc.

A follower is a term found in machinery. In the natural world, the moon follows the sun in a cyclical movement – morning – sunrise, evening – sunset. The sculpture moon follower has a cyclical motion – the left disc (the sun disc) is attached to a motor and acts as a driver. The pulleys and belt allow the discs to move in tandem – they are held together in a type of orbiting.

There are 16 words on each disc visible through a small window – 16 words that come after sun and 16 words that come after moon. Sometimes the words are the same “sunbeam”, “moon beam” or “sunlight,” “moon light” and sometimes the words are positioned in a sequence where they can be paired. For instance – “sundress”, “moonless” become “dress less”when you only read the words in the aperture. “Sun dog”, “moon walk” become “dog walk” – blending humor and play with the temporal aspects of existence.

↑iou, 2017

animated light sculpture: acrylic, led, Octolux, custom
18 x 12 x 4.25 inches (45.5 x 30.5 x 10 cm)
edition 2 of 7

↑after sun, after moon, 2014

letterpress print on BFK Rives
printing: Trip Print Press
17 1/8 x 25 1/8 x 1 inches
edition 7 of 9 plus 3 AP

↑sorrow mirrored, 2012

mirrored glass, wood, foam, metal, custom
mechanics, custom electronics
mechanical design: Colin Harry
programming: Automation FX
machining: Paul Cahill
45 x 83 x 5 inches (93 inches with wings extended)
edition 2 of 2

fragmented self, 2014

framed letterpress print on BFK Rives
printing: Trip Print Press
photo: Michael Cullen
25 5/8 x 11 3/16 inches (68.3 x 36.5 cm)
edition 1 of 21

↑timeline II, 2017

paper, stainless steel rod, acrylic, screws
acrylic: Marc Littlejohn
47 1/4 x 32 x 16 inches

timeline is a decade of the artist’s archive arranged chronologically beginning in January 1990 and ending in December 1999. This piece is a portrait of the artist, documenting the health, financial status, material usage, places the artist lived, as well as personal handwritten correspondence between family and friends. The structure of the pages layered together and compressed echoes the record of time in the natural world. Layers of sediment (paper) and the variation in material and colour, speaks to a life lived.

Curated by Magda Gonzalez-Mora

Portrait by Lindsay Voegelin © 2015

Magda is an Independent Curator and advisor based in Toronto. She was a founder of the Wifredo Lam Contemporary Art Center in Havana, Cuba, and a member of the curatorial team for seven editions of the Havana Biennale. A member of the International Association of Contemporary Art Curators (IKT), she is a curator of a permanent collection of contemporary Cuban art at the Art Gallery of Ontario and has curated shows for the Luminato Festival, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, the Royal Ontario Museum, Arco Fair, Loop Video Art Barcelona, Pulse Miami, the Cuban section for the 1st Johannesburg Biennale, and the 1st Dakar Art Biennale, among others.

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